Adding a new employee to a company can be an awesome, exciting event. It can also be an awkward nightmare. There’s a fine line between a good and bad experience for a new hire, and balance is absolutely vital to welcoming the newcomer while not scaring them away either.
One of the most misunderstood concepts about welcoming new employees is that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Companies usually try to find a “safe” onboarding approach and shove everyone that walks in the door with a newly printed name badge through it. Instead, get a general feeling about a new employee’s personality type. Are they introverted? Then they probably don’t want to be stood up at a meeting in front of 600 staring eyes. Are they gregarious? Then they probably don’t want the two minute overview done by a bored HR intern and then dropped off at their new desk surrounded by silent strangers that ignore them. Showing new employees that you’ve put in thought and care into their treatment helps them feel appreciated and understood. It’s a great way to build loyalty and keep people so they don’t run out of the front door after the first day never to return.
It’s advantageous for both the company and the new worker to have expectations, duties, and tasks clearly defined when they arrive. Nothing is more terrifying for a new employee (or frustrating for a manager to see) than sitting at a desk with no idea what you’re supposed to be doing. The simplified response is usually, “well just ask,” but when it’s your first day, it can be really scary to walk up to your new boss you’re trying to impress and loudly proclaim, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, can you tell me?” Just avoid this by clearly lining out expectations, duties, and tasks. Make sure they have all the programs they need, working keycards, passwords, that they know where the bathrooms and break rooms are. Having a robust personalized onboarding takes much less time than the wasted time of someone not knowing what to do or where to go. It avoids a George Constanza level of procrastination or them having to stop and ask something every twenty minutes for the first month.
Don’t forget to be forgiving. Starting a new job is a very anxious situation. They’re probably feeling quite stressed, and terrified of failing or displeasing their new bosses. It’s a precarious position to be in, and if something does go wrong, it’s helpful to approach the situation with empathy and offer help or clarification rather than yelling at them about what a screw-up they are, or muttering “maybe hiring you was a mistake.” This negativity doesn’t help anyone Empower your new employee by helping them through the initial new job struggles, and they’ll feel like they have a better handle on things. If you make them feel like a screw-up from the start, they’ll carry that with them for a long time. A bad first few days can murder someone’s self-esteem, and the rest of their time at the company will be peppered with indecision and mistakes. This doesn’t help the new employees, and it certainly doesn’t help the company.
Training videos can be an awesome resource for informing new hires about the company’s culture and expectations. But companies tend to make a vital mistake when it comes to training videos. A company may make one, and keep it for far too long. It’s important to remember a ©1987 “How to protect the company’s information” training VHS hosted by Linda Gray, star of TV’s Dallas may not be the most useful onboarding tool available in a post-internet world. Keeping training materials current ensures that your employees will have a better grasp of what the job is. Good rule of thumb: Make sure there’s an updated training video anytime major changes occur internally, or if there’s a new actor playing Batman.
Make sure your HR is set up in a way where new employees feel welcome, educated, and clearly defined. Don’t overwhelm them up front with negativity. Don’t torture your introverts with too much anxiety-filled exposure, and don’t shove your new extroverts in a dark cubicle never to see the light of day again. Not only does this help your company run more smoothly and succeed, it’s also good from an empathetic point of view. Plus, it’s expensive to keep hiring people only to have them keep walking out the door singing Johnny Paycheck.
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