Do You Know Your New Hire?

By John Reed

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You work hard to attract and secure the best talent, but do you invest the same amount of effort into integrating those recent hires into your team? If you’re short-staffed and busier than ever, new employee orientation might get little attention.

At some firms, the welcome is merely a stack of paperwork and instructions to “follow Joe around.” Your employees’ first days and weeks on the job lay the foundation for long-term success with the company. If you fail to make the right impression, it could even cause in-demand IT professionals to question their decision to join your firm and possibly look for better jobs elsewhere.

Here’s how to help new hires start off on the right foot:

Put it in writing - Before you begin new employee orientation, draft an outline of what will be covered and distribute it to those joining your team so they know what to expect. This shows that you take the addition of staff seriously and have a plan in place for their transition. The document doesn’t need to be detailed, but it should give people a clear idea of what you will be discussing.

Don’t rush through the basics - In addition to offering standard information about policies, procedures and benefits, give an overview of your firm and its key IT and business objectives. Explain specifically how an individual’s role will be tied into those goals, so the person understands the value of his or her position.

Don’t assume that current staff will make the effort to introduce themselves to new employees or vice versa. Provide personal introductions to colleagues and consider a special welcome lunch on the first day to build name recognition and rapport.

Giving a thorough tour of the office will save new hires frustration and time asking others where to locate things. Be sure to point out restrooms, key meeting areas, break rooms, fire exits and the location of first aid kits, as well as IT-specific locations such as the server room and supply area.

While you might delegate much of the new employee orientation process to a manager on your team, try to remain involved. An appearance and welcome greeting from you adds credibility and weight to the session. It can also send the message the company is excited about having the person join the group, helping make a positive first impression.

Set clear performance goals - One of the greatest challenges people face when adjusting to a new employer is understanding expectations. Give new hires copies of their job descriptions as well as a list of key performance goals during the initial months. You want people to hit the ground running and make immediate contributions, but also be careful that the objectives are realistic so new employees remain inspired.

It can be helpful to pair the latest additions to your team with mentors within the organization as soon as they start. Those serving as mentors don’t necessarily need to be the individuals’ direct supervisors. In fact, new employees may feel more comfortable asking questions to people who work in similar roles. Staff chosen to serve as mentors should be willing to show others the ropes and help them navigate common workplace issues, such as how to dress on casual Fridays.

Follow up - The new employee orientation process doesn’t end once all of the necessary documents are signed and tours and instructions are given. You must also make an active effort to continually check in with recent hires.

Are they on track with objectives and transitioning well to your firm? Avoid general questions such as, “How do you enjoy working here so far?” and instead ask targeted inquiries. For instance, you might ask what someone has found most challenging during the first couple weeks on the job or what resources you might provide to help with a particular project.

Be sure to give ongoing performance feedback, as well. Don’t wait until conducting a formal meeting at the end of the probation period. All employees benefit from comments about their progress, but regular advice is of particular value to new hires in helping them meet expectations.

It does require extra effort to have a thorough new employee orientation program. However, if you don’t take the additional steps to make just-hired staff feel welcome, they may not choose to stick with your company. A well-planned orientation can set the stage for a positive long-term relationship.

John Reed is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com. For additional career advice, follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/roberthalftech.