Key learning outcomes:
- Recognise that a well thought-out induction program will ensure a smooth and rewarding transition for new employees.
- Show empathy and build rapport in an employee’s early days in your business.
- Develop a detailed activity plan so new employees don’t feel uncertain or anxious.
- Use the probation period as an opportunity to regularly review progress and address any issues that arise.
Very often an employee’s first week with you is make or break time. Like so many situations, first impressions can be lasting and if the new employee has a rough start it can be hard to fully recover from it. In this article we will suggest some ways to improve your new employees’ chance of success using a structured orientation and induction program.
The very first step is to put yourself in the employee’s shoes and think back to how you felt when you started a new job or a situation when you did not feel as confident as you usually do. Understanding how the employee feels will prompt you to come up with a well-structured induction program. In the first few days, most new recruits feel nervous and anxious. At the same time they will have a strong desire to make a good first impression on you and others in the business. Our job as the employer is to reduce their stress and anxiety as quickly as possible and start building their confidence so they are able to do a great job. One of the most important parts of an induction program is simply letting the new employee know that you understand how they are feeling and that you are there to support them.[wlm_ismember]
Having a plan in place well in advance of the employee’s start date is key to a successful induction. Ideally, one person should be responsible for the induction and orientation program. Big companies and corporations have human resources managers and departments for this role; however, a small business is unlikely to have this luxury. Everyone will be busy in their own roles so it’s important to share the load. We recommend that one person coordinates the program to ensure it runs smoothly. Depending on the business, you may even rotate this role over time as your program becomes embedded into your systems and procedures.
Little things count
Here are a number of small things that you can do prior to your new employee’s arrival which will make them feel welcome from day one.
- The day before they are due to start, give them a quick phone call to ensure that they know what time you expect them, where to come, who to ask for and where to park. Even if you think these things are straightforward, remember when someone is feeling stressed even small things can become hard. We also suggest you get the person to start a little later than usual on the first day so everyone in the office is ready for their arrival.
- Take some time to make sure the area that their work area is clean and organised. For example, if they will be using a desk or workstation, take a few minutes to clear out any old mess or papers left by a previous employee. Stocking the drawers with some new stationery will help to make those first few days a little easier.
- A small welcome gift is a nice surprise for a new employee. In our office we buy a coffee mug with the person’s initial on it. It’s an inexpensive gift that always gets a good response.
- If the owner of the business is not going to be available on the first day, a handwritten welcome note, although a small thing, can make a good first impression on a new employee.
- A group welcome in the form of an informal morning tea is a nice way for a new employee to meet people from outside their department. At our office the invitation is open to everyone, but it isn’t compulsory if some staff have appointments or meetings. There is always a good turnout during the 30 minutes with people coming and going. It is a BYO coffee or tea event, with the office providing some biscuits.
Keep them busy
Being unsure of exactly what to do can cause new employees stress and anxiety and leave them feeling a little lost. Even if they are highly qualified for the role, it will still take weeks or even months for them to learn how things are done in this new environment. It is important to have a plan in place that ensures the employee is kept as busy as possible during their early days with the business to help alleviate any anxiety.
Create a plan
Create a plan or timetable for the first seven days which includes a breakdown of the tasks and the person responsible for looking after them. The timetable should be very detailed for the first few days to ensure the new recruit knows exactly where they should be and when. The plan can then be more general, with a focus on an entire morning or day. By day eight we would expect the person to feel comfortable and ready to move into their role.
Here are some tips for structuring the plan:
- Note that the first few days are designed to give the employee a broad overview of the business.
- Days 1 to 3 consist of detailed timing/activities.
- Days 4 to 7 are designed to transition the person into their new role.
- There should be some periods of time that are not allocated to allow the new employee to spend time getting used to their work environment, to reflect on what they have learnt so far and to have some quiet time.
- One person is responsible for supervising each timeslot and activity.
- A buddy system is used at lunchtime, just for the first three days.
- It is essential that everyone sticks to the timetable. The last thing you want is for the new employee to worry they will be late for the next scheduled activity.
- Everyone involved in the induction should receive a copy of the full program.
Below is a sample seven-day plan for a newly employed leasing consultant in a real estate office.
Employee name: John Citizen
Start date: 01/01/2018
Of course even with the most well-prepared induction program, sometimes things don’t work out quite as well we hope. It is important to ensure that the new recruit knows who to come to if they are having problems. And it is crucial to make it clear, right from the start, what your expectations and company standards are. In most circumstances there will be a probation period in place for new employees; however, it is important that you conduct regular reviews during this time. Remember, the earlier you are able to identify any issues, the more efficiently you will be able to deal with and resolve them. Recruiting new employees can be costly for any small business, so it is important you do everything possible to guarantee the long-term success of both the new employee and the business.[/wlm_ismember]
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