FocusED 2018 | Issue 1 - By Barry Kaplan, SR. VP, OD & HR, UniFocus - There’s nothing like starting a new job! In life, there are very few moments where you get to start over with a clean slate. Starting a new job is one of those moments where the past is left behind and all is fresh and new. Because of that “new” feeling, most people come into new jobs excited. Some people come into new jobs a little scared. However, nobody comes into a new job bored, disinterested or disengaged. While most companies look at engagement from the employee’s perspective, they sometimes fail to look at it from their own perspective. It is not just a matter of asking whether the employee is engaged, it is ALSO a matter of asking whether the company is providing the opportunity or environment for the employee to be engaged.

The Offer

So the key to an employee’s level of engagement in the first 90 days is to maintain that excitement and keep from doing the things that would start to detract from it. And the process starts before the employee starts—when you make the hire.

As an HR professional, I believe that the two happiest conversations you get to have with people are when you offer them a job and when you give them a raise in pay. Therefore, if at all possible, make those offers in person. Let the person see that you are just as excited as they are. If you can’t make the offer in person, at least make the offer over the phone. Try to match, or even exceed, the excitement you receive from the future employee. Then, because all job offers need to be formalized in writing, when you send the offer letter in an email, maintain that excitement. Let the new employee know how excited you are that they are joining the team.

Prior to Day 1

Now, most job offers have a time period between the acceptance of the offer and the actual start date of employment. Keep up the employee’s engagement by making a call or sending a note prior to the start date. You want the candidate to think “wow, they are just as excited as I am.” There may also be times when the new employee asks if there is anything they can do or read prior to day 1. This is a little trickier to navigate, but you need to be prepared. Because the employee most likely will not have signed their Employment Agreement yet, be careful about providing materials and content that are sensitive or company confidential. On the other hand, you don’t want to do anything to temper their excitement. So be prepared to provide something that will allow the new employee to learn something meaningful that has been approved by your company’s HR department. Also, keep thinking to yourself that anything that tempers excitement, tempers engagement.

Day 1

Treat the first day, and the first 90 days, as a test for you and the company as much as it is a test (or probationary period) for the new employees. On day 1, meet the new employees at the door. You would have informed the employees what time you expected them to be there. You need to be waiting for them. Walk them to their office/cube/work stations. Make sure that whatever computer equipment, clothes, tools the employees need, are ready and that they are tailored for them. While many companies give out some sort of swag on day 1, this isn’t about material things or monetary investment, this is about emotional investment by the company. You absolutely want them to think that you care as much about them starting as they do. Ask yourself this question, “Am I showing that the company is as engaged with them as I want them to be with us?”

Besides the excitement level you want to show on day 1, the other major item is “the plan”. At the beginning, I wrote that employees may come into the job a little scared. What they are afraid of is the unknown. So make as much of the process, their first day and their first 90 days as “known” as possible. Have a plan of what they need to learn and what they need to do to be successful. Make sure the plan is discussed and agreed to. Your goal and their goal need to be aligned if there is to be true engagement.

Day 2 through Day 90

While most companies have orientation/onboarding plans, they may not treat these as engagement plans. As a result, certain items are left out. Ask yourself these questions about the onboarding:

  • Does it promote a sense of team and community?
  • Does it contain a series of quick wins and successes that will allow the employee to feel that they have immediately contributed?
  • Does it provide for feedback from peers and management to ensure that if things aren’t going well, they are immediately corrected, and if things are going well, there is positive feedback?

A new employee should never have to ask the question, “How am I doing?” Or to put it differently, an engaged employee should always know how they are doing.

At UniFocus, we have conducted extensive research into the engagement levels of tens of thousands of employees. Through this research, we have found that there are four statements that employees make that help truly measure the engagement level. These statements are:

  • My co-workers treat me fairly and make me feel part of the team.
  • Working at this company makes me feel that I am accomplishing my personal and professional goals.
  • I feel that I am a valued and appreciated employee.
  • I would recommend this company as a good place to work.

How engaged an employee is, is a measure of what extent they agree with those statements. 

And, the statements are as true for a tenured employee as they are for an employee in their first 90 days. So going back to the onboarding/engagement plan, here is how the earlier questions tie into these statements: 

  • Asking if the plan promotes a sense of team and community, ties into statement #1: “My co-workers treat me fairly and make me feel part of the team.” 
  • Asking if the plan contains a series of quick wins and successes, ties into statement #2: “I feel I am accomplishing my personal and professional goals.” 
  • Asking if the plan provides feedback, ties into statement #3: “I feel I am valued and appreciated.” 

If the employee responds positively to all of those statements, they probably would recommend the company as a good place to work (statement #4).

Outside of work, when you hear that someone got “engaged”, you realize that engagement is between two people. The same holds true at work. An employee is engaged to the company and the company is engaged to the employee. As you have been able to tell from this article, new employees have control over their engagement. What you have control over is whether you provide the environment for them to be engaged. 

About the Author


Barry Kaplan has overseen UniFocus’ Human Resources and Organizational Development activities since joining the company in 2011, bringing 25 years of leadership experience. 


Barry previously worked as director of training with the Heymann Group before leaving to lead HR and OD improvement activities in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia. He also worked at Bowstreet Inc., and Groove networks prior to managing the Global Training Development efforts at Symantec. 


An eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, and winner of the prestigious Navy Achievement Medal, Barry received his M.A. in Adult Learning/Continuing Education from the University of Phoenix and is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management.


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