Many attorneys have come to us seeking advice on hiring and recruiting winners. After listening to their growing frustrations over “bad hires” and firm turnover, it became clear the problems often weren’t the result of bad hires. The problem is in the firm’s ongoing sloppy or even poor approach to onboarding.

Imagine the following all-too-common scenario: a fresh employee’s first day with your firm.  The new employee worked hard to get the position, beat out the competition and likely received congratulations and well-wishes from family, colleagues and friends.  They brought their A-game; their standards were probably at their peak. They had every intention of winning in this role…forging a strong, sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship with you.  The next choices you make and the impressions you create for them at this early stage of their tenure can capitalize on these high standards and create positive momentum. Similarly, bad impressions allow trepidation to step in with fear and remorse not far behind. 

Here are 3 things to consider when you are reviewing your firm’s approach to onboarding.

  • Communication: Have you let others in your firm know about this new addition and asked them to welcome the newcomer? Who is in charge of onboarding?  Communicate this info in advance (3-5 days prior to their arrival, if possible) through an email to all parties involved. Allowing a new hire to arrive for their first day without prior communication (after their acceptance) and to your team is more awkward than a middle school dance.  It immediately creates fears in the new hire, (“Are they always this unorganized?? Maybe I shouldn’t have accepted this position…”) and potential resentments and anxiety among staff (“Why is he here? Maybe they’re here to replace me??”).  
  • Tools: Have you determined where this newcomer will sit/work? Are their devices set-up and ready for the new employee’s first day? How about email? Do they have the necessary logins and passwords to immediately begin interacting and communicating internally?  If not, they should.  Anything less is at the least, frustrating and a waste of their time and your money.  At the most, it conveys the message that deadlines aren’t critical and your firm is ill prepared.
  • Schedule: Is there a structured plan for training the newest member on firm culture, vision, expectations, software, processes, etc?  This info is often contained within a handbook, by video, or through learning from another, more seasoned teammate.  Whatever the content, whatever the process, you should have a solid framework on what the first days or weeks should look like and what will be covered. This also ensures critical topics such as benefits, legal ethics, and firm expectations are addressed.

Keep in mind a new employee WANTS to trust their decision in joining your firm. So, support their choice by keeping them engaged and affirming their decision by communicating – through verbal and nonverbal messages. Let them know they joined a firm where they can apply their skills, experience, and talents to be successful.  It’s in your best interest.

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