We've all been the new employee at some point. During that inaugural period on the job, we want some kind of reassurance that our presence is a welcome one. A frosty or warm welcome could make the difference in determining how well a new hire fits in as well as the length of his or her stay.
Here are some things to avoid and embrace when a new colleague comes on board.
Don't leave the shy out to dry. In high school, kids often arrange their social circles based upon popularity, athletic standing, or a cool car. That same social thinking shouldn't apply to adults in the workplace.
As an established employee, don't let others in the office dissuade you from taking a vested interest in the new hire. Break the ice by inviting them out to lunch during their first week, or answering preliminary questions they have about the company or their new position.
New employees, particularly quiet types, need that social affirmation if they're going to stick around for the long haul. "In my opinion, a clique-ish work culture can be especially hard for shy employees or anyone else who doesn't want to 'play the game.' You run the risk of losing excellent talent if you alienate them from the start," wrote Lindsey Pollak an expert on next-generation career and workplace trends and author of Getting From College to Career, in an email.
Go the extra mile. An insular work environment can leave a new hire feeling out of the loop. A lackluster introduction by bosses and co-workers to the company's professional standards and traditions can lead to a sense of detachment. Pointing out where the water cooler is or how to use the fax machine simply won't cut it if the aim is to make new hires feel like part of the team rather than just another body at a cubicle.
Before starting King of the Court Tennis Ministry, a North Carolina-based nonprofit offering tennis instruction for disadvantaged youth, John E. Klintworth held a string of jobs in his professional life where employers put forth a bare minimum effort after he was brought on board. "I felt like I wasn't cared for as much, like I was left on my own," John E. Klintworth explains.
Now a resident of Richmond Hill in Ontario, Canada, Klintworth is set to begin his new job as a financial adviser for Edward Jones this month. He's hopeful that his new bosses and co-workers will play an active role in acclimating him to his new work environment.
If you're an employer, don't presume that the new hire is simply interested in getting paid and going home, or that they view orientation meetings and in-house conferences as a snooze fest. "New hires really appreciate orientation meetings that help educate them about such benefits and how to make good choices that will help them make the most of what the company offers," Pollak wrote.
A lengthy intro goes a long way. In 1999, when Vivian Fong was hired as the human resources director for the Washington, D.C.-based World Resources Institute, the department was fairly anemic in its outreach efforts to new hires. With staff assistance, Fong created a more active program for bringing new faces into the company fold. Now, the introduction is a sustained, months-long effort.
The first week at WRI is part administrative, part personal outreach. New hires are acquainted with information about their company computers, benefits, and timesheets. But as Fong notes, the administrative staff makes every effort to meet with each new employee face-to-face during that time as well.
Within the first five weeks, new hires attend an overview orientation, where they learn what each department does and how their work meshes with the broader mission of the organization. The introductory phase continues with the mission values approach (MVA) conference that places the rank-and-file in an open forum with the higher-ups to freely discuss the guiding principles of the organization.
The introductory phase can last between four to six months. Its duration is intended to make a lasting impression and give new employees an enduring sense of worth as well as a favorable opinion of the institute. "[We want to give] them a sense of purpose and how their day-to-day sync's up with the institutional mission," Fong explains.
Bond inside and outside of work. To build friendly cohesion within the ranks, your company should have an established social gathering for the newest member of your team.
At WRI, the "buddy assignment" is an institutional mainstay. The program consists of matching new hires with co-workers outside their department based upon a common interest like playing the same instrument or having lived in or being from the same country. "It's a little bit of matchmaking that I do," Fong says of the tradition.
But along with the institutionalized tradition should also come organic ones. If co-workers are really taking a liking to their new colleague, social invitations should extend beyond the preliminary lunch or company program.
The grassroots social activities that have sprang up at WRI over the years, including weekly lunch-ins for Portuguese speakers, an ultimate Frisbee team, and happy hours, have positively linked new hires with their colleagues and the organization they work for. "If you connect with the right couple of people, you connect with everything," Fong says.
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