Starting a new job is terrible. There are few experiences that make you feel more awkward, more out of place, and more self-conscious than walking into a new workplace for the first time.
New employees have to do the old rigmarole of filling out paperwork, doing the office tour, meeting managers, etc., but that’s only the beginning. Once that stuff is over, the real awkwardness begins as you try to settle into your new space, try to keep all the new names and faces straight, and do your best to manage the neurosis of worrying what all of these new people think of you.
That’s more or less the common experience, but does it have to be this way? Can’t we make efforts to help new employees feel more welcome, more at home, and less nervous about walking into a new place?Yes. We. Can.
With some basic principles in mind – and a few processes in place – companies can totally change the employee onboarding process into something easy, even enjoyable, instead of the Freddy Krueger nightmare it is for most people.
With that goal in mind, here are a few things you can incorporate into your onboarding process to make new employees feel right at home:
1. Ask Real Questions
If your organization decided to hire someone, hopefully it was because of more than just his or her resume or skillset. Ideally, you’ve hired someone who also fits into the company culture, who interviewed well, and so on – personality is an important factor. So, give them a chance to share it!
Make a point to ask questions about a new employee’s personal interests, his or her likes and dislikes, what they do for fun, what kind of music and movies they like, and all that good stuff. Let them showcase who they really are, and break the ice by asking questions that allow a new employee to share their story.
2. Buddy System
Some organizations, especially the larger ones, may want to institute a “buddy system” for new hires. This may sound like 6th grade camp all over again, but it’s actually a great tool for helping new hires. Pairing your newbie with an experienced employee who can show them the ropes, answer questions, provide some insight about the actual experience of the workplace, and above all, help guide a new person through their difficult first few weeks can be a vital leg up.
Ideally, the buddy should have a similar position as the new hire – or should have formerly held that position. This may or may not include specific training, but must include “general” training for how to fit into the company itself, regardless of job duties.
- Prep the Whole Team
To help a new employee feel welcome, make sure the whole team knows about it! Seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many companies hire people and don’t tell anyone below management level. It throws the staff off when you have your Monday morning meeting and say, “We’ve decided to hire a new sales rep, and here he his, everyone meet Kevin. Teach him everything you know today. Thanks.”
Instead, encourage other employees to introduce themselves, to make themselves available for help or questions, and to simply be aware that a new person may be struggling with some first-day nervousness.
Most people will remember their own painful first days and be able to empathize with a new employee, and if not, then they’re just mean.
- Get the Details in Order
Outside of all the personality, culture, and comfort stuff, a new employee is also there to work. That means knowing the actual ins and outs of the job: the equipment, the policies, and everything else. While you can’t expect a new person to learn everything there is to know in the first day, having all of the information they need ready will make the process so much easier.
That means knowing what handbooks need to be read (and in what order), what equipment they need to get started, what might be confusing, and what is expected of them day-to-day. It also means remembering the simple (but important) stuff: a seating chart with everybody’s names and desk locations, where the bathrooms are, how lunch breaks work, how to punch in or out, etc.
If you have a plan of attack for delivering this basic, essential information, you’re less likely to overlook little things and leave the new employee feeling bewildered or confused.
- Set the Right Tone
Whatever the culture or general environment of your workplace is like, get new employees involved right away. If it’s lighthearted and joke-filled, don’t try to straighten up just because someone new is coming on board. At Revel, we welcome a new team member by putting this picture of Andy on their desk and shooting them with Nerf darts. If demand is high and pressure is a daily part of the workday, don’t shield the new employee from this reality; they’ll have to find out soon enough.
This doesn’t mean just throwing new employees to the proverbial wolves, but instead setting the tone that will likely become commonplace for their average day on the job.
- Be Cool
Above all else, just be nice to the new kid! Alleviating the stress and anxiety of starting a new job starts with kind words and a welcoming attitude. Make sure the new person knows that it’s ok to ask questions, that it’s ok if they don’t get it right away, that they can settle in at their own pace, and that the rest of the staff is there to help them get acclimated.
Starting a new job is always a tough process, but with a little preparation for welcoming in a new employee, you and the rest of your staff can ease the transition, prevent some of that awkwardness, and make people feel at home in their new jobs in no time!