How to get a new employee up to speed
From a manager’s perspective, a new hire can’t come up to speed fast enough. Balancing the newcomer’s need to learn the ropes and your desire to have her quickly produce is a challenge for any time-strapped boss. What’s the best way to bring your new employee on board?
“If you want people to perform well, you have to get them off to a good start. That’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?” says Dick Grote, performance management consultant and author of “How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals.” It’s important to be thoughtful and deliberate about their first few months. “People are very excited and quite vulnerable when they take new jobs, so it’s a time in which you can have a big impact,” says Michael Watkins, author of the bestselling book, “The First 90 Days.” “Often the people who get the least attention are those making internal moves,” says Watkins, but those transitions, “can be terribly challenging.”
Whether your new hire is joining the company for the first time or transitioning from another part of the organization, here’s how to make it as smooth as possible for everyone.
- FOCUS ON CULTURE: Effective onboarding starts during the recruiting and hiring phase – when you’re interviewing the potential hire andassessing fit. Talk honestly about how things work and answer questions. Then, once the employee starts, set time aside in your initial meetings to continue the conversation. If your new hire is coming onboard from outside the company, don’t assume he knows the lingo of the organization and the industry. Take the extra time to translate for him.
GET YOUR ENTIRE TEAM INVOLVED: Watkins recommends enlisting your team in getting their new teammate up to speed and sharing “collective responsibility” for his success. Ask one person to act as a sponsor, advises Grote, and designate him or her to be the go-to person when the new teammate runs into problems.
- SET EXPECTATIONS EARLY ON: Your new employee needs to know job expectations from the start. Grote explains that at Texas Instruments, for example, each new or transitioning employee gets a copy of the performance appraisal. “On the first day, the manager goes over the form; they use it as a tool to explain how performance will be measured and what they’ll be held accountable for,” Grote says.
- DON’T OVERLOOK THE LITTLE THINGS: “Ask co-workers to coordinate so the new teammate doesn’t eat lunch by himself the first week,” Grote suggests. He acknowledges this may seem mundane, but it makes a difference. Similarly, part of creating a welcoming environment includes having logistics like business cards, workstations and access passes ready to go.
- GIVE THEM TIME TO GROW: Grote says new teammates need to start at a reasonably paced walk and accelerate as quickly as is comfortable. “Ask your existing employees how long it took before they felt they were part of the team. What they say is the best data you’re going to get,” he advises. While you’re at it, ask them about their overall onboarding experience. “The old-timers won’t remember, but those hired two months ago will have feedback about what they wish they’d learned earlier,” Grote says.
(Sara Stibitz is a freelance writer and editor based in Des Moines, Iowa.)
© 2015 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate