Any new employee is likely to be riddled with anxiety come their first day of work. It’s understandable – they’re in a new environment, likely with people they don’t know and are expected to perform at a high level from the start.
For that reason, managers and the human resources team need to help forge a work environment conducive for the employee’s assimilation. While you can’t force them to be comfortable with their surroundings, you can work toward a professional atmosphere that makes it easier for them.
However, this requires putting yourself in their shoes. Sometimes what seems like the most trivial obstacle to a manager is actually an insurmountable barrier to a new employee. Too often employees are hired and don’t have a place to sit, their computer isn’t ready, their phone doesn’t work or their email isn’t set up. A lot of things that come natural to managers may have to be taught to new employees. Otherwise they don’t know how to proceed with their work.
For that reason, it’s vital that managers make new employees feel welcome from the get-go. Managers and HR reps should send a letter that expresses excitement at the person’s addition to the team and outlines a basic orientation schedule or work load for the week.
In order to ensure an extraordinary experience for your new employee, make a personal telephone call at least once a week between the time they accept the offer and their actual start date, to personally welcome them. Welcome them to the team and share your excitement to have them on board. Share a tentative agenda for the day or week, confirm their start time and who to ask for when they arrive and answer any outstanding questions. Take this time to explain what is expected of them at this early stage, but don’t set your expectations too high. In fact, you may even want to lower you expectations, so that by surpassing them the new hire feels confident in their performance and abilities.
Involve other team members, even those from other departments, and be diligent in setting up their workstation to an ideal operating level. In fact, it’s best to make sure phones, email, computers and other devices are fully operational before the employee’s first day. If everything is up to snuff upon his or her arrival, you’ve already begun instilling a sense of trust.
While email and teleconferencing are vital components of today’s business environment, they are also somewhat impersonal and should be discouraged in the orientation period if possible. By being introduced to co-workers personally, new employees can put a name to a face and appreciate the general friendliness of the company.
The first day is difficult for all parties so plan to have lunch with your new employee or have another team member take them to lunch if you are not available. Of course, you want to get the employee to work as fast as possible. The longer you delay putting them to work on what they’re supposed to be doing, the longer it will take them to develop a knack for their position. So put expected productivity aside and trust in whatever task they’re there to do. Put a new hire on the phone with a customer, place them in a brainstorming session or give them some data. A large portion of the learning process comes from within, so trust that they will be able to develop skills on their own.
At the end of the first day, it’s probably a good idea to review the work they completed – more importantly, how they completed it. Meet with the new employee and, possibly, other team members to run through what went well and, if applicable, what didn’t.
Finally, give them some reading material to peruse on their own, as company information on products, benefits etc. will help cement the job in their minds while outside the workplace.
The orientation for new employees always varies from company to company, but employers should be able to sympathize with their situation, as a manager who understands is a manager who is respected.