Have you ever arrived at work and realized you don’t remember driving there? It’s kind of a weird feeling, but your consciousness was somewhere else while your subconscious did all the work of traveling, turning, merging and parking. You can do this because your commute is so ingrained that it doesn’t involve any real decision-making.
Now contrast your daily drive with that of your new hire on his first day. Every bit of the experience requires concentration. New employees are unfamiliar with the traffic patterns — whoops! Missed the exit! Is a right turn on red allowed here? Where to park? Gah! Should have left 10 minutes earlier.
Once inside, he or she doesn’t know where to go, what to do, where to get a cup of water or how much to contribute to the coffee-fund jar. Is the creamer in the fridge communal? Where’s the bathroom? What’s the lunch protocol? Do people eat at their desks? Maybe everyone runs out to get burritos. Then there’s the paperwork. Pick the best insurance plan for your family. Which 401(k) plan has the best balance? Would you like to participate in the employee stock program? Oh, by the way, there’s actual work to do!
For the first few months, every bit of the office experience is stressful for new hires, even if the job itself is simple. Nothing is on autopilot, and every action requires a new decision. All this stress can lead to what employee retention expert Beth Carvin calls the “quick quit.”
Quick quits are expensive for companies. At minimum, you have to start the recruiting process over, while the work you hired the person to do remains unfinished or heaped onto your already-overworked staff. Without a solid onboarding plan, you run the risk of increasing a newcomer’s stress to the point they hit the door before your business has benefited. Or worse, they stick around, miserable and unengaged for years. Here’s how to prevent that.
Plan in advance. Once you start recruiting, you know you’ll need a computer and a desk and whatever tools are needed for this job. You know this. Don’t wait until two days before the person starts to call IT and say, “Oh yeah, I need a new laptop and logins for the following six programs.”
Consider the paperwork. Some of it can be done in advance. When you make the job offer, hand over the information on the benefit options. Then your new hire can sit down with his or her spouse and carefully consider the options, rather than sitting in a room with an HR person impatiently looming over. Additionally, skip the brochures and consider a video. Guidespark.com makes inexpensive custom videos that explain your benefits in 3 to 5 minutes. Not only are they faster, but they’re Smartphone friendly.
For the first few months, every bit of the office experience is stressful for new hires, even if the job itself is simple. Nothing is on autopilot, and every action requires a new decision.
Remind the employee that you’re excited to have THEM on board. Jellyvision founder Harry Gottlieb makes sure new hires get a note welcoming them to the company. Telling the employee that you’re excited to have them, Gottlieb says, makes sense. After all, you waded through a hundred resumes, phone screened 10 and interviewed five, and this person is the cream of the crop. Showing enthusiasm for the new hire gives the employee a boost of confidence to start the day.
Check in regularly. After the first couple days, when the new hire has all the system logons down pat and knows where the coffee pot is located, managers often slink back to their offices. Remember, every single aspect of the employee’s day is new. Yes, an experienced accounts receivable person knows how to write an invoice and how to record payment in the system, but your employee is new and your systems are different. Pop in often, offer support and answer questions. Don’t get angry when a mistake is made. You made mistakes, too, when you were new.
Prepare a cheat sheet. This includes all those things that people just “know:” who to talk to about office supplies, where to submit expense reports, which local restaurants are fast and which are slow, explanations of office parties (we hate vegetables, we order pizza), fridge rules and anything unique to your building. Throw in some funny things in order to encourage people to read it. “Jim in accounting wears red socks every Tuesday. You are not required to do this.”
Have a formal mentor assigned. This doesn’t have to be the boss; it can be a friendly coworker. This person is the go-to for the new hire and can answer questions or at least direct the newbie to the proper person. Check your personality carefully on this one. Jim may have the highest productivity, but if he’s not warm and friendly, he’ll be a lousy mentor.
Schedule formal reviews in advance. Before the new hire even picks an email password, there should be 30-, 60- and 90-day review appointments on the calendar. Don’t reschedule or cancel these. They don’t need to be long, but they do need to happen and they do need to be two-way. This is not a meeting for the boss to tell the new hire what he or she is doing wrong, but for the new hire to ask questions, get guidance and learn how to improve. And we can all improve.
Remember, everything about a new job is stressful. Don’t add to that stress by being unprepared for your new hire.
I’m an accountant for a small start up in Sacramento — not an HR manager. But, as often happens, HR issues tend to fall on someone, and that someone is me. The current team has been here since the beginning; we started the place. But now we need to hire someone. A stranger. How do I start?
You can dismiss someone from the conference room, but you may still have to face him or her in the living room.