The First Day Experience

Adam Feil
4 min readFeb 14, 2018

We’re making more stickers than ever at MakeStickers, so naturally we’ve been hiring many new sticker makers. As I thought about the first day experience we provide for new hires, I realized we were falling short in a few ways.

The first day should be magical

We know first impressions are important, so why make somebody’s first day on the job anything less than magical?

The reality is that nobody is going to be very productive on day one. Sure, you could give them some menial task, but at what cost? When their friends or significant other ask “How was your first day?” what will your new hire to say?

They found a really basic task that I could do so that I could be a little productive on my first day. I can’t wait to go back to work.

By making the first day magical, you’re making a small investment in your new employee that will give you big returns later. The first day is a unique opportunity to make that first impression.

Here’s how:

Company values should be communicated on day one

If you’ve chosen your company values well, they should help a new team member understand why things are done the way they are.

For example, we take our value of “empathize with the customer” to an extreme level, even throwing completed stickers in the garbage if the customer changes his or her mind. (At nearly any other printing company, you’ll find strict policies that say once the customer has approved the proof, there is absolutely nothing that can be done to cancel or change the order.)

So when a new employee on our production team sees an order that is nearly complete get cancelled, that could be confusing. And when something they worked on ends up in the garbage, that can be demoralizing if they don’t understand the company values.

Explain the “obvious”

Where are the bathrooms? Can I drink this soda? Are these chips for everyone? Do I need to ask permission to take a break? How does this coffee machine work?

Things that seem obvious to old-timers might be a complete mystery to a new employee. The best way to learn what to cover is to just ask your employees to recall what questions they had their first week on the job. The list above is what I got when I asked.

Covering these basics, no matter how trivial they might seem, can go a long way towards making a new person feel welcomed and part of the team.

A lack of knowledge makes someone feel like an outsider, so take some time to figure out what the “obvious” things are at your company that a new employee won’t know.

Share the big picture

Before getting into the details of your new employee’s job, explain the big picture:

  • Who are your customers, and what are their main concerns
  • What’s the order fulfillment process?
  • What happens upstream of the new employee’s role, and what happens downstream?

Knowing the big picture lets a new employee make sense of his or her role. And when things make sense, they’re remembered much better.

Set expectations

Finally, before you explain how to do the job, you need to explain the expectations. If you expect the employee to package 30 orders an hour, you should let them know that.

You should show examples of what it should look like when they do their job well.

Suppose you hired somebody to sweep the floor and you jumped right in to showing them the broom, how to sweep back and forth, where to dump the trash, etc. They could start working, doing what they were told, thinking everything is great.

You could ask them if they have any questions or struggles. Nope, everything is great.

But you’re not happy, because you think they should be able to sweep the warehouse in 2 hours and it’s taking them 4 hours.

If instead, you started training by saying, “The expectation is you’ll be able to sweep the warehouse in 2 hours.” then the employee will learn the job with that in mind. If it takes 4 hours to sweep on day one, your employee will know they’re not where they need to be. They will practice for the goal of finishing in 2 hours.

That’s the key —you need to have a goal defined in order for effective training to take place.

Once these expectations are set, your new employee is ready to start learning how to do the job.

Make it Magical

Do what you can to make the first day experience magical. Have a lunch with the new hire and a few other employees, give them a swag bag as a welcome gift. There are all sorts of small, inexpensive gestures that will make someone feel welcome and set them up for success on day two.

Connect with me on Twitter @adamfeil



Adam Feil

Educational Psychology Ph.D., business analytics nerd, computer scientist, President @MakeStickers