Dear Diary, Today I Started My New Job
Throughout my career, I’ve dabbled in the world of “new employee orientation.” I’ve shown really boring slides, helped new-hires decipher a myriad of insurance options, given office tours, and scheduled “meet-n-greets” with other employees and leaders. All of these activities have resulted in varying levels of effectiveness.
Below are excerpts from an actual new employee’s journal of her onboarding experience. She is a seasoned manager who happily took a step down the career ladder to join a small firm (100 employees, all under one roof) as a one-woman human resources department. Here are her first few journal entries:
Day 1. I hate being new! I feel so useless. All I did was fill out forms, then watch the person I will be replacing do his job. Maybe tomorrow will be better. My boss checked in with me several times . . . he seems like an open guy and good communicator. Thumbs-up!
Day 4. Met more new people today. Everyone seems nice. I wish people wore name tags or had name plates on desks or doors. It’s hard to remember who’s who. As for work, I’m still watching, not doing anything other than making copies and memorizing names.
Day 8. I think my boss is concerned that I’m already frustrated so I need to do a better job at disguising my feelings. I told him everything’s fine and I’m happy. My desk is covered with procedures binders and reports—seriously, do you expect me to read them? Yuck! Give me something real to do!
Day 12. Finally! I interviewed a job candidate today. It was a relief to do something that I know I do well. Too bad I had to be here for 3 weeks before I could contribute something of value.
Are you laughing or cringing?
Being new should not be analogous to feeling useless, overwhelmed or ignored. Onboarding an employee catalyzes engagement and helps uncover development opportunities early in his or her tenure, so it is an opportunity that organizations and leaders should be wary of missing.
When developing an onboarding program, there is no magic formula that guarantees success – every organization has different cultural elements and different work processes that need to be considered and integrated. There are, however, some practical tips to remember to keep new hires excited, optimistic, and engaged in their roles:
- 1. Onboard over a period of weeks or months, not hours. Businesses need to ramp up new hires quickly, but it’s important to be realistic. Cover the most basic needs first. Don’t show a new employee the entire campus on Day 1 if they’ll only be working on two floors of a building. Introduce them first to the individuals they’ll work most closely with in terms of both geography and business processes. Effective onboarding is not rushed.
- 2. Set meaningful, short-term goals. New hires want to contribute right away, and organizations want that too. Onboarding is about capturing that initial engagement and allowing it to thrive. Strike a balance between training and doing. Find early opportunities for your new team member to shine and succeed. That IS why you hired them, right?
- 3. Focus on attainable development goals. A step sideways or down the career ladder doesn’t mean that someone’s skills and knowledge won’t require some TLC. Be aggressive about offering training to help new hires learn company software, systems, and processes. While the tombs of procedures manuals are good reference materials, most people won’t want to read them. Better that you show them, train them, and then let them practice.
What else have you done to get your new hires productive quickly while keeping their enthusiasm at its highest? Share below!
Nancy Piatt’s learning and development specialties include leadership skills for new managers, business acumen and project management for non-technical practitioners, team fundamentals, and presentation and facilitation skills. She has developed and delivered customized leadership programs for global clients in Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom. Certified in several 360º feedback programs, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and SHL's talent assessment and personality tests, Nancy is also a Professional Career Manager and helps clients through any phase of career transition. Nancy is a member of the American Society of Training and Development and the Society for Human Resource Management.