Integrating New Starters Effectively
Anya was so excited when she started her new job three weeks ago – it's her dream role! But now she's questioning whether it was a good career move after all.
On her first day, her computer hadn't arrived, her chair was broken, and her manager – Sonni – was out of the office. She's barely spoken to him since and is still waiting for her job description. And, when she asks her new colleagues a question, they're often too busy to help. As a result, she feels like a burden and is becoming increasingly isolated, demotivated and unhappy.
Similarly, Sonni is unimpressed. He's away on business often, so he trusts that his team has shown Anya the ropes. So why hasn't she made more of an impact? She was such a bright, capable candidate at interview – a real go-getter – but she's like a different person: confused and withdrawn. After a costly recruitment campaign, he feels somewhat cheated.
This scenario can easily happen if a company doesn't have a proper process in place for new starters. This article explains what an employee induction program is and why it's so important, and shows you how to implement one successfully.
What Is an Employee Induction?
The Society for Human Resource Management is the world’s largest HR professional society. It describes an employee induction as the process "through which new employees learn and adapt to the norms and expectations of the organization to quickly reach maximum productivity." Some people also use the term "onboarding" to include the time between offering someone a job and his or her first day.
What Makes a Program Successful?
Effective inductions are timely, organized and engaging, and give a good first impression of a company. They inspire new starters, set out an organization's mission and vision for them, and educate them about the company's history, culture and values. They also teach them the technical skills they need, and provide them with valuable information such as "who's who" in the business.
If done well, the induction process will allow a new starter to lay the foundations for important relationships within his team and across the wider organization, and give him the best possible start in the organization.
Conversely, a poor induction program is either too full-on or not thought through properly. The most frequent complaints new starters make is that they're overwhelmed, bored, or left to "sink or swim." This can leave them feeling confused and make them less productive. If a new starter becomes disengaged, it may be very difficult to re-engage her. She'll soon leave, and you'll have to begin the recruitment process again.
Why Inductions Matter
The recruitment process can be time consuming and costly, so you want new joiners to contribute to the business as soon as possible. In fast-growth businesses, this can critically affect whether the business meets its potential or not.
An effective induction program – or the lack of one – can make the difference between a new employee successfully integrating and leaving very quickly. Research shows that this can affect engagement, staff turnover and absenteeism levels, and the employer brand.
When a candidate accepts a job, he may have to work several weeks' notice in his current role. So it's important that you, as his prospective manager, maintain contact with him and keep him engaged during this time. If you fail to do so, he could lose interest, change his mind, or – worse still – go to a competitor. The Pre-Start Day checklist, below, will give you some ideas about how you can keep in touch.
Inductions aren't just for new starters. Existing team members who have changed roles or are returning to work can also benefit from them.
A Best-Practice Guide to Successful Inductions
Don't leave your induction process to chance. Follow these steps, so that your new starter hits the ground running!
Planning an Induction
There are several important questions to ask when you are designing an induction program. These include:
- How experienced is your new hire? It's important to tailor your approach depending on who you're inducting, so that the program is fit for purpose.
- How formal do you want it to be? You may not need a rigid structure if your company is small, but it might be more efficient to run group sessions, for example, in a larger organization.
- What first impression do you want to give?
- What do new starters need to know about the work environment?
- What policies and procedures should you show them?
- How can you introduce new joiners to co-workers without overwhelming and intimidating them?
- What do you need to provide them with (desk, work area, equipment, special instructions, and so on) so that they're ready to go from day one?
- How can you make sure that the right people are available, so new team members feel informed and valued?
- Where is your new starter based and what are her hours? If she works remotely or has different shift patterns to you, you'll want to coordinate schedules, at least for the first few days.
Ask for feedback from recent hires about their inductions, and integrate any useful suggestions into future programs.
Create a Checklist
Now it's time to create an induction checklist, so that you're fully prepared for your new starter's first day. Divide tasks into pre-start date, day one, end of the first week, month one, and beyond. Here are some considerations for each stage.
