Editor’s note: Jen Lawrence is the author of Engage the fox: a business fable about thinking critically and motivating your team, Toronto.
Joining a new company is a high-stress time for most people. A new company has its own set of rules, a distinct corporate culture and a unique cast of characters. According to PwC Saratoga’s Human Capital Effectiveness Report 2013/2014, 22 percent of hires, or one in five employees, leave within their first year. Successfully welcoming a new hire increases retention rates and can go a long way toward building employee engagement. Here are seven ways that a company can successfully bring a new hire on board.
1. If you’re happy and you know it, tell the new guy. Often a new hire has been recruited from a good job where she was recognized for her contribution and had a certain degree of job security. Changing jobs feels scary, particularly if there is a probationary period. New employees want assurance that you recognize their talent and are excited to have them on board. Let them know that you are keen to see how they can shape the future organization. How great would it be if your new hire received a welcoming email from your CEO: Welcome Mr. X, At Company Z we pride ourselves on being the number one distributor of mismatched socks in the world. I have set some aggressive growth targets this year and am thrilled to hear that we hired you, the number one seller of mismatched mittens in the Pacific Northwest … Everyone likes to feel valued.
2. Connect the dots. Everyone wants to feel part of something bigger: it’s a key contributor to job satisfaction. It’s up to you to make the connection between your employee’s skills and the goals of the organization. A new employee orientation session – whether formal or informal — is an opportunity to link the company’s mission, vision and goals to the skills and experiences of the new hire: Here at Company Z, we pride ourselves on building deep relationships with our customers. We were very impressed with how you nurtured the relationship with The Mitten Store and created an exclusive mismatched mitten holiday line for them. That’s exactly the kind of relationship building we value here. Now let’s talk about what we can do together …
3. Assign a relevant project right away. One of the key stresses of a new job is the employee does not feel like she knows what she is doing. One of the best things a company can do is to give the new employee a project that plays to her strengths and builds her sense of competence. Allowing a new employee to achieve some results right away will also help her build credibility with clients and colleagues. You might send Ms. X out on some mismatched socks sales calls with her new boss, the VP of sock sales, so she can start to foster some relationships in the sock world right away. Set up your new hire for success.
4. Given the new employee an exit strategy – literally. On my first day at a big firm, someone explained to me how to use my card key to get into the office. They did not, however, explain to me how to get out of the office. At the end of the day, I pushed, pulled, waved my arms, and flipped every switch I could see trying to unlock the heavy glass door. Finally one of the senior partners came down the hall, asked what I was doing, pressed a small button near the fire alarm that unlocked the door, and gave me the “I work with idiots” sigh. Tell your new hire where the bathroom is, any critical policies and procedures and any other key things she should know (you must never, ever wear matching socks.) New employees are on a steep learning curve and don’t need to feel dumb about the obvious stuff.
5. Appoint a new employee ambassador. Often HR or a hiring manager will appoint someone to show a new employee the ropes. It is important that this person have both the time and the inclination to take on the task. Don’t ask the person passed over for a promotion to welcome his new team leader unless you don’t mind him taking an approach à la The Office’s Dwight Schrute: “Hazing is a fun way to show a new employee that she is not welcome or liked.” Pick a corporate cheerleader who will make the new hire feel at home.
6. Appoint a mentor. A mentor can help a new employee reduce the task stress associated with performing new skills and duties (let me show you how the CRM system is used in the sock world), and the relationship stress associated with having a new manager, colleagues and customers (you have three tough clients: let’s go over the relationship history.) A good mentor can help a new employee integrate into a company as quickly as possible and start to focus on results.
7. Don’t be pound foolish. The hiring process costs an average of $5000 per employee in terms of interview time, training and administrative costs. When a new hire does not work out, the associated cost of legal fees, time and lost productivity can cost anywhere from one-third to five times the employee’s annual salary. The above steps are not free but spending some time and money to prepare the new employee for success is much easier than dealing with a wrongful hiring situation.
Making an employee feel valued, competent and part of something great will go a long way toward making that person feel he has made a great career move. The quicker an employee feels this way, the faster he will feel engaged and be able to contribute to your organization.