Giving New Employees a Head Start

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As is expected with companies that are growing, a number of my coaching clients are taking on new team members at the moment.

What is interesting to witness is the different approaches to bringing a new employee on board. On the one end of the spectrum, there is a “sink or swim” induction, and on the other end, a lot of “hand holding”.

Recruitment is an investment in human capital. If you want a return on that investment, you should give your new employee the best shot possible at making a success of the role.

So, “sink or swim” is not an option! This approach is often borne of the notion that the candidate is being paid a lot of money to do a job, and they sold themselves as being capable, and they should jump in and get on with it. However, realistically, a new recruit will require an adjustment period that takes place over a number of weeks rather than on day one. Apart from the time issue, you also don’t want a new person doing their own thing, their own way, and reinventing wheels that don’t need to be reinvented.

The “hand holding” option is also not ideal. I often get reports from clients that getting their new employee up to speed is taking its toll on the business. Instead of focusing on day to day operations, current employees need to take time out to train, explain, and show them the ropes. Instead of having additional capacity, productivity dips because of the time-consuming process to explain everything to the newcomer. Because they have not earned your trust yet, everything is double checked and vetted. You may as well do it yourself! At some point, you need to let go!

Somewhere between “sink or swim” and “hand holding” is the best solution to getting the person up and running effectively as soon as possible.

Here are some guidelines to introducing new recruits:

Recruitment process
At the very beginning, your recruitment process needs to be solid. If you are hiring the right person, with the right skills, with the right credentials, and most importantly, with the right values and attitude, your induction process will be much smoother.

Information overload
The new employee has a lot of information to assimilate. When an information session is too intensive and too long, it is likely to be ineffective.

Prioritise
What information can be sent to the employee prior to starting the new job? An explanation of company culture, values, vision, mission, etc is often a great starting point, so the employee knows up front what is expected in terms of behaviour, attitude, communication, and values. What needs to be conveyed on the first day? What can wait until the next week? Next month?

Need to know basis
While it is important to feed the information at a pace that it can be easily digested, it is just as important to explain the relevance, context, and purpose of each piece of information. If an individual knows how, what, when, where, and why, they are more likely to get up to speed quickly and to understand how the information fits into the bigger picture.

Learning styles
Remember, different people learn differently. Some people can read reams of policy documents, instruction manuals, and other written material, while others need the information orally, to hear how things work. Many people want to be shown or need to do the task under instruction for the first time.

Involve as many people as possible
Exposure to different people in the business from different departments can help the new recruit get a more holistic understanding of the business quicker. When the existing team shares the load of explaining things to the new recruit, productivity is less likely to suffer.

Planning
The salary bill of a company is often its greatest expense. To ensure a return on the sizeable investment you are making in the individual, it is important to plan appropriately. Document what you can in terms of job roles and responsibilities, reporting lines and structures, company information, systems, and processes. Have a checklist of everything the new person needs, such as an email address, access card, contact details of colleagues, etc. What information do they need to do their job? Who do they need to be introduced to? Who is going to show them what, by when?

If you are planning to grow your business, you need to plan the process to “onboard” new employees. This process will set the tone for your future relationship and your employee’s loyalty. Treat them like they make a difference, and they probably will!

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