The first day of work is unparalleled when it comes to that outsider feeling. New hires tend to be isolated as they go through mind-numbing orientation. An organized midday meal with the manager and a few coworkers can instantly break the isolation and begin the engagement process on day one. Here are four reasons why every manager should take new hires to lunch during the employee onboarding process.
1. It Provides Someone to Eat With
Anyone who has ever been the new kid at school carries lifelong memories of sitting alone at an empty cafeteria table. The first day in the company lunchroom or cafe could evoke those memories. In fact, that one experience can color a new hire's longer-term perceptions of the company.
New hires don't live on work alone. They need a social atmosphere, and even one day without inclusion in a group can make them feel disconnected. Do not expect other employees to take pity on a lone-luncher. To them, this is a stranger who might be anyone from an employee in an unrelated department to a vendor grabbing a quick bite. An organized lunch eliminates that embarrassment — and it ensures that new employees connect quickly with the people they will work with every day.
2. It Transitions New Hires From Interviewee to Team Member
Interview luncheons place applicants into an almost adversarial experience that forces them to answer a stream of questions between mouthfuls of food. The first-day lunch, on the other hand, is more like a party. It’s a two-way conversation, where new hires receive as much information as they disseminate. By the time they leave the restaurant, everyone is relaxed and laughing. The new hire has taken an important first step toward bonding with the group.
3. It Offers a Wedge Into the Popular Crowd
New hires who see other employees gathering in groups around the proverbial watercooler may view them as being surrounded by an impenetrable barrier. This is not a party setting. Few strangers will try to break through by imposing themselves into a group conversation.
A first-day lunch with select managers and coworkers breaks through the barrier. A group lunch provides a welcoming social setting that moves past work to the unique personality traits of individuals within the group. A single lunch hour starts introducing the new employee to the type of humor that is appropriate, personal interests they may share with others, and the culture cultivated in the company. The watercooler will no longer be a formidable place.
4. It Introduces New Hires to Work Resources
Any company has myriad secret human resources who help get things done. The first-day building tour introduces new hires to the location of the printer or the supplies room, but the quick introductions provide little information about who handles expense reports or whom to inform before taking some form of action. Just as important, new hires have lots of questions. They need to know which people welcome questions and those who just want to do their own jobs without interruption. When new employees ask too many questions of the wrong people, they can make enemies for life.
While the first-day lunch should not be focused solely on work, the introduction to coworkers provides the new hire with information about what their colleagues do, how they can help, and how willing each one will be to answer questions during the new employee's early days. In many cases, one or more people at the table will go so far as to invite questions and offer other types of assistance that can help ensure success during the early days of employment.
A Bonus Tip About Group Lunches
Why wait for a new employee's first day to take the gang out to lunch? There is no need to schedule a formal monthly department lunch, which can easily turn a fun event into an obligation for everyone involved. But an occasional "hey, let's all go to lunch on Friday" email promises an opportunity for everyone to reconnect while reducing the stress that occasionally builds within any workplace. Just give a little advance notice — and don't schedule it on the day of an important deadline — and this can become an easy way to create bonds in your organization.