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The Agenda: The First 30 Days

Find the bathrooms first! This is the title of a book in my personal library and excellent advice for Day 1 at a new organization. This seems very basic, but I can say from experience that this is sometimes overlooked.

Knowing this piece of information allows you to excuse yourself when necessary by saying “Would you mind if we take a quick break?” instead of “Can you tell me where the bathroom is?” if you are in a meeting. If you are not in a meeting when you need to find the bathroom, it also keeps you from having to possibly interrupt coworkers you have not met to ask where the bathrooms are. There is nothing wrong with asking or not knowing this information. However, this will minimize your first encounter with someone new as someone who is lost.

In an ideal world, you would have been provided an agenda for Day 1 and perhaps for the first 30 days. However, this doesn’t always happen. You may suffer through a sad “new hire orientation” that consists of no tour, being handed a packet of paperwork, or being set in front of a computer to complete that, being left alone for long periods in between, feeling like someone finally remembered you existed when they stop by only to find out they thought you were a customer and asking you if you’re being helped. Then you wander around looking for someone to ask where the bathrooms are.

In this scenario, I will share some ideas on what to do if you do not have an agenda.

You arrive at 8am and are greeted by your manager.

KAYLA: Great to have you here! I have meetings scheduled for most of the day. Chuck will take care of you. I’ll catch up with you later. (Manager says Chuck’s name but nothing else about them or their role. Leaves before you can ask them any questions.)

CHUCK: Here’s your paperwork. I’ll take you to your office and you can complete it there.

HRDEPTOF1: Chuck, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to help me today. If you have a minute when we get to the office, I’d love to learn a little more about you.

CHUCK: (sounds rushed) Not much to say really. I’m the Admin here, been here for about four years. Here we are.

HRDEPTOF1: Thanks. I sense it’s a busy day for you too! Did Kayla leave an agenda or say what I do once I complete the paperwork?

CHUCK: She did not. I didn’t even know you were getting here until this morning. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

HRDEPTOF1: You’ve already been a lot of help by showing me to the office. I completely understand. If I may ask a couple more things before you leave, that will really help me.

  • Do you prefer I call or email with any questions I have? What’s your extension/email?

  • Where do I find a company directory?

  • Who do I contact about my computer credentials?

CHUCK: I’ll come back with a Directory. The IT information will be listed there. My extension is 7908. You can call me directly. My cubicle is the third one on the left.

As you begin completing the paperwork, Chuck returns with the directory.

Below are some observations and steps you can take based on the information provided.

Office Supplies – No need to ask Chuck where the office supplies are. On Day 1, it’s a good idea to arrive with a notepad/notebook and pens. There will be a lot of notetaking.

Lunch/Snacks – Similar to office supplies, come prepared with a beverage and perhaps a snack in the office bag. This will be helpful if lunch plans are uncertain.

Onboarding– While completing the onboarding packet, or while completing through a portal, take notes on any specific questions or concerns. This is especially true in a Human Resources position, but applicable to any role. The goal is not to ask all the questions that day, but for follow up.

Office – In this scenario, you hit the jackpot being placed in your own office to complete the paperwork. After completing the paperwork, you can look in all the files for information on contracts, vendors, benefits, etc. You can make a list to set up introductory calls/meetings. You can also begin reorganizing per preferences. This would apply only to files that are obviously specific to the role. Before reorganizing files that are possibly accessible by others, you’d want more of an understanding before making changes.

Networking – colleagues may stop by to say hello. Take this opportunity to ask when would be a good time to sit down and chat more about them and their role. Let them know you are here to assist them towards their business and professional success. If they can chat then, take them up on it!

Office Directory - Contact IT to get credentials. Once you have a follow up with your manager, use the directory information to set up one on one meetings with peers and other coworkers who frequently interact with HR. You would not want to do this without completing your first one on one with your manager.

It is now close to noon and Kayla resurfaces to take you to lunch. During lunch, she thanks you for your patience and hopes you were not too bored while waiting for her. You can share with her about all the folks you’ve already met, conversations you had, and ask clarifying questions about the vendor and contract information you found.

You find out Kayla does not have a specific plan for your next 30 days and asks for your ideas. She mentions that one of the main needs right now is looking for a new broker and completing an updated employee handbook.

You are excited that she mentioned that because you noticed some concerns in the current wording of the handbook. However, you know you don’t have enough information yet to proceed with recommendations. Based on that, you propose the following. You confirm with Kayla how she prefers updates. You agree on emails after each, and then follow up on your one on one weekly meetings.

Department Leader meetings - Set up meetings with all department leaders. The purpose of these meetings is to:

  • Communicate your business philosophy (mine is “Get There With You”) and what it means as you work with them. Ask them about theirs. It may not be a formal one, but you will get an idea how they like to operate

  • Find out about their expectations of HR including what they see as currently working and what needs improvement. Ask them about the one thing HR could look at changing right now that would make their work easier. You are not making promises; just gathering information

  • Ask how they prefer to communicate. Is it email? Calls? Scheduled meetings?

  • Discuss their current staffing needs and usual reasons for turnover

  • Get an update on any outstanding performance management, employee relations, leaves of absence, and/or attendance concerns in their area

  • Inquire about any reporting they normally receive or would like to receive from HR

In addition to the general items above:

Executives – ask your manager if it would be possible to set up a meeting with the Executive team. It is a good idea to meet with the Executive leadership early on in a new role, especially if HR Dept of 1. This will help you get a sense of their leadership style and priorities.

Accounting – discuss how the payroll, benefits, budgeting, and expenses processes flow.

IT – discuss security, social media, monitoring, user set up process.

Vendors/Broker meetings - Set up meetings with all vendors and brokers. Before meeting with them, request information from Accounting on payments made to the vendors in the last fiscal year and YTD. The purpose of these meetings is to:

  • Communicate your business as it relates to working with folks outside of the organization as well as expectations as a client.

  • Discuss any past issues or pending matters waiting on resolution

  • Review the contract terms and renewal processes.

In addition to the general items above:

Payroll/HRIS – if unfamiliar with the system, ask for a new client demo and reporting tool demo. Ask about products and services that have been considered in the past but not implemented as well as new offerings.

Welfare Benefits Broker – review renewal and open enrollment processes. Ask what cost reductions strategies and/or lines of coverage have been considered in the past whether implemented or not. Confirm who handles 5500 filing (if applicable). Since Kayla mentioned that you may need to look for a new Broker, ask them to present to you as if you were a new client. This will be good information to compare later.

Workers’ Compensation – Review the past two years of claim history and vendor resources. WC insurance resources for claims, education, and management vary greatly. Clarify whether your plan requires an audit.

401(k) – Request a full plan review. Discuss past two years’ testing results. Confirm who handles 5500 filing.

Following the above will provide valuable information in order to understand the current state. Without that, many recommendations may lack the full, big picture. This of course may vary depending on specific deadlines. It is a general guideline and should be adjusted accordingly.

Much like the 90 Day Fiancé franchise, the progression of the business relationship is segmented in thirds. The above only goes over the introductory period. The next entry will cover the prequel: “Before the 30 Days”. We will explore considerations in looking for a new role, and determining red flags and deal breaks. Further along, I will cover the work version of “Happily Ever After: Thriving at Work”.

Feel free to comment: What tips do you have that have worked for you during the first 30 days?

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