Congratulations! You’ve hired a new employee.
Now that the hard part is over you can get back to business, right?
Not quite yet.
Getting your new team member “on-board” and successfully integrated is a process in itself. And it doesn’t happen on its own.
The wrong approach
Too many business owners and managers believe that people will naturally find their own way through the policies and cultural distinctions that make up their business.
Beyond the anxiety of the actual recruiting and hiring process, the most nerve-wracking experience for a new employee is their first day on the job.
Trying to make a good impression while having to digest overwhelming amounts of new information can be daunting.
The term “on-boarding” is often used to describe the intentional and structured approach for ensuring that new employees get to know you, your company, the culture, and…well, where everything is! Like the restroom or the photocopier.
These five simple steps can minimize the stress for your new hire, reduce the time needed to get them “up to speed,” and provide a high level of comfort and confidence – preparing your new employee for success.
1. Have a plan
Just as the first impression you make on a new customer informs their long-term expectations and behavior, your new employee’s orientation communicates your culture and management style.
Every aspect of the new employee orientation process should be planned and documented; and it should begin before that first day on the job.
Nothing can be more disconcerting for a new employee than to be bombarded with multiple forms to sign, manuals to read, and then be shuffled off to an empty office or cubicle for the remainder of the morning.
Paperwork is going to be required, and an agile organization could easily provide many of the necessary legal forms and an employee handbook ahead of time. Required reading from your company website may provide a wealth of information for a new hire. Not only can your new employee show up the first day already familiar with your Strategic Objective, vision and mission statements, and an organizational chart, but employee testimonials and short presentations by key leaders can help set the stage on or even before that critical first day. (Nobody gets through the door here without having read The E-Myth Revisited).
2. Manage the first day
Ideally, everyone will have been apprised of the new arrival, the employee’s computer will be set up, instructions for logging in, accessing programs, using the phone system, etc. will be ready.
Allow for some “free” time in the day and arrange for a “buddy system” so that the employee is not left feeling lost or uncertain as to what to do next.
Make sure the new employee knows ahead of time what to bring, where to park, who to ask for when they arrive, etc. A tour of the facilities is essential and all of the key people they will interact with should be introduced during the day.
3. Get to know that person
Through all your best efforts to create a smooth and seamless transition from new hire to team member, keep in mind that every employee is different and requires a slightly different approach and level of attention.
Many managers and owners ply their new employees with information and instructions, but fail to listen to them and really get to know the person they have just brought on board. Learning more about the individual’s personal goals, their perceived role in the business, and their working (and learning) style can set the stage for creating a winning career path.
Plan some type of informal activity to allow a more relaxed interaction with other employees. Many businesses have developed new employee “rituals” for introducing everyone and creating the beginnings of a team relationship. Facilitating these relationships from the beginning can be crucial for fostering the team environment you seek to maintain in your company culture.
4. Go the distance
How long does the on-boarding process take? That depends on your company, the position, and the employee. It is safe to say that the process of becoming a part of your team, your culture doesn’t end after the first week. Your plan should extend to include the first two to three months of the new employee’s tenure in your company.
Your on-boarding process should include short and long-term benchmarks and expectations. Your new employee should be able to sit down with his or her manager and be told: “This is what you should know or be able to do on your own in the first week, after three weeks, within the month, and after three months.”
Having these expectations expressed in writing drives and informs your training agenda, supports your monitoring of their progress, and gives that new person a valuable way to chart their own progress – marking off small, progressive victories in acquiring new skills and knowledge as the time goes by and not having to worry that they’re not meeting expectations; the expectations are clearly outlined!
5. Check in with them
As the leader of a company that wants to demonstrate the value of innovation and continual improvement, always be on the lookout for insights and feedback that allow you to refine and improve any of your processes or systems, from recruiting, to hiring, to orientation, to training.
A new employee is not coming to you from a vacuum and their previous experience and knowledge make them perfect “test kitchens” for your existing systems and procedures. If there are holes in your systems (only natural, because they’d been developed by experienced employees who made assumptions about what a person would know), the new employee, not subject to those assumptions, will be the best person to expose them.
Make it clear to your new employee that while you are expecting them to use your existing systems, their feedback about unclear sections or gaps they discover are especially valuable and anticipated.
Set the stage for a star
Preparation is one of the hallmarks of effective leadership.
Setting the stage for the future success of any employee is crucial, and it begins at the beginning.
The entire process of finding and hiring a new employee can be seen as a type of relay where the baton is passed at critical points along the course. The final pass occurs when that new employee finally accepts your offer.
If you are actively recruiting, or plan to hire soon, consider now how prepared you are to successfully bring someone on-board.