Welcome Aboard!

A few years ago my family and I went on a cruise. It was a Disney cruise and the first cruise we’d ever taken. We didn’t have any idea what to expect. I remember how amazing it was to drive up and see that huge ship sitting at the dock ready to board. Everything about it seemed grand from the physical size of the ship to the building you walked into on your way to board. It had a scale cut-away model of the ship inside that was pretty cool.

It was what happened when we boarded, though, that set the tone for the whole experience. As my family boarded the ship into this beautiful entrance there were lines of uniformed crew on either side of us creating a path to direct us. Someone announced, “The Thomason family.” I don’t even remember how they would have known who we were but, when that was announced,  the crew began to applaud and cheer. Talk about saying, “Welcome Aboard!” I’d never seen anything like it. That was the beginning of a “magical” Disney cruise experience for us.

“On-Boarding” at Work

I’ve often thought about that experience as an analogy to how we “on-board” new employees in our organizations. We actually use that term. I wonder how many organizations use the Disney approach. A successful on-boarding experience should:

  1. Make the new employee feel like the entire organization is glad they have arrived
  2. Set a tone of expectation that will make them feel excited about their new job
  3. Guide them toward a successful experience on their career journey

I had a client who really got this. The organization was a large health care system. Every month they had a New Employee Orientation (NEO). The first day was a big event for all new hires in the Region. They brought everyone together at a nice hotel in the Regional Headquarters town where they had rented the grand ballroom. There was a beautiful breakfast buffet set up and the room was decorated in a way that gave a real celebration vibe. There were round tables set up and a stage in front with a large screen behind it.

The day consisted of a combination of speakers, videos, and interactive activities. New employees learned about the history of the organization. They heard about how the organization gives back to the community, about who the leaders are and a host of other useful information. Besides what new employees learned during that event, the main point was they felt special in being welcomed into this great organization.

More Than a Welcome

Another thing this client realized is that a well done “Welcome Aboard!” serves another purpose. It not only sets a positive tone for the employee’s career experience, it also sets some pretty high expectations and there are two sides to that coin. On the one hand, the new employee will be expecting great things from the organization like the magical cruise experience we had. On the other hand, the employee will be thinking, “This organization really has it together, I had better bring my A+ game.” Who wouldn’t want that from a new employee?

Someone has said that a person forms an opinion of you within the first 7 seconds of meeting you. The same is true for organizations. You don’t have to go all out like the Healthcare system. But neither should your on-boarding be someone Saying, “Sit here and read from the employee handbook until I come back.” How does your organization do it?

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