All Aboard! Getting New Hires on the Engagement Train
This is a post that I wrote a number of years ago when I worked as a corporate trainer specializing in employee engagement. Edited versions were previously published on the web by Training Magazine, in print by Marianas Business Journal and in print by Mississauga Business Times. The insights in this post are still relevant, so I thought I would share.
It’s true. Most people are pretty enthusiastic when they start a new job. Sadly, on day one, a large number of new hires are left feeling like an imposition in everyone’s day and end up questioning their decision to accept the job offer.
New hires are at their best their first day on the job. They are keen to make a difference and can’t wait to get into the meat of their work. Unfortunately, most companies are ill prepared to start their newbie and end up jeopardizing the new hire’s level of engagement from the get-go. Read on for some suggestions to successfully onboard your new employees and capitalize on your opportunity to engage them from the start.
The Welcome: To make the welcome most effective, everyone needs to be prepared for the arrival of their new colleague. There is nothing worse than starting your new job, only to discover that no one is available to work with you, and that no plans were made to get you off to a good start.
Did you ever notice that everyone who leaves their position (willingly) usually ends up with a big party and a gift with a card signed by everyone? Why can’t companies welcome new people with as much fan fare? What a beautiful way to start a job. Giving your new hire a feeling of acceptance right from the start fuels enthusiasm and cements their commitment to the company. That is so much more beneficial to the company than the previously described situation where the new person is left standing around feeling like they are inconveniencing the entire team.
Have the party at the very beginning of the work day. Welcomes are for the beginning of the first day, not later in the day, and definitely not later in the week! Decorate the office, if you can. Order a cake with the person’s name on it and give them a little welcome package wrapped as a gift that will help them with their work (a calendar, a pen, keys, a mug, restaurant info, important numbers, a floor plan, etc.). It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It’s all in the presentation!
Make it a point to get everyone in the office to have lunch with the new person (one at a time over a few weeks) so they can get to know each other individually. Each day should have an action that a staff member must take to get the new person involved in the culture of the company. It doesn’t have to cost money. Spending the time is what is important, so if there is a group who goes bowling on Thursdays, be sure to invite the new person to join the group. If you raise money for a charity, have the new hire get involved in that as well.
Partners & Mentors: Every new employee should have a group of people they can rely on for information related to their job, and someone who can mentor them. Assign these people very carefully. To keep the engagement level high, you must first determine who your most engaged employees are. Statistically, according to Gallup, if you have a group of 10 employees, approximately 3 will be highly engaged, 5 will be somewhat disengaged, and 2 will be completely disengaged. The latter group will try to act as the corporate informant and let the new hire in on all the gossip and pitfalls of the organization, and some members of the middle group may do this as well. Don’t give them extra opportunity to call your fledgling over to the dark side. Get your best people (the keenest, brightest, most productive and enthusiastic) to work with your new employee in every way possible. Put them on projects together, get them involved in the orientation and integration process. Make them the go-to people as much as possible.
Get To Work: As mentioned earlier, new hires are very eager to make a difference. Find out where their greatest strengths are and put them to work on something that is productive and meaningful right from day one. Do not have them do work that is not in their job description. For example, if you hire a director, help him or her get into the job by assigning a meaningful project. They can partner with other people in the department to get things done and understand more about the business in the process. Do not have your new hire follow people around to “observe” or stick them in a room to clean up shelves. This is demeaning, unproductive and bad for morale. Each time you have your new hire do something meaningless, you drive him/her closer to the door. The unspoken word is, “we don’t recognize your talents and have no use for them, anyway”.
Promises, Promises: A lot of companies get swept up in the excitement of hiring and promise things to employees, only to forget later. The new hire is left waiting for gold to fall from a bucket into their laps and it never comes to fruition. You may forget, but employees never forget. Be sure to make a list of the things you promised and set forth a fair timeline, along with appropriate objectives so you can deliver on those promises. Have a discussion with your new employee about his/her expectations as well as your own and provide support for continued success. By doing this, you will demonstrate that you have integrity and will move closer to building continued engagement and loyalty from your new hire.
Appraisals: New employees need lots of guidance and support in their roles, but they also need feedback from you. Be very careful not to fall into the trap of continuous criticism. Criticism is never constructive, and is always destructive. No one needs that. Even the term “appraisal” sounds intimidating. Turn those appraisal sessions into a relaxed one-on-one mini-meeting where you can review goals, provide support and bond with your new hire. Remember, we all need to feel valuable, and disengagement is directly tied to feeling under-valued. Praise efforts, acknowledge accomplishments and look for the good. Never focus on the negative. Saying, “You could have done this better,” is not conducive to the engagement process. Be friendly, not threatening. People are more inspired by warmth than coldness. An open, non-threatening communication style motivates and builds loyalty. That’s what employee engagement is all about.
Continuing Development: How do you support your new hires in getting around the learning curve? Whether you have just hired from outside your organization, or promoted from within, everyone needs to have a plan for continuous learning that should include soft skills training. It is well known that people get hired for their technical skills and fired for their people skills. If you have hired someone into a management position, see to it that they receive ongoing leadership training that includes components built around developing skills in communication, leadership, team building, delegation, building trust, etc. If you hire a customer service agent, give that person continuous relevant training as well. It doesn’t matter what position the person holds in the company, they are deserving of the opportunity to cultivate their skills for their own benefit, and the benefit of the company. I have met many people who worked in companies and climbed the corporate ladder, but never took a course in anything that really mattered to the success of the company. Soft skills matter a lot and anything you do to tell your employees they are important to your business, will contribute to their degree of engagement and put money in your company’s pocket!
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