The job posting promised a fun, exciting team atmosphere. You said you needed some rock-star talent to join your crew and only the best would do. It promised a unique and engaging experience for the right candidate. But on your new employee's first day, you forgot they were coming, couldn't remember their name, made them sit alone with a handbook and some training videos, and then handed them off to another employee to "follow" for the day.
Is it any wonder why employees feel betrayed and misled on their first day? What was supposed to be a great first impression and the kickoff to an exciting new job ends up making them have buyer's remorse.
To create a strong culture, improve this bland, boring first impression with an experience that drives engagement, creates clarity, develops relationships, and builds confidence. Without a better process, you run the risk of unclear expectations, low morale, customer-service issues, and missed goals.
Create a clear vision
To get started, think about what you want the new employee's experience to be like. This is usually best done from their perspective, so start off by asking a few of your recent hires how they felt about their orientation and first few days on your team. What worked? What didn't? What made them feel welcome? What got in the way of them being productive?
Start writing out a vision about what you'd like a future employee's first week to feel like. What kinds of things are they doing? What are they telling their friends and family? How are they handling the work? What are they accomplishing each day? Get specific. Then share it with a few existing employees to get ideas for improving it even more. Use this as a guidepost for creating a better onboarding experience. You can do this even if you work in a bigger chain with established systems.
Make sure that the manager leading the onboarding process and responsible for meeting with the new employee has everything they need in advance. Paperwork, training materials, uniforms, and other new-hire tools should all be arranged ahead of time. Get the name and schedule of your new hire in the logbook or calendar.
Tell a story
If you've ever sat through an orientation where someone reads you the handbook and covers every possible reason you might get fired, then you know how disengaging and boring that process can be. It's certainly not one that is going to fire up your new hire. Instead, focus on telling some stories about your brand, your customers, a successful employee, and tangible examples of your values in action. These are the kinds of things they can carry with them as they join your team, and they will help cultivate the kind of culture you want.
Make them look good
Everyone wants to do great work and feel like they are part of a community. So make your new hires feel welcome and like they have just gained membership into a really cool club instead of feeling like am impostor who needs to earn their spot. Post a photo of them with some trivia/bio information before they arrive. Review some of that info in shift meetings during their first week. Assign a buddy to help them meet people and get connected. Make your goal to get them integrated and connected quickly with your team.
Give them a plan
You'd be surprised at how often new employees start at restaurants having no idea what they are expected to do besides a few vague statements about "delivering customer service." Even at chains with formal programs, employees are often left to navigate expectations on their own. Whether you've got a documented training program or not, take time in the first few days to help your new employee understand what success looks like. This should include answering a few questions: what exactly is expected of your new hire—including how you measure success—who and what they can use to learn those skills, and when they need to be able to do it. Use this to create a shared definition of success.
Go big on checking in
As you do all of the work above, you want to make sure that you're getting lots of feedback along the way so you can keep improving the process. The easiest way to do this is to build in daily check-ins where you share two-way feedback about what's working best and what you want to work on for the following day. Creating an environment with frequent feedback is part of a healthy restaurant culture.