Download our induction template checklist here
While a checklist is helpful, don't let the induction become just a tick-box exercise. Both you and your new starter should take responsibility for making sure that all items are thoroughly covered.
- Send your new joiner useful information (such as e-newsletters, corporate videos, or a welcome pack), so that he can familiarize himself with the company at leisure.
- Ask him to complete a Training Needs Analysis document. This will highlight any skills gaps, so that you can incorporate appropriate training into his schedule. You'll get him working more productively by planning this now.
- Consider inviting him to meet the team informally, such as at a social event.
- Prepare his workstation, so that he has the equipment he needs.
- Tell co-workers his start date, and encourage them to say "hello" on his first day.
- Schedule his one-on-ones with key team members.
- Assign him a mentor or "buddy" to show him around, make introductions, and help with any day-to-day questions.
- Check that he's ready to start by sending a friendly email just before his first day.
- Send a company-wide "welcome" email, copying in your new recruit.
- Do a "walk-around" the office, and introduce her to key team members. Limit numbers, if you think it might become overwhelming.
- Don't forget to show her the bathroom, fire escapes, water-cooler, and kitchen, and explain when lunch breaks are usually taken.
- Print off a seating plan, site map and organization chart, so that she can see important information at a glance.
- Cover essential admin, such as forms, computer access, email signature templates, ID cards, health and safety information, parking, security passes, and office supplies. Don't do it all at once, though. Intersperse housekeeping activities with other parts of the induction.
- Give her an overview of the company (including mission, vision, values, and corporate culture), the department and the team. Explain how her role fits in.
- Run through her job description and person specification, so that she understands her tasks and responsibilities.
Start with the basics but don't cram everything into a one-hour session. People become productive sooner if they understand the fundamentals of their jobs first. Focus on the why, when, where, and how of the position before you hand over any assignments or projects.
- Discuss the skills gaps identified by the Training Needs Analysis, and the available learning and development options.
- Provide details (phone numbers, email and Skype addresses) of all of her key contacts, including the number of the IT helpdesk!
- Direct her to view online staff biographies, so that she can familiarize herself with the wider team.
- Offer to take her for lunch. Consider that she might prefer some private time, or to call her friends and family instead. If so, organize another time when she's more settled.
- Give her a copy of your induction checklist. This will help to reduce her anxiety about any "unknown unknowns."
Incorporate an ice breaker exercise into the start of your new recruit's first team meeting, to ease her into the team.
End of Week One
- Continue filling in the gaps. Introduce your new starter to anyone who wasn't available during his first few days.
- Discuss his role in more detail and start him off on some tasks. This will help him to put what he's learned into practice.
- Agree objectives and timescales for him to work toward during his probation period, and explain how his performance will be assessed.
- Make sure that he fully understands work practices, policies and appropriate behavior.
- Check with his mentor that everything is going well.
- Be available (either in person or over the phone) to answer any questions that he has.
During the First Month…
- Meet regularly to check that your new team member is settling in and has everything she needs.
- By now, you'll know whether she requires any further on-the-job or formal training, or could benefit from some coaching. Make sure that you organize this quickly, so that she's able to contribute fully as soon as possible.
- Give her regular, ongoing feedback on how she is performing. Provide practical advice and arrange job shadowing or mentoring, if appropriate.
- Take the opportunity to listen actively to any thoughts she has about you, the induction program, and the company in general. You can use this to improve the process next time around.
... and Beyond!
The induction process doesn't simply end after the new starter's first day, week or even month. It's your responsibility as a manager to engage new recruits, make sure they grow into their roles, and, ultimately, pass their probationary period. Successful employee induction is an ongoing process!
A successful induction is inspiring, organized and fit for purpose. You can tell how effective it is by how well a person adjusts and acclimates to the company. Get your new starter quickly up to speed by creating an induction checklist. Divide tasks into what to do pre-start date, then on the first day, week and month – and beyond. Treat the program as ongoing, and review it regularly by gathering people's feedback.
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