Getting New Team Members Off to a Great Start!
Hiring a new member of your team can be time-consuming and costly – so you want them to settle in and start working productively as soon as possible. After all, if you had spent time sourcing and choosing an expensive new piece of machinery, you wouldn't just leave it in its box when it was delivered, and hope it would just start being productive! The solution is a well-thought out induction process that helps ensure that new hires feel comfortable in their new job and start working effectively as soon as possible.
Traditionally, employee induction was looked at as the time needed to fill out personnel records, show new employees the washrooms, introduce them to a few coworkers, and wish them well. If they met with anyone other than an HR representative, they were doing well.
That doesn't work anymore. New team members expect, and deserve, more!
The most frequent complaints new people have about their induction experiences are that they are overwhelmed, are bored, or are left to sink or swim on their own. The result is often a confused new employee who takes a long time to become productive, or becomes frustrated and quickly leaves the organization.
An effective, carefully-planned orientation or on-boarding program will not only teach technical skills, but it will educate new team members about corporate values, the company's history, and provide valuable information about "who is who" in the organization. Organizations that have good induction programs get new people up to speed faster, have better alignment between what new people do and what the organization needs them to do, have happier employees, and have lower staff turnover rates.
When you know the "why" of employee induction, it is much easier to design an effective program that will welcome new employees with sincerity. When you take the time and make the effort to deliver an effective induction you also convey the message that you are committed to employee development and to providing the training and resources needed to do a great job from the Day 1. Here are some "hows" for doing just that.
Tips for New Employee Induction
Consider key orientation planning questions before implementing or revamping a current program. Important questions to ask are:
- What does the new employee need to know about this work environment to feel comfortable and confident?
- What impression do you want new employees to have on their first day?
- What policies and procedures should new employees learn about on the first day or the first month? This vital information must be included in the orientation process.
- How can new employees be introduced to their coworkers without feeling overwhelmed and intimidated?
- What special things (desk, work area, equipment, special instructions) can you provide to make new employees feel comfortable, welcome, and secure?
- How can you ensure that the new employee's supervisor is available to assist him or her on the first day; and provides enough time and attention to let him or her know that he or she is valued an important addition to the work team?
Ask for feedback from recent hires. Find out how they perceived the orientation process and make changes based on those recommendations.
Once you have a list of areas to cover, divide them up according to when they should be covered in the induction process: before the new hire starts, on Day 1, in Week 1, or in the first month.
One of the most important things that you may need to do before Day 1 is to get the new hire to complete a Training Needs Analysis document. This allows you to arrange training in advance and book it into the new person's schedule when they start. Doing this will reduce their anxiety about unfamiliar systems (usually IT, but also procedures and licenses to use certain equipment). And by being able to schedule training earlier, you'll have them up to speed and productive sooner.
One of the main points of an effective induction program is to give the new member of your team a great first impression of your company. This begins as soon as the offer letter of employment is sent. Make sure your letter sets out the expectations of the job and provides an open avenue of communication before the employee's first day.
Once you have a good idea of the purpose of your program and what you want to cover, then you begin the design process. Here are some ideas for orientation:
Before they start
- Make sure the new employee's work area is ready and comfortable.
- Make sure key co-workers know the employee is starting and encourage them to come to say "hello" before orientation begins.
- Name cards on top of your computer monitors can help new people learn names in their own time. They are particularly useful if you all sit in an open plan office. Make one for the new starter too!
- Assign a mentor or partner to show the new person around and make introductions. A mentor need not deliver all – or even any – of the training, but will be there to guide the new starter to training sessions.
On Day 1
- Cover off all the essentials: forms, computer access, ID cards, parking, office supplies, etc. Don't do this all at once, though. Intersperse these housekeeping activities with other parts of the induction process that require greater levels of concentration.
- Start with the basics. Don't overwhelm the employee and don't cram everything they need to know into a one-hour session. People become productive sooner if they are firmly grounded in the basic knowledge they need to understand their job. Focus on the why, when, where, and how of the position before handing them any assignments or project.
- Provide an orientation packet that includes samples of forms as well as the job description.
- Give the new starter a checklist of what they should have been told or shown by the end of Day 1, the end of Week 1 and by the end of their first month, and who is responsible for covering this with them (HR, supervisor or mentor). This will help reduce their anxiety about "unknown unknowns".
- If you have a digital camera available, take photos of each team member, and other people too, and make up a sheet matching names to photos to give to new starters on their first day. Take a photo of the new starter on their first day, so you can update the sheet for the next person.
- Provide a list of FAQs with a contact person/department, and phone number or extension. This should always include the number of the IT helpdesk!
- Plan to take the new employee to lunch (or join him or her for lunch), and ask the supervisor and available coworkers to join you. There is nothing more uncomfortable than facing a lunchroom of strangers or slinking out for a solitary lunch on your first day.
By the end of Month 1
- Keep it fun: consider incorporating some ice breaker exercises at the start of the first group meeting after the new hire starts.
- Give the new person some responsibility for his or her own orientation. Offer opportunities for self-directed learning under appropriate supervision.
- Ensure that the mentor has scheduled ongoing meetings with the new starter up until the end of their first month to answer questions which they might prefer not to ask their line manager.
An effective induction program – or the lack of one – will make a significant difference in how quickly a new employee becomes productive and feels part of the team. Good orientation takes energy, time and commitment, however it usually pays off for the individual employee, the department, and the organization. Make sure your new employees feel that they are valued and that you want them to come back the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that.
The quality of your induction process significantly affects the rate at which your company can grow. If you can quickly train people, and keep hold of them once they're on board, you can grow your company quickly. If it takes a long time for people to become productive and you're continually losing key members of your team, you may find your business shrinking instead of growing. What's more, this will be an incredibly stressful, overworked time for those who are left!
Effective induction helps new employees to settle into their new job faster and become productive sooner.
Employees who take on mentoring roles often find this rewarding, but should nevertheless have this work formally recognized in their annual appraisal. After all mentoring takes time that could otherwise be used to complete work.
Develop induction checklists or aides memoire for your department or team, and use these to save time in preparing for the induction of a new starter, and to ensure that everything is covered. Update these with feedback from new starters regularly.
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