How To

Muriel Clauson on Communicating with New Employees Before Their First Day

Something has changed in the American workforce in recent years. ‍A job offer used to be something most applicants would jump at. When you made an offer to a candidate, you could have a reasonable level of confidence that they’d accept the role.‍That’s no longer the case. Today, job seekers often receive multiple offers and are forced to decide which one to accept. It’s not uncommon for new hires to quit before their first day on the job. 
Lawrence Barker
5 minutes
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Something has changed in the American workforce in recent years. 

A job offer used to be something most applicants would jump at. When you made an offer to a candidate, you could have a reasonable level of confidence that they’d accept the role.

That’s no longer the case. Today, job seekers often receive multiple offers and are forced to decide which one to accept. It’s not uncommon for new hires to quit before their first day on the job. 

One implication of this change is that your communication with applicants and new hires is more important than ever. Your employee onboarding doesn’t start on Day 1 of their new job. It starts on Day 0—the moment they accept your offer. 

So how can employers make sure their Day 0 communication is top notch to avoid early turnover in hew hires? We asked Anthill CEO Muriel Clauson this question recently on Being Deskless Live. Her answers will help you build a solid plan on how to effectively communicate with new employees before their first day. 

The Problem Facing Employers

To find effective solutions, Clauson suggests, we first need to make sure we understand the problem correctly. That problem is an increasing number of new employees “ghosting” on their first scheduled day of work—not showing up, and often not communicating with their new employer. 

Clauson sees four main reasons for this:

  • More opportunities
  • Bad communication avenues
  • Mental health crises
  • Job seeker’s market

More opportunities

Put frankly, today’s job seekers have more opportunities than in the past. They’re casting wider nets in hopes of finding the perfect fit, and this might mean they accept one offer but then receive another that they prefer. There’s plenty of fish in the sea, and employers need to stand out from the rest to attract top talent. 

In addition to increased opportunity, it’s also never been easier to apply for jobs. 

Clauson cites an instance where she experimentally clicked on a link for a job at Chipotle and immediately got a text message telling her she was preapproved for it. “It was so quick and easy,” she says. “That’s the experience lots of applicants have: it’s really easy to apply for lots of jobs and to accept lots of jobs through many job platforms.” 

Bad communication avenues

Most communication during the hiring process is one-sided—from employer to new employee—and this creates all kinds of problems. 

“The channels for them to let you know that they’re not planning to come in aren’t there,” Clauson says. “How does that person tell us they actually don’t want to start on this first day? Beyond physically coming in to tell us, which is a huge time and monetary cost? You’ve got to make sure there’s a way they can talk to you and tell you if they’ve changed their plans and no longer want the job.” 

Mental health crisis

The third reason Clauson sees creating this “ghosting” problem is the reality that we are living at the peak of a mental health crisis. With the rise of technology and social media, as well as the last several years of the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety has never been more prolific

As anyone in the workforce knows, the process of applying, interviewing, and starting a new job can be a huge trigger for anxiety. It’s stressful. All of this stress and anxiety can cause applicants to lose interest which, coupled with the above factors, makes ghosting all the more likely. 

Job seeker’s market 

Lastly, the most relevant and most straightforward reason Clauson sees for the phenomenon of ghosting is that right now, we’re in a job seeker’s market. The amount of available positions and variety of career paths job seekers can pursue has never been higher.

Job seekers now have far more control over their fate in the job market. 

The solution to retaining new employees

With these factors in mind, how can employers do their best to welcome new team members and minimize ghosting? Clauson suggests two primary areas of focus. 

Improve Day 0 communication

If one of the issues is the bad or non-existent communication channels before an employee’s first day on the job, then improving these is an obvious place to start. But where can employers and HR teams begin? 

Start with personalizing the hiring process. Although a high volume of open roles or applicants often requires handling things efficiently, do everything you can to treat applicants as unique individuals. Remember that they’re people, not robots with credentials.

Clauson shares a story that helps illuminate this. 

“We talked to an employee who applied for four jobs and had four offers come in all at once,” she remembers. “One of the offers went above and beyond by mailing them the safety gloves they would need on their first day, and that made all the difference.” 

Another step to improve communication with employees before their first day is to give people a way to communicate with you before they start. This will help new employees feel comfortable asking questions and clarifying expectations. You may have to ditch outdated hiring practices that fall prey to the one-sided communication trap, but it’ll be worth your time. And you can schedule a demo with Anthill today to get the process started. 

You’ll also want to make the expectations clear for the role you’re hiring and the workplace overall. In Clauson’s experience, the biggest requests from new hires are about knowing what to expect. Questions like:

  • Where do I go when I arrive on my first day? 
  • What do I need to bring or pick up? 
  • Who am I going to see when I arrive? 
  • What do I need to wear? 

While some of the answers to these questions might seem obvious or simple to an existing employee, they’re the concrete realities of life at work and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Remember, new hires are often feeling anxious. Helping them feel more in control before their first day increases their comfort level with the role they’re taking on.

If at all possible, Clauson suggests one surefire way to test this process out: go through your own hiring process. Get online and try to get a job at your own company. You might notice, for example, that your hiring portal doesn’t let applicants tell HR that they’re sick and will have to delay their first day. 

Excel in the first 90 days

The employee retention model Clauson and her team use at Anthill makes it clear that the first 90 days of an employee's tenure are critical. If you want them to stick around long-term, you’ve really got to nail the first 90 days.

This has implications for both the new hire and the company itself. 

For your new hire, the practical things are essential at the beginning. Did I get paid on time? Do I know how to request time off? These questions and others like them are the building blocks of the employee experience for your new hires. Providing easy answers is a great way to make them feel welcome. 

For your company, the impression you give in the first 90 days has a huge effect on how you’ll get talked about by your new team member both in and outside of the workplace. The first 90 days lays a foundation for the norms of working at your company. You want your team member going home with a positive report about their experience.

Clauson uses the image of a spaceship taking off for Mars: it’s way easier to reach your destination if you’re pointed in the right direction from the start, rather than course correcting later on. 

The moral of the story? Do everything you can to make your new hires comfortable and welcome in their first 90 days. 

Improve your Day 0 communication today

Addressing communication issues with new employees (or existing ones!) doesn’t have to be difficult, even if they’re working in roles that have them constantly on the move. Schedule a demo with Anthill now and you’ll be off to the races in no time.

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