It never gets better than your first day of work. Even if your onboarding program is dull, or the HR lady leaves you in a room for four hours to complete your new hire paperwork, it is better than day two. Day two will be better than day three.

(It all goes downhill from there.)

Day one is the best day of work because nobody knows you. Your idiosyncratic behaviors are still a mystery. You haven’t developed your nemesis. Also, you can dream that the line at the closest Starbucks to your office moves quickly.

(It doesn’t.)

So if day one is the best for employees, and it’s not all that great, how do you make it better?

Start later.

For some reason, employees have always been asked to show up at 8:30 AM on Monday for their first day of work. I don’t know about you, but that is the absolute worst time on my calendar. I am barely awake. The coffee I drank on my way to work hasn’t hit my system. I still haven’t gone to the bathroom.

Day one does not have to start early, and it doesn’t have to be a Monday. Worried about getting them paid for the entire pay period? Pay them regardless and have them show up on Tuesday. Alternatively, start later but pay the new employee for the whole day.

Begin with a training plan.

Instead of going straight to the do’s and dont’s in the workforce, kick off the morning with a discussion about learning and developmental opportunities. You can tell your new hire, “Hey, we are gonna pay you. Trust me. Also, duh, you can’t sexually harass people. We’ll talk about ‘rules’ later in the day. Let’s start off with an outline of what you’ll need to know about this job. Let me show you how our company invests in its workforce.”

Get the paperwork out of the way.

There are so many HR technology companies who do electronic onboarding, and yet there are so many companies who won’t pay for it. “We have a business partner. If we outsource onboarding, why do we need her?”

There’s some truth in that question. However, your HR business partner is more than just a typist and a line editor for payroll change forms. She is a guide to your company’s values and behaviors on day one. So get the paperwork out of the way (before day one) so she can help your employees get to work as quickly as possible.

Finally, slow your roll.

Who said every aspect of onboarding has to happen on day one? Your powerpoint presentation on the company structure is excellent. I love your witty jokes, your slide animation, and your cat GIFs.


However, your powerpoint presentations about company structure or mission/vision/values make no sense until about 30 days into the employee’s tenure. So slow it down and think about creating an onboarding and new hire orientation program that offers information in bite-sized nuggets.

So, in short, quit making day one so boring, stressful and weird for your new employees.

Separate the steps for onboarding and new hire orientation, automate the dull stuff, and work hard to make day one as fun and easy-going as possible.

After all, it never gets better than your first day.