Because everyone should dig their job

Tips For Smoothing The transition of New Co-workers

By Joan Lloyd

Dear Joan:

I appreciated an article you wrote in which you cover hints for new employees. I would be very interested in a column covering this situation from the perspectives of the other parties as well; the current employees and the manager. A particular problem I encounter as a manager of technical employees is finding a way to help new employees bring ideas from their former position into their new job without alienating current employees. As a manager, I want their contributions, but even I can become exasperated if a new employee refers to their former employer and the way things were done there several times a day. I think that phrasing can be important here also. For example, "At one place I worked, we used to…" is better than "At Company X we…"

Answer:

This is excellent advice for any new employee. Here are some additional tips for co-workers, managers and human resources staff, who want to help newcomers get off on the right foot. And let’s face it, in this tough market where good employees are tough to come by and hard to hold, it pays big dividends to make new employees feel welcome.

It’s in everyone’s best interest to take a few moments to help the new employee. It’s not just the Human Resources Department’s job. And management can only do so much. Co-workers can make or break the adjustment period for a new employee. Do you remember your first day on the job? A little attention now will reduce continuous training of new co-workers.

Tips for smoothing the transition of new co-workers:

  • Before they start, write a welcome letter and send copies of relevant company information, for example, newsletters, annual reports for the past few years, schedule of company holiday time off, etc.

  • On the first day, invite the employee to lunch with his or her co-workers, to get to know them on a more personal level. A new employee can feel lonely when they don’t know anyone.

  • Take the newcomer around and introduce him or her to people in the department and in other areas of the company. It may be appropriate to help the employee schedule interviews with key people.

  • After the employee has been on the job for sixty days, do an informal "60-day touch base interview," to see if the job is everything they thought it would be and to answer any questions they may have.

  • Spread the orientation into several segments, so the employee has time to assimilate and understand all that is being thrown at them. Typically, companies use the fire-hose method: all the benefits, rules, policies, resources are given to them in one meeting. Of course, most of it is quickly forgotten. For example, there might be several hour-long sessions held over the first two weeks.

  • Find ways to make orientation fun. For example, one client of ours creates a scavenger hunt experience by posing "real life" case scenarios and then awards prizes to the people who can find the right answers in the employee handbook or other company information.

  • Expect the manager to take an active role in parts of the orientation. For instance, the manager needs to sit down with the employee to discuss expectations and job duties, as well as meeting at least weekly to see if they need help or have questions.

  • Co-workers need to help with orienting the employee as well as training him or her. Sometimes it works to divide up parts of the new employee’s job and have different people do different parts of the training. However, all parties need to make sure they are in sync with one another.

  • Co-workers need to keep any negative personal conflicts and old history to themselves. It’s unfair to poison a new employee’s perspective before they have a chance to develop their own views.

  • Co-workers can be valuable coaches when it comes to helping a new employee understand the cultural norms…those unwritten rules of behavior in the organization.

  • Peers who encourage the new person to ask questions and give patient answers are going to help the new employee learn faster and avoid a lot of rework and frustration.

  • Create a "buddy system" so the new employee has someone who can be available for lunches, questions, and support.

  • Don’t forget to include newcomers in social events outside of work. Being invited to the local watering hole after work can make the employee feel like they belong.

Starting a new job is exciting but it’s also stressful. Too often, a company will woo a candidate and then once he or she is onboard, they forget the important step of integrating the employee. The more everyone takes ownership of the recruiting and retention process, the better the results will be.