You’ve just hired the perfect person for the job opening in your office. The selection process was a breeze; you and your entire team knew the first time you met the candidate that she was just what you were looking for. She is full of energy, has the right skills, and oodles of impressive experiences. She accepted the offer and is starting tomorrow. An enormous weight is lifted from your mind because you know this is going to work out; that huge stack of backlogged projects will now be taken care of. You move on to other important priorities because it’s clear that the new employee is capable and will hit the ground running.
I bet you recognize the above scenario: tremendous excitement and promise exist for the potential of a new employee, but the day she arrives, she is a second thought, because you think the person is so capable that they don’t really need you.
Maybe you’ve done this yourself, or perhaps you’ve seen it happen to someone else. It’s easy to understand why it occurs. With such trust and confidence in the capabilities of a new employee, you can quickly lose sight of the integration needed for success. But by ignoring the crucial orientation process, often called onboarding, of a new employee, you will set her up to fail.
When we bring a new dog into a home, we don’t assume that he’ll figure out all the rules immediately. We give him lots of love and attention so he feels welcome. Allowing him to become familiar with one room or a small portion of your home is an excellent way to ease him into the family. Having no boundaries can be overwhelming, trying to sort through too much at once leads to confusion. With a new animal, we anticipate the likelihood of mistakes during that adjustment period. We should offer that same consideration to our new employee!
Arriving into a new organization, especially if it’s a new industry to the new employee, takes more acclimation than it appears on the surface. After working in a company for a number of years, you lose sight of what’s “new” or different to someone else. Quirky things that you now accept, whether about a process, a situation, or a person may be routine to you, but will not be routine to a new employee who is experiencing everything through fresh eyes.
Another potential issue is when a manager heaps on unrealistic expectations for the new employee, such as assuming what the person already knows, or how much time it will take to complete an assignment, or that mistakes will not be made. And then the manager wonders why the person they interviewed isn’t performing well! If problems are surfacing, it’s time to regroup and recalibrate the work assignments.
Here are some steps you should take to properly onboard your new employee:
- Schedule time with the new employee, both one-on-one and in teams to discuss work expectations. Do this on a regular basis for at least the first few months, watching for signs that tell you if you need more or less time as you move ahead. If both parties feel comfortable with less communication, great. But if either party feels that they need more time, take it. Dealing with issues early will save you time in the long-run.
- Be realistic in your estimates for how much the new person can accomplish out of the gate.
- Plan plenty of time for the new employee to interact with co-workers. Understanding how each team member works goes a long way to making work assignments flow easier. Make the time fun, either with social events or a team-building session using personality assessments to guide the discussion.
- Assign a buddy or mentor who is available and willing to answer questions and be proactive in sharing tips. Don’t leave the new employee on their own to figure out where to park and how lunch breaks are scheduled.
- Recognize that the time and effort required for onboarding will diminish over time, but you will always need to be aware of the employee’s development as they continue their familiarity and growth in the position and organization.
Learning to work together takes time: it doesn’t happen overnight and it should always be evolving. Grace and I are still finding ways to improve our relationship (we now compromise on the places she can nest in!). Nurturing employees results in the type of outcomes that fulfill everyone’s needs.
In what ways have you successfully integrated a new employee into your organization? How long did it take? What lessons can you share with us? Leave a comment so we all benefit from your experiences.