My company, SkyeTeam, is growing; a new person joined our team this year, and at least two more additions are planned before year's end. Given that we are a small team, these employees represent a 100 percent increase in our full-time employees.
Exciting times, indeed. But also dangerous ones: We are an established team, yet also a new team, and companies' failure to acknowledge and plan for this same scenario will likely result in a failure to successfully navigate the new transition.
Far too often in client organizations, I see new-employee onboarding handled poorly or, worse still, not at all. You know what I mean:
- the new hire who a week later still hasn't been allocated a laptop or desktop computer
- the “new hire training” that covers the legal stuff and protects the company but doesn’t help the new employee understand how business gets done or whom he or she will be working with.
- the team member who turns up to his or her first team meeting, where no one has any idea of who this new person is
Awkward! Our company endeavors to take our own medicine, to make sure we prepare for new team members before, during and after they start with us. After all, our success depends on their ability to quickly integrate them into the team. Their success depends on our ability to help ensure their success.
Here are a few tips for ensuring that you create a foundation for success when welcoming your new team member:
1. Don’t keep it a secret.
You’ve just hired this wonderful talented person to your team. Don’t keep it quiet! Make sure the rest of the team (and organization) know all about it. Don’t leave it all on your new hire to make new friends at work! One client I work with provides a box of doughnuts on the new employee's desk to encourage everyone to stop by and say “hello” (healthy alternatives are fine!).
2. Introduce the new hire to your formal stakeholders.
Your organization chart provides a picture of who reports to whom; it’s the formal hierarchy. Help your new hire understand who the critical stakeholders are that he or she needs to get to know in the short term. Prioritize the list and share why so-and-so is important. Make the introductions in person. Don’t just send your new employee out to go find “Sarah.”
3. Let new hires know who the stakeholders are.
While the organization chart illustrates your company's formal hierarchy, then this tip is about "how things really get done around here.” Spend time explaining the informal network, the go-to people, the gatekeepers, the people who know what’s happening before it happens, the connectors and potentially the rivals/adversaries who may not think highly of you and your team and may transfer that attitude to your innocent new hire.
4. Break the code and explain the jargon.
I’ve yet to find a company that doesn’t have its own secret code -- corporate language and jargon that is lost on the outsider. Whether it’s those pesky acronyms that people use (but can’t always explain!) or in-jokes and phrases (ask my team members about "unicorns"): Create a jargon dictionary and share the context of the in-jokes so that new hires can join in the laughter and not worry whether it’s directed at them.
5. Do sweat the small stuff.
It’s the little things that can be the biggest frustration when we are new to a team and wanting to be at our best. Which number do you dial to get an outside line? How do you use the photocopier? Where are the restrooms? The coffee maker (and how to refill it)? The best locations for a quick lunch? Make sure you pay attention to the small stuff so that your new employee can focus his or her attention on the big stuff, i.e., actually doing the job!
6. Keep things fun.
Three of the five corporate values at my company center around having fun. Bringing on new team members means letting them know how we have fun, and how they can get involved in life outside the office. Make sure that longer-term team members are on hand to take the new person to lunch and start cultivating a winning relationship that will make for a winning team overall.