IT’S IMPORTANT FOR bosses to get off on the right foot with any new hire. When an employee’s orientation and training for a new job are done well, it can lead to improved employee job satisfaction, morale, performance and retention.
Hiring someone is the first step, but it’s what a boss does from that point forward that matters.
I cringe when I hear stories of new hires who arrive on their first day only to find their new boss and workplaces totally unprepared for them. For example, a receptionist looking perplexed at the new arrival, saying, “No one told me you were coming.” As a result, the new person’s first impression can range from, “I’m not important,” to, “Uh oh, this company doesn’t have its act together.” These initial judgments can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies, which most companies can’t afford with new talent.
Here are a few tips to help you get off on the right foot with a new hire.
Communicate. Send out an advance e-mail notice informing staff of the new hire’s arrival date and the requested “to do” actions. These include typical detail items such as setting up the new hire’s workplace station (computers, phones, etc.) and laying out expectations for communication. Offer some background information about the new hire so staff will be better prepared to offer a sincere, “Welcome, we’re glad you’re here.” The hiring manager should personally escort and enthusiastically introduce the new person to staff.
Coach’s tip: An intranet photo board listing names and positions can help new employees understand how the organization is structured and learn all those new faces.
Provide all new employees with a company orientation covering your unique workplace HR policies and procedures. Consider creating an FAQ, or “frequently asked questions,” intranet Web page as a resource. Include details such as casual Fridays. (You don’t want the new person embarrassed having shown up in a suit on a casual Friday.) Orientation should address employee basics, such as insurance and holidays. There are Web-based options available to provide a “hub” for accessing, navigating and completing required paperwork. Standardizing this can facilitate a smoother entry process.
Plan. Bosses and key staff should set aside designated time to sit with the new hire during the first week to answer questions and explain processes. Bosses particularly need to be available to support the new hire — avoid scheduling vacations or outside office commitments.
Train. New employee training should be provided by someone with the necessary people, training and specific job knowledge/experience to train effectively. I hear too many tales from frustrated employees who never received adequate training (and who inevitably don’t meet their employer’s expectations). The best trainers adapt to people’s preferred learning styles. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Some people learn best by doing (driving rather than hearing someone describe the process or reading it in a manual). Simply throwing a new hire a thick employee handbook rarely works.
Coach’s tip: Don’t let your naysayers or company downers conduct new employee training. The last thing you want is your new employee getting brainwashed by a disgruntled or unhappy staff member.
Keep it simple in the beginning. Flooding new employees with minute details or noncritical paperwork is a common mistake. Focus and explain the “big picture.” Remember, for a new hire, everything is new and overwhelming. Try to keep the first day more personal than paperwork or process driven. You want it to be a positive experience. Like the first day at school, it leaves a lasting impression.
Keep checking in often. Take him or her out to lunch the first day. Use this time to get to know the new employee better and ask how things are going. Encourage the employee to bounce questions, concerns and observations off you, and listen carefully. A simple, “How are you feeling?” can shed light on how you should proceed.
Don’t kid yourself thinking the “sink or swim” approach for a new hire will work. Be realistic with your expectations around how quickly he or she should be assimilating information, processes and procedures. Learning takes time and repetition. One standard rule of thumb — don’t expect a new hire to be fully functioning in a new role until at least three to six months.
Be specific describing responsibilities. Communicating clear expectations around behavior and tasks is important for any successful boss/employee relationship.
Have a discussion about preferred communication styles; yours as the boss and theirs. For example, are you OK with yelling over the cubicle wall or do you want them to schedule an appointment? Should they address issues as they come up or in regular one-on-one meetings? Do you prefer text, e-mail or IM-ing, and what level of detail do you desire? How will you work out differences?
Bosses should do everything in their power to set an expectation for open communication. The wisest bosses assure new people that their mistakes will be viewed as “learning opportunities.”