After hiring a new employee, we often expect that person to just show up and start working. We assume that success within the role has already been defined. Then we sit back and wait for them to live up to it.
It’s safe to bet that things have changed since you hired the last person for the job. It’s a given that things have changed if you’re adding new positions. Consistently falling back on “But we’ve always done it this way!” is only going to perpetuate inefficient behaviors and outdated habits.
You can avoid this common organizational hazard by clearly defining (and re-defining) what success looks like for each new hire you bring on. Make some time within the first month, while things are still fresh, to sit down and talk about what success in this position looks like.
There are some key things you’ll want to do during this process:
Don’t assume your new hires will come to you for help when they need it. Too often we are conditioned to believe that asking for help is a sign of failure or ineptitude. This can result in a ton of wasted time as well-meaning employees struggle in solitude.
Hours can quietly tick by as your new hire tries to complete a task that could have been easily clarified in a five-minute conversation. It’s in everybody’s best interest for you to commit to regular check-ins, conversations, and follow-up meetings during the onboarding phase.
Training and task priorities may change throughout the onboarding process, and it’s important to keep your new hire in the know. This includes setting realistic deadlines and adjusting them as needed.
Plenty of open communication and a generous dose of flexibility will set your employees up for success and minimize the potential for frustration and feelings of failure.
Be a cheerleader
We’ve already established that transitions can be stressful for all involved. Make sure your new hires know you’re in their corner. Coach them through their training in a positive way.
Of course, you’ll need to point out mistakes when they happen, but you also want to be sure to pat them on the back when things are going well. Don’t be shy about telling others about these things, either. The more exited the team is about their new addition, the better.
There are also some things you don’t want to do during this process:
Be sure to focus your discussion on your new hires as individuals and their performance moving forward. Talking about how great or terrible the person was who came before them is counterproductive.
Making comparisons to a beloved former employee can make your new hire feel like they’ll never live up to the hype. Praising your new trainee by contrasting them with an underperformer might seem complementary, but it will only cause them to wonder who else you’re willing to throw under the bus.
Keep the focus on your employee, your vision, and your shared victories.
Fail to communicate
You want to give your new team member a sense of task ownership and confidence, and you know constant micromanagement isn’t how to do it. But too much freedom can also hinder your new hire’s success. If you don’t make regular communication part of your onboarding plan, you won’t know what’s working and what isn’t.
Like it or not, you play a huge role in the success of your employees. They can’t thrive without your direction and leadership.
Schedule and have conversations often to clarify processes and make sure everyone is on the same page about expectations and progress. Have your new hires keep a running list of questions and schedule quick 10 or 15 meetings daily or weekly to go over them in person. Once they are up and running, these meetings can happen less frequently.
“Protect” your new hire from honest feedback
Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news, but addressing negative things quickly and honestly allows for maximum time to change course or right the ship. Wait to deliver bad news or constructive criticism and your new employee may be too far underwater to recover.
One manager explained it this way, “You can give me good news whenever you get the chance, but you’d better make time to tell me bad news right away.” Be kind and constructive, but don’t wait. Holding back doesn’t protect your new hire, it robs them of the chance to move forward.
Your new employees are excited. They want to perform well. Define what success looks like and share that vision. Then give your new hires the gifts of open communication, timely feedback, and sincere recognition so they can make it happen.
This is the fourth post in a series of blogs about how to effectively onboard new employees. For more information on this topic, read How to Effectively Onboard New Employees, 6 Ways to Accelerate Learning, and Tips for Transition. Subscribe to this blog to receive new HR-related posts each week.
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