Starting a new job is exciting. But it’s also scary. You don’t know where anything is. You don’t know the people you’ll be working with. You don’t know what your manager’s going to be like.
Like a fish out of water, if you’re left too long to flounder, you’re not going to stick around.
That’s why a proper induction process is so important.
Induction is the process of formally introducing a new starter to your company. It’s about taking the time to show them the ropes so they can settle in quickly and get down to work.
But often, induction starts and finishes with the practical side of work life. What’s frequently missing is the more intangible but hugely important psychological aspect of joining a new company. Otherwise known as the psychological contract.
Here are my four must-dos when someone first starts work in your company
I’m going to assume you’ve got the basics covered. That your new starter has a desk, a chair, a phone, a computer, a pen. That they have a pass for the building and know where they can park. That someone’s explained the fire drill and how to use the coffee machine.
I expect you’ve introduced them to the team and have had a conversation about their key tasks, responsibilities and remit.
But there’s an awful lot they still don’t know. Like:
- what to expect
- the norms of behaviour – what’s expected of them and what’s unacceptable
- the style of delivery – how to interact and communicate with customers and colleagues
- the networks, the relationships, who it’s important to know
- how to translate their skill set into this new environment
- how to work with you (as their new manager).
And not knowing all this will make them feel unsettled and uncertain.
After all, they’ve just left somewhere where they knew all this and more. They knew how it all worked. They knew what they were doing. And they did it well. You wouldn’t have hired them otherwise.
But now it’s all a bit alien. Unfamiliar. Uncomfortable. They feel disorientated and as a result, a little more useless than they’re used to feeling. This is having an impact on their self-confidence and on their performance.
Perhaps you’re thinking that they’ll find their feet in their own time – after all, you did.
But this is not a problem you can afford to ignore. If they continue to feel unsettled, their confidence will continue to plummet, their performance will continue to suffer and they may very well just leave.
1. Discuss what’s expected of them
The biggest mistake I see when someone joins a company is that there is no conversation about what is expected of them, about ways of working, about the non-practical aspects of working life.
Make it one of the first things you do with your new recruit. Talk about:
- how best to communicate with each other – are you the type of manager who likes to be copied into everything or do you prefer a more hands-off approach? Will you be having weekly or monthly meetings – face-to-face or over the phone?
- how to work with the team
- their KPIs – these are often not established early enough with new starters, but without them people end up drifting. It might be that you don’t want to put too much pressure on too soon but KPIs can help people orient around what they should be focused on – it gives them direction.
2. Discuss how things are done round ‘ere
What are the unspoken rules in your company? Perhaps it’s deemed de rigueur to buy everyone cakes on your birthday. Or perhaps being late is an absolute no-no. And heaven forbid anyone parks in the wrong spot in the carpark.
But unless your new starter’s psychic, how are they going to know this stuff unless you tell them?
What are the company’s values and expected behaviours? What’s the culture, what’s the style?
It’s not enough to just hand your policy documents and values statements over to your newbie for them to study.
Talk about this stuff with them. Be open about what good looks like. And about what is unacceptable.
3. Help them develop their skills
Does your new starter have all the skills they need to perform their role? If not, how are they going to get up to speed?
Often, new employees are left to develop any missing abilities just by doing the job. Or by attending some ad hoc training.
But it pays dividends to take a more focused and deliberate approach to helping new starters upskill.
Talk through with the new starter about what’s required and then figure the best way for them to develop the skills they need. Perhaps some specific training, mentoring, job shadowing or targeted project.
Because the sooner your new starter gets up to speed the sooner they’re delivering projects, looking after customers, selling products, making you money. Providing a return on the investment you’ve made in them.
4. Everyone needs a buddy
Could your new recruit be paired up with a peer from their team? There may be issues they’re having that they don’t want to bother you with (where on earth is the coffee kept?) but that are slowing them down or making life difficult.
Having a buddy who will show them the more informal side of life at your organisation – or simply how to log onto the computer – will really help to make them feel at home.
Why is induction important?
When someone joins your company, it’s not just the employment contract that gets signed. A psychological contract is formed too – but it’s based on very intangible factors.
It’s all about how it feels to work at your place. How the employee feels they’re treated by their employer. Which has an impact on the effort they feel prepared to put in.
In the first three months of their tenure, that psychological contract is still a work in progress. Newbies are wondering whether this is the job for them. They’re asking themselves, ‘is this what I expected? is this something I want to stick at?
There’s a high risk of losing them and you have a small window of opportunity to get it right.
But if you do set off on the right footing, by including these four must-dos in your induction process, it will make all the difference in the months and, hopefully, years to come.