Teachers are especially good at creating a warm welcome for their new students.

And in this season of back to school, there’s nothing a parent wants more than for their child to feel welcomed.

I have a four year old and on her first day of preschool her new teacher had decorated the door with colorful pictures and notes that said Welcome! Imagine how a student and their parent might feel to see this on the first day of school. They may walk in feeling nervous, scared, unsure, or even out of place. But when they see a message like this? All that anxiety and stress and worry just melts away in a steady exhale. Kids can just leave all that “extra baggage” at the door because they know what awaits them when they step inside. They know because they can feel it: Encouragement. Inspiration. And love.

Warm welcomes are more than just something nice to do. They can set the tone for the entire school year. At its most basic, the messages on this door say the same thing: “We’ve been expecting you. We’re glad you’re here. Welcome.”

Creating a Warm Welcome For Employees

New employees get nervous too. Think back to your first day at your new job. Did you feel nervous, worried, scared, or unsure? Was there anyone there to welcome you on your first day? What was it like? And how did you feel?

For most employees, the first day means “New Employee Orientation.” This is such a huge opportunity to start off on the right foot! And yet, so often we get it wrong. Really wrong.

What should be a warm, welcoming environment becomes something of a guest speaker death marchfilled with endless paperwork and uninspiring trainers who are just going through the motions.

Overhauling Your New Employee Orientation

warm welcomeOur team works with thousands of employees at hospitals and care facilities across the country helping to overhaul and drastically improve upon their New Employee Orientation. Although the process involves many critical steps, here’s one example from a client hospital we worked with a few years ago.

One of the very first things we did was to teach them how to create warm welcomes for their new team members. We recruited the Executive Team to be part of the New Employee Orientation process (VPs, senior-level folks, etc.) We positioned some executives at the front door; while others were placed at the entrance to the orientation classroom.

Their only instructions? Offer a friendly, sincere smile. Shake hands. Greet the new employees by name. Welcome them to the organization and to New Employee Orientation.

As new employees arrive, they were greeted individually at the door by saying something like:

Good morning! Are you here for new employee orientation? 
Welcome, I’m Bob Smith, Vice President of Human Resources – we’re glad you’re here…now let’s get you to the new employee orientation classroom….”

Then, the executives personally escorted new employees to the classroom, and they created a warm handoff by introducing them to the executive team member at the door who was awaiting their arrival.

This was just one small part of the entire overhaul process, but you get the point. Was it easy to do? Yes. Did it have a big impact? Yes again. The key here was to make sure we always had someone at the front door and at the door to the room.

At Disney, we used to call this kind of careful preparation being Show Ready. It involves everything from making sure the room is set properly to checking that the temperature and lighting are right. It means checking that the coffee or other refreshments are hot and fresh. And making sure the sound system and presentation materials are queued up and the facilitators are ready to go. It means ensuring everything is in place and Show Ready to create a great first impression and a warm welcome for new team members.

Taking It One Step Further

At the end of this particular New Employee Orientation, one employee said, “I was a little scared and apprehensive on my first day. I didn’t expect to be greeted at the door by a vice president! It made me feel special and it helped me relax.”

So the million dollar question is why can’t we do something like this every day? Why aren’t we welcoming employees where they check in or clock in for their shift? Is there a break room or locker room where they start their day? Imagine the message this would send to your employees. It would carry over that “first day” welcoming feeling into their every day work environment.

Can’t be there in person every day? How about a whiteboard with a message of the day? Or a daily email blast. Or a text message. Or….

Little things like this add up. And just like the teacher calming the nervous child entering the classroom, you have the power to reduce stress, anxiety and worry for your employees not just on their first day of work but every day after.