Finally, your talent search is over. At substantial cost to your company, you ran the ad, carefully combed through resumes, prescreened and interviewed applicants, and made the hires. Now your employees are ready to work—or are they? Research and experience have shown that to start off right, people need more than just to be shown their desks and given a few company forms to fill out. Without a tangible roadmap for where they’re expected to go, or concrete guidance on how to get there, new employees will take longer to reach the point at which they effectively contribute to your team. Even worse, some may soon fall by the wayside and ultimately resign, costing your company time and money, and lowering employee morale. What can you do to avoid this negative cycle?
“Welcoming employees needs to go beyond surface introductions and compliance issues,” says Scott Kuethen. As the CEO of Amtec, a staffing agency based in Orange County, California, Kuethen has seen employees crash and burn due to the lack of a performance and productivity tool. “Managers need to intentionally strategize for how to engage employees in their work and in the company culture. They need to think beyond an orientation program to a new employee engagement plan that encompasses socialization and integration into a work group, department, or team.”
A Tool to Ensure New Employees’ Success
One of the easiest ways for you to launch a New Employee Engagement Plan is to gather relevant information and create a tool to enhance a new employee’s performance and productivity. A new employee who has clarity of performance expectations, key priorities, resources, and company information can be more productive, sooner. Since the first 90 days of new employees’ experience with the company can make or break their success, Kuethen recommends that a manager meet with employees on their starting day to review goals previously agreed upon during the hiring process. The goals should be written in SMART format–specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
“Having a roadmap and signposts along the way can help both new employees and their manager to see if things are moving in the right direction,” says Kuethen, who used Michael Watkins’ The First 90 Days to develop the Great Start Tool, a performance and productivity tool for his company’s customers to use with each new hire. So how can you create your own effective performance and productivity tool? Here are a few elements you might want to include:
- The mission of the position. This means specifically defining the central task or outcome that the new employee’s position is dedicated to accomplishing. The central task might include up to three areas or outcomes, but it needs to have a central focus so your new employee has a framework within which to operate day-to-day.
- Key responsibilities. Now that you’ve outlined the mission, you’ll need to fill in the details of how you expect the new employee to accomplish it. There’s a saying, “Shoot at nothing and you’ll hit it every time!” Being specific about the key responsibilities expected of a new employee allows him or her to focus his or her energy on performing them.
- SMART goals and outcomes. Many managers have difficulty defining goals in this way. Yet, if you have a problem defining the mile-markers, imagine how hard it will be for your new employee to reach them! To get the results you want, you can get the most out of your new employee by saying something like, “In three weeks (time-bound), when your training is complete (achievable), I’ll expect you to be familiar with all the products we offer (relevant) and be able to offer them to our customers on the phone (specific, outcome) while I listen in to see how you’re doing (measurable).”
- Expected behaviors. Every company’s culture grows out of the beliefs and behaviors of top management. Your new employee may already have heard the company’s slogans or mottos during the employee orientation, but how those beliefs are lived out may be a different story. Culture gets communicated by what’s demonstrated and observed. It’s important for you to help new employees understand the actual lived-out norms regarding work hours, work intensity or pace, break times, teamwork, and so on. Spelling these out up front gives them a head start on both fitting in and putting their best foot forward.
- A list of priority focuses and current projects. Even though you’ve given your new employees their mission and specific direction, it’s easy for them to become overwhelmed with the learning curve. You can help ease this stress by clarifying the most important action items to focus on, and by prioritizing projects in which your new employee will be involved.
- A mentor. One of the best ways to encourage new employees is to give them a mentor. Choose someone who knows the ropes, has been around the company for a while, and can represent the company well but also identify with the employee. Connecting your new employees with a more experienced employee mentor, along with calendaring their first appointment, will let them know they don’t have to go it alone.
- An outline of expected training and employee development. Since no candidate is perfect, your recent interview process may have identified specific areas that your new employee will need to strengthen. What specific training will you give this employee? How does this fit with any training you plan to give all your employees? How do you intend to improve their ability to contribute to the company? Most employees are excited about enhancing their career path by growing and improving their skills. Outlining your plans for their future growth will give them something to strive toward, and let them know you believe in their future with the company.
- Company products and services. Include a list of all the products and services your company offers. Equipping them with this information will enable your new employees to operate at their fullest potential.
- A list of key people with whom the new employee will interact. This is an easy way for you to give new employees a leg up. Write down the name and title of each key person the new employee is likely to interact with, plus that person’s role and how he or she fits into the larger picture. Are there people who need special attention? Having this information will equip the new employee with the assurance to interact knowledgeably.
- An organizational chart of the company structure. This will help your new professional understand how his or her position fits within the organization as a whole. It will also show how his or her department relates to or interacts with ancillary departments.
- A typical weekly or monthly schedule. Does the department have a weekly meeting that will require the new employee’s participation? Are monthly birthdays celebrated at an all-office potluck? Letting new employees know about regularly scheduled activities in advance removes anxiety and helps them be prepared.
- Clarification of in-house communication preferences. Does Walter in Sales refuse to answer his email? Or maybe Gina in HR never gets around to listening to her voicemail messages. You can give your new employees a head start on communicating well with key people by giving them the inside track on the best way to do so!
- A list of key clients. The only way for new employees to best serve key clients is to know who they are right from the start! Do certain clients require special treatment? You can help new employees avoid potentially painful or embarrassing initial interactions by making them aware of who the key clients are and how to successfully address these clients’ needs.
Compiling this information into a performance and productivity tool will give your new employees the roadmap they need to start off right. But just as a newly planted seed needs water and light, you can’t just deliver the information and stop there. In order for the tool to be effective, you’ll