Day One Readiness: Onboard Employees for a Productive First Day

By Dan Keckan published October 9, 2020

Blog, eLearning, , , , ,

Onboarding is a critical first step in a new employee’s career with your company. Ensure their success by aligning your program objectives with business goals, focusing on employee needs, and prioritizing your content for Day One Readiness.

Ask These Questions To Ensure Day One Success

Your new hires have just wrapped up their onboarding. Are they ready for their first day on the job? Can they demonstrate essential skills, knowledge, and behaviors for their roles? If your answer is “no” or “maybe,” then it’s time to take a close look at your onboarding program.

What does your onboarding program look like? Do you welcome new employees by giving them a quick tour, filling out some paperwork, watching a long benefits video, and then sending them off to complete compliance training? When do they start learning the tasks and processes essential to their role? How do you make them feel welcome and reaffirm their decision to join your company?

Day One is the first day after onboarding when the employee is expected to do their job as close to the same level as other employees as possible.

We call this “Day One Readiness.”

What Do New Hires Want?

When someone joins your company, they’re looking for a positive experience that affirms their decision. They want to know how the company operates and how their role contributes to the company’s success. They want to understand the company culture and values. Most importantly, ServiceNow reported that 58% of new employees say they want to learn the skills and processes they need for their first day of productivity and a designated person they can go to for help.

How Can I Create This Experience?

Before you start creating presentations and planning activities, it’s critical that you work closely with at least one Subject Matter Expert (SME) to conduct a needs analysis. Your SME should be an expert in the role you are hiring for, such as a direct supervisor, rather than a recruiter or HR professional. If you’re hiring for multiple roles, you will need multiple SMEs. The goal of this needs analysis is to identify content that is directly related to “Day One Readiness” for each employee.

Below are several questions to ask during your analysis. These questions are a great way to get other stakeholders involved and help determine short- and long-term goals for your onboarding program. You may need to conduct focus groups, empathy interviews, or job observations to fully understand where the gaps are and where the motivation to perform comes from.

  • What are the business objectives? What are the Key Performance Indicators for onboarding employees successfully?
  • How are these objectives affected by the new hire’s role?
  • What knowledge, skills, and behaviors do new employees need to exhibit on Day One that will support these objectives?
  • What gaps in performance do you observe in employees who have completed onboarding?
  • What is motivating employees to perform as expected?
  • What is motivating employees to not perform as expected?

How Do I Prioritize My Content?

The findings of your needs analysis provide a list of topics to cover in your onboarding program. Organize this list into four categories: Company Background, Role-Specific (Day One), Role-Specific (Ongoing), and Resources. These categories help you prioritize your content.

Company Background

This content should focus on introducing your company and include the company’s history, mission, culture, and values. It also covers what the company does, how it operates, and how the employee’s role fits into the bigger picture. Most importantly, this is the time to “WOW” your new hire. Provide activities, videos, or games that make them feel part of the family, that they were hired for a reason, and that they are important to the company’s success. This is the time to let your creative juices flow.

Leave all paperwork, benefits-related information, compliance, and policies outside the classroom. You have their attention now, so use this valuable time to energize and educate your captive audience and show them what a great company they have joined. You won’t have a second chance to make a first impression and this may be the last time you have their full attention to learn. Let’s be honest, once these new hires become seasoned pros, the last priority on their list is training!

Role-Specific Tasks (Day One)

This category is for content directly related to the tasks employees will complete immediately after onboarding. For example, retail employees may need to greet customers, locate items in the store, and use the POS system on their first day. Procedures for opening and closing the store, however, can be learned later after they’ve mastered the basics.

Your SME is vital in determining which tasks, and associated knowledge and skills, are mandatory for Day One. Ask your SME lots of role-specific questions to narrow down what employees in that role need to know for their first day. Most importantly, determine what skills or behaviors are necessary to improve the metrics you identified with your stakeholders or SMEs related to the organization’s business outcomes.

Here’s a list of questions to get you started.

  • What tasks will new employees complete most often?
  • What tasks will new employees complete when they first arrive?
  • What routine tasks will new employees need to complete?
  • What tasks will new employees most likely complete on their first day?
  • How should each task be completed?
  • How much time do new employees typically need to master each task?
  • Do employees need to master all of these tasks by Day One?
  • Are there reference materials new employees can use until they perform their tasks without help?
  • What questions do new employees typically ask on their first day?
  • What issues do new employees typically experience on their first day?
  • What questions do managers typically receive from new employees on their first day?
  • Where/whom should new employees go to if they have questions?
  • What should new employees do if there is no one around to answer their questions?

Remember, the goal is to prioritize your content so you can create focused, authentic, and relevant learning experiences to prepare employees for Day One Readiness—nothing more.

Role-Specific Tasks (Ongoing)

All of the task-related content that doesn’t fit under the Day One category goes here. This information becomes ongoing training topics that can be assigned as needed and based on future business outcomes that have been identified by leadership.


Any content that is used on the job as a quick reference (short how-to videos, posters, manuals, etc.) go in this category. New and experienced employees usually require reference materials for complex tasks or tasks that are infrequently done. Use your SMEs’ answers from earlier or talk to current employees to determine which tasks they need help with.

In addition, make sure new employees know how to find these resources during and after the onboarding process and assign a specific person to answer questions such as a supervisor or experienced employee.

Putting It All Together

Hiring and training new employees is costly and poorly trained or frustrated employees cost your organization even more. In fact, employees who have a negative onboarding experience are twice as likely to look for a new job in the future, according to research by Digitate. A well-designed onboarding program will ultimately help you reduce turnover.

Ensure Day One Readiness by:

  • Using business needs and essential skills to guide the structure and content of your onboarding program.
  • Tying in company history, culture, values, and operations.
  • Explaining the importance of the employee’s role in the company.
  • Prioritizing content related to the skills, knowledge, and behaviors that are critical for Day One.
  • Creating a plan for ongoing training.
  • Providing easily accessible resources and support.

Still having trouble getting started? We’d be happy to answer any questions you have.