Elements of a Stellar First Day

The first day for an executive director, or any nonprofit position, sets the tone for their career. It’s a critical part of the entire onboarding process.

There are plenty of ways to do the first day right and make the new hire feel welcomed and excited. Here are some of the basics:

Make their new space clean and inviting. As I started a new interim position, I had to wait a bit before I could occupy my new office as the maintenance person was steam cleaning the carpet. He then helped me arrange furniture in the freshly painted room. I still had to sort out the contents of the desk, but it was a nice start. Your new hire shouldn’t spend their first few hours cleaning up the mess left by the last person.

Make sure their computer is ready for them with all the necessary software and accounts. The computer keyboard and mouse are clean and sparkly. Their phone is set up with all necessary features. Create some kind of welcome sign for their desk or door with their name on it. Send out an email to everyone in the organization welcoming the new hire, and give them a copy so they know what went out.

If possible, take care of the new hire paperwork before their first day so you don’t have to waste a bunch of time on that. It seems to me to set the wrong tone if you have to start out dealing with government paperwork. Many cloud based payroll services now let you complete the forms online easily.

Spend time with the new person. You, as their supervisor (or board chair for an ED), should set aside a few hours on the first day to spend time with the new hire. Give them an overview of the organization, and who they are going to meet on that first day. This should also include a basic overview of benefits and organizational policies. You’ll give them everything in writing, of course, so they don’t have to remember it all. The most important thing is to give them undivided attention so they feel welcomed.

Give them a full tour of the facility. (Don’t forget the bathrooms….I had to ask once on a first day since it had been skipped on the tour!) Show them where to find supplies and how to use the copy machine.  Explain how the break room works. Include everything they’ll need to get comfortable on the first day.

Introduce them to as many staff as possible, either individually or at a group meeting. Tell the new staff person why you think the new hire is so fantastic. The brief introductions will help all the existing staff get to know the new person a bit. In addition, you will need to schedule time for the new hire to meet each person and talk to them more in depth. On the first day, this will be direct reports, but then it should include all key staff over the first week. There’s an odd tendency in an organization for staff not to introduce themselves to the new person if they don’t have a reason to work together, which just leaves everyone feeling awkward.

Take them out to lunch. Let them relax, and chat. Remember that the new hire is probably overwhelmed at this point, so they will appreciate the break. It’s a great time to get to know each other and build a trusting relationship. Invite one or two staff or board members to join you.

Of course, they will also need some down time to absorb everything. Give them a chance to read over the organizational information and get familiar with their computer. Schedule any needed trainings on computer software or other procedures, as well as some of the initial meetings to round out their first day.

That’s a lot to do in one day! And it is just the first part of a stellar onboarding process. I’ll continue writing about that soon.

Please add your ideas below on what a stellar first day looks like!

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