These days, welcoming a new person into the company is – quite horrendously – called ‘onboarding’ but we’re so repulsed by such a cold and clinical term, we’re going to call it what it is – welcoming a new person into the company.
Starting a new job in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar people is a scary prospect regardless of where in the hierarchy the newbie is coming in. As well as doing all the boring HR-related stuff – making sure contracts have been signed, offer letters are ready, benefits have been clearly outlined, the employee handbook is firmly in hand and the desk, chair and tech is online and ready – you need to really welcome them into the family.
The ultimate goal is all about employee retention and success according to HR strategy consultant Ron Thomas who developed a successful talent management strategy while working at Martha Stewart Living and IBM. In a very challenging environment for businesses, ‘employees no longer have loyalty to one employer and are looking for organisations that can build their skills and experience and make them more valuable resources.’
In turn, managers are under increasing pressure to maximise the ROI by balancing leadership, creativity with control and the needs of their workforce.
Thomas says, ‘Without a proper plan for bringing new employees on board, managers run the risk of miscommunication of goals and expectations, sub-par performance, lower morale, bad decisions and potentially financial loss in the form of employee turnover.’
The Welcome Plan
How you welcome a new starter into your business can depend on the nature of your business.
The welcome a high-end corporate lawyer will get at Stiff Upper Lip & Partners will differ dramatically to how a millennial front-end developer will be welcomed at Purple Pineapple Digital Media but broadly speaking, the principles are the same.
It’s like the initially stages of a relationship. If the honeymoon period quickly falls flat, it’s likely that you weren’t suited and you will part ways but if the process is carefully managed, three things will happen –
- A relationship will be built
- Expectations will be established
- Loyalty and engagement will be cemented
So how can you welcome a new starter into the company?
COMMUNICATION An email to the team in the week before arrival to prepare them helps, as does, in some companies, arranging for a ‘buddy’ to be their ‘go-to’ person should they need the skinny on the unwritten rules like dress code, the best places for lunch, what NOT to put in the microwave and who they have to make tea for when it’s their brew round…
On arrival day, there’s nothing worse than parading newbie in front of the office and saying ‘everyone, this is Sarah, Sarah, this is the team!’ It’s lazy, awkward and pointless. Ensure you properly introduce Sarah to the people she’ll be working with most closely and she/they will establish a rapport. Getting to know the wider group will take a little longer but that’s OK.
DON’T LEAVE THEM HANGING A bored starter with nothing to do makes them feel unsure, nervous and anxious. Give them the full office tour, give them work to do (after all, you’re paying them already) and make sure you’re available during the settling-in period. It’s not productive for them to be sitting in front of the internet on their first morning while you’re in a three-hour meeting.
GIVE FEEDBACK It’s important at any time but vital during the first few weeks. The ways in which your business does things will be new (or different to how they are done elsewhere) and it’s important you play a starring role in making sure their thoughts are aligned with yours and in making sure they know they’re settling in and doing OK. No-one is going to be perfect on day one.
As well as giving feedback, ask for it. Do they have any questions? Is there anything that gives them cause for concern? Is there anything you or the company at large could do to make their experience better or more fulfilling?
FRIDAY DRINKS The fact they can do what you’re paying them for is important, but so is ensuring they are a component part of the team. Take them out for lunch or get them to the pub on Friday after work and get to know them a little. Congratulate them on a great first week and they will feel at home. Say nothing and they will feel isolated. It’s an easy win.
And finally, the…
SCAVENGER HUNT Usually the domain of the corporate leadership workshop no-one wants to go on because they’ve got actual work to do, more and more companies are using scavenger hunts as a fun and creative way for newbies to get to know their new environs.
It’s not a kiddie’s Easter Egg hunt, it’s more cerebral than that. They need to solve puzzles related to the company and the staff, finding out the answers to odd questions such as…
1. Which staff member auditioned for The X Factor in 2014 and got through to the live shows?
2. Who’s father-in-law was a roadie for The Who in the 1970s?
3. Who has over 10,000 Twitter followers?
4. Who’s YouTube video got over 1m views?
5. How many employees have been to the set of Neighbours in Ramsay Street?
…And so it goes on. It starts the conversation, breaks the ice and immerses the newbie into the corporate culture because they have to interact. For starters, it’s much more fun to ask someone you don’t know if they’re a YouTube star rather than what the password is for the shared drive.
When you’re spending a skipful of money on a new company asset, you want to make sure that they have everything they need to perform at the highest level quickly (it’s that ROI again) and by making them feel welcomed, they (and you) stand a much better chance of ensuring that happens.
Have a good week.