Training: Making the First Day Count

Tips for building a successful employee acclimation and training strategy.

By Jeanne O’Connor, Human Resource Manager, Billtrust

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”

How many times have these 12 threadbare words been preached to job-seekers? More importantly, how many companies look in the mirror when uttering them—particularly on that day when a new hire first reports for work?

Starting an employee off on the right foot isn’t just about efficiency. At Billtrust, our mantra is to build a strong, unified team where every person feels he or she has a real stake in the company’s success. Everything we do—from our informal, open office environment to our after-hours social events—is carefully planned to make that goal a reality.

Because of our emphasis on teamwork, it’s important to us to make sure each new employee is a good fit for our company culture. That’s why we have a rigorous, multistage interviewing process. And since we put so much effort into finding the right people, it’s that much more important to us to make sure they succeed. To ensure that, we’ve built a successful employee acclimation and training strategy that includes the following elements:

Pre-arrival preparation: We don’t want employees to spend their first day on the job on the phone with the help desk trying to get their workstation up and running or searching for staplers or paperclips. We make a point of preparing new employees’ workspace before they arrive and creating a first-day schedule, which includes lunch with key team members. This helps ensure new employees immediately feel like part of the team.

Intensive onboarding: To help new employees get acclimated, we provide an onboarding experience that features meetings with key executives, including the CEO and vice presidents in charge of key functions such as customer service and sales. The response from our new hires to these meeting has been overwhelmingly positive: Employees report that they feel they more fully understand the scope of company operations and their role within the organization with this unique perspective on how various departments function together.

Billtrust University and “shadowing”: Billtrust also uses a learning management system (LMS) to which all employees have access: Billtrust University. It includes general employee education as a pre-requisite, along with job-specific training elements. Billtrust University ensures all employees get consistent, timely training opportunities. A “shadowing” program—in which new hires spend the day with established employees to learn about the job in a real-world setting—also helps new hires get on board quickly.

Ongoing training and feedback: Billtrust is a growing company, and we’ve made a commitment to training by hiring a full-time training manager. Since we view training as a work in progress, our goal is to continuously evaluate our program and make improvements on an ongoing basis. We’re also strong believers in interaction. While some companies consider the onboarding process finished after the first week or two, we follow up with employees to make sure they remain engaged, soliciting their feedback on their onboarding experience. Our CEO hosts lunches for newly hired employees on a quarterly basis to extend the feedback loop.

Finding and hiring the right employees is the key to company success. But making sure new hires have the training and resources they need to succeed in their roles depends on program design and ongoing engagement. By making employees feel like part of the team from the first day onward, ensuring that they understand how their efforts fit into the company’s operation, and continuously soliciting feedback and improving training programs, companies can gain a distinct competitive edge.

Jeanne O’Connor is Human Resource manager at Billtrust, a premier provider of outsourced, cloud-based billing solutions that increase productivity, improve cash flow, and seamlessly migrate to electronic delivery.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.