Get New Employees Off to a Great Start

Placing ads, setting up appointments, conducting in-depth interviews — a lot of work goes into recruiting and hiring employees. Yet, surprisingly, once job applicants have been hired, many employers don’t pay enough attention to integrating them smoothly into the workplace. Too often, the new kids on the block are assigned a desk and left to sink or swim on their own.

A more effective “onboarding” strategy is to do everything possible to support employees during their critical first days and weeks, so they can reach the goals you’ve hired them to achieve sooner rather than later. Steps you take (or don’t take) at the outset also may determine whether the new hire stays on and becomes a productive, long-term member of your team.

Here are five ways to ensure that your recently procured talent sticks around.

1. Provide resources. Is the new employee’s workstation up and running? Is the phone line set up? Make sure all of the necessary tools and resources are in place when he or she sits at the desk for the first time. An employee handbook covering basic policies and procedures can be immensely helpful. Other important details include providing: computer passwords; the names, job titles, and functions of the people they’re working with; and the location of restrooms, conference rooms, and other key facilities.

2. Assign a task. Think back to your first day in a new position. Chances are, you weren’t given much to do and no one explained what was expected of you. New employees are eager to hit the ground running and actually do something. Don’t make them fill their time with busywork. Give them a small-scale assignment to complete or put them on a team project (where their fresh perspective may add value).

3. Use the buddy system. A great way to familiarize an employee with your company culture is by pairing him up with another employee — preferably one who is both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the company. A buddy can answer all the questions the new hire may be shy about asking anyone higher up (Where’s the best place to get coffee? Is there an ATM nearby? Etc.). The buddy can also serve as a sounding board for any issues or challenges the new employee experiences.

4. Go to lunch. No one should have to eat lunch alone on her first day at work. Dining together is a great opportunity for you to get to know the new employee better and to share your thoughts and insights about the business and how she fits in. If that’s not feasible, encourage the new hire’s co-workers to invite her to lunch.

5. Set goals and expectations. New employees will have a general idea of their roles and responsibilities, but the sooner they understand what’s expected of them and how their contributions can help grow the business, the more productive they may be. In a one-on-one meeting or via email, state clearly what your expectations are and give them a short-term goal (to be met within two or three weeks). Let them know what you’re looking for and the metrics by which their progress will be measured. Setting clear, realistic goals is far more effective than offering a pat on the back and a friendly command to “Get out there and do your best!”

Taking action in the first few days and weeks of a new hire’s employment offers valuable support and demonstrates your commitment to his or her success. A positive onboarding experience will translate into a stronger sense of belonging and a desire to stay and grow with your business.

About Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning freelance copywriter and editor and a former Senior Writer for Vistage International, a global membership organization of chief executive officers. He writes frequently on issues and challenges faced by U.S. small businesses.
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