Many of us have been given this sage advice, often attributed to Will Rogers, when getting ready for a significant new meeting like a job interview or a first date. Even the makers of Head and Shoulders shampoo want to be sure you pay close attention to the first experience people have of you.

While the expression might be a bit overused, the message actually has a lot of relevance in the business world, particularly when it comes to the first impression a new employee has of his or her new employer.

A positive first impression has a significant impact on employee performance and retention. A successful onboarding experience can drive employee performance up by 15%, and committed employees like that are nine times less likely to leave.¹ Losing an employee can be very expensive; when factoring in the costs of recruiting, hiring and training a new employee, the total cost averages out to about 6 – 9 months of that employee’s salary to replace him or her.² So there’s a very clear cost benefit to a positive impression held by a new employee. And that impression starts with their very first day on the job.

No One Wants the DMV Experience

To help ensure a positive first impression for your clients’ employees, it’s worth thinking about what really does create a positive (or negative) first impression. For instance, most of us have had some interaction with our state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (the dreaded “DMV” or “RMV” or similar acronym). And it’s very likely that the first impression you formed was not positive. Long waits, complicated red tape, and unfriendly service all likely contributed to your negative impression of the DMV. Compare that to an online shopping experience you’ve recently had at such a place as Amazon.com. The ease of finding what you need and purchasing it and the fast delivery all likely contributed to a positive impression, at least as it compares to your impression of the DMV.

Wouldn’t your clients want their employees to have an Amazon experience rather than a DMV experience on their new job? If their new employees’ onboarding process is cumbersome, confusing, and difficult to get through, their employer will seem more like the DMV to that new employee, forming a very negative impression that, as the saying goes, employers won’t get a second chance to make.

What Makes Employee Onboarding a Positive Experience?

Much like the DMV, the new employee onboarding process requires a lot of complicated forms to be completed. But it doesn’t have to be as painful as the DMV. With the right onboarding solution, complicated forms can be intuitive and easy so employees never miss a field. If it’s not obvious how to advance through the process, if it’s confusing how to complete certain tasks, or if it takes too long or requires long wait times, frustration will take over. So first and foremost, look at the onboarding process through the eyes of your clients’ employees, and work to make it a seamless, painless process.

Just as importantly, be sure it is responsively designed and is mobile-centric. Mobile phones have overtaken desktop as the primary way to access the internet.³ So a new hire is very likely to be completing the onboarding process with his or her phone. If the onboarding process hasn’t been designed to work easily on a mobile device, once again, you’ve raised that frustration level, leading employees to draw negative conclusions about their employer. Employees could assume the lack of a modern process reflects their employer’s whole approach to business and their employees – outdated, old fashioned, and out of touch. Those aren’t usually the traits of an employer that employees want to stay with. Again, the first impression will stick.

So just as you’d make sure your interview suit is neatly pressed and your shoes shined to be sure you leave a great first impression in that big job interview, make sure your onboarding process is sharp and spiffy and ready to make your client’s new employees very glad they made the choice to work for them.

Learn more about the benefits of advanced and user-friendly onboarding tools here.