As the adage goes: You only get one chance to make a first impression. And that’s never been more true than when it comes to onboarding new employees.

The problem is many companies view onboarding as the end of the hiring process. In reality it’s just the first step in creating a positive employee value proposition—and perhaps the most critical one at that.

According to one recent survey, nearly 33 percent of new employees look for a new job within their first six months on the job and 23 percent leave before their first anniversary.

When you think about how much it costs to hire an employee, the impact to your bottom line is obvious. What may not be as obvious are the unseen costs of lost productivity and poor morale among team members caused by frequent turnover.

So what does all this have to do with a cozy Danish concept that’s sweeping lifestyle magazines and the interior design world?

Simple. Long regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture, hygge (pronounced hoo-guh) is an untranslatable word that describes a mood of coziness and comfort with feelings of wellness and contentment. And that’s exactly the sort of experience you want your new employees to have when joining your company.

Now, I’m not suggesting you hand out fuzzy socks and afghans during orientation. But you might consider ditching the 90-minute slide presentation in favor of a more thoughtful and welcoming approach.

Here are five ways you can use HR communication to add some hygge into your onboarding process:

1. Make new employees feel at ease: Welcoming new employees should be like welcoming new family members. Don’t overwhelm them with a mountain of information and to-dos when they don’t even know where they sit yet. Instead of sending them all directly to HR for orientation, have a member from each new employee’s team greet him or her for an informal breakfast. That way, each new employee will start building a personal connection to his or her team from the get-go.


2. Put managers at the center: The single most important person in any new employee’s orientation is his or her manager. Even if your company has a well-integrated onboarding process––involving HR, facilities, IT and other functions––it’s the new employee’s manager who acts as the glue holding it all together. 

Help managers create a thoughtful onboarding experience that provides new employees with the context and feedback necessary to feel comfortable and productive from the start. One way you can do this is to develop an onboarding kit for managers.

Stock the kit with interactive tools like conversation cards to encourage discussion during weekly one-on-one meetings between the manager and new employee. The purpose of these discussions should be to generate insights in three key areas:

  • Self: What unique talents and skills does the new employee bring to the team? What does success look like for the new employee?
  • Relationships: How do the manager and new employee prefer to give and receive feedback? Who are the new employee’s key stakeholders and how can he or she begin building solid relationships with them? Which team members will the new employee be working most closely with?
  • Strategy: What is the company’s strategy and how does the new employee’s role help contribute to it?

Don’t forget to include information on key employee communication messages, such your mission, vision, values and culture, along with performance management topics like core competencies.


3. Buddy up for success: Help new employees navigate the everyday workings of your organization by assigning peer coaches from their team members. Each peer coach’s role is to help the new employee understand their team dynamics and your company’s culture, along with answering some of the informal questions new employees have (e.g., making sure they know about standing team meetings or helping them find the company gym).


4. Create a community: New employees who enter the company at the same time are usually a diverse group, but there’s one thing they all have in common: They’re new. So help them build on that shared experience by creating ways for them to talk about their experiences, questions and insights during their first 90 days in the organization.

Schedule a “class” lunch on their first day that features an ice breaker so they will share interesting facts about themselves. Or set up a “class” page on your intranet or social feed so they can share experiences, milestones and advice as they learn about their roles and teams.


5. Connect with leaders: Create a personal connection between senior leaders and new employees by assigning a different leader to sponsor each class of new employees. Senior leaders can host quarterly get-togethers (think coffee chats or even happy hours) where the leader and new employees can share personal experiences and ask questions. New employees will benefit from the experience senior leaders can share and senior leaders will benefit from hearing new perspectives.


Embrace the concept of hygge to give your new employees a great first impression. And if you want to throw in a company mug filled with hot cocoa, what could be cozier than that?

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