In IT, even the best technology will often fail if it's not planned, designed, and maintained by good people. Unfortunately, some IT leaders make the mistake of focusing solely on the boxes and bits, and spend insufficient time grooming their people, especially the newest members of the organization. While this may seem like little more than common courtesy, a well-planned and executed onboarding process not only makes your new hires productive more quickly, but also increases their chances of sticking around. This ultimately creates a double benefit: you get the best of the individuals you've brought into the organization, and also reduce the significant costs of sourcing, vetting, and onboarding new talent by reducing turnover.
Here are three ways to make a new employee feel welcome:
1. Rolling out the red carpet
One of the easiest and oft-ignored ways of getting a new employee up to speed is demonstrating that the organization not only anticipated their arrival, but is excited that they're there. Start with the basics and ensure that each new hire is provided with all the information they need to hit the ground running in advance of their start date. Provide any paperwork that can be completed up front, and share basic logistics like when and where to arrive for their first day, and some basic guidance on dress and level of formality, so they don't feel like an outsider on their first day by arriving in a suit when everyone else is in flip flops, or vice versa.
The simple acts of preparing a clean desk, as well as having computers, phones, and logins configured, and receptionists who are prepared to welcome a new arrival, are a minimal baseline. To really welcome a new hire, something as simple as a handwritten note, a branded item or two, or quick visit by leadership can make the new hire feel like he or she made the correct choice right at the start of their tenure. Put yourself in your new colleague's shoes: they're likely nervous, unsure of what to do and where to go, and hopeful that they made the right choice in accepting employment with your company. Each small act you can do to reduce the feelings of uncertainty and increase the feeling that they made the right choice will have lasting implications.
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2. A buddy and a plan
Once your new staff member makes it though the first day, provide them with two key assets to ensure their success: a buddy and a plan that details expectations for the first 180 days. A buddy may seem like an odd suggestion; after all, your new hire likely has an assigned manager. A buddy, however, provides a different dynamic, and serves as someone at a similar level without any supervisory relationship, one to whom the new employee can address all the questions they'd otherwise not want to ask their manager for fear of looking silly or unprofessional. Find existing employees who are willing to volunteer as buddies. You need not create a complex program, and your budget could be as simple as a few dollars for monthly lunches, but an assigned buddy provides a ready-made internal network for your new staff that allows him or her to quickly get comfortable with your organization and ultimately be more productive.
Similarly, a 180-day plan lays out the tasks and expectations of your new staff member. Ideally, this plan should have recommendations relevant to the new staff member's role and position within your company, but don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If you don't have specific plans, start with a generic version that highlights any administrative tasks, training courses, and fundamental activities or considerations the new employee should consider on 30-, 60-, 90-, and 180-day intervals.
This information may already exist in various handbooks and presentations provided to the new staff member, but a single resource that captures key items in one place will provide an easy and accessible reference that ensures your new hire stays on track.
3. Monitor and grow
As your new staff member settles into his or her role, periodically assess how they're doing. Ideally this will be done in person by a group leader or whoever ultimately authorized the hiring decision, but automated tools like surveys can also be used to ensure the new hire is getting his or her questions answered, and is settling into life in your organization. In some cases, you might find that your new hire is extremely enthusiastic about the company and his or her prospects, and this excitement can be harnessed by getting this person involved in interviewing or assisting in onboarding others.
While it often feels like the hard work is done when you settle on a candidate and they accept an offer after months of searching and interviewing, the work really begins in the preparation you do weeks before they arrive. An organization that has a welcoming and structured process cements the notion that the new hire made the right choice, and can set them up for years of success.
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Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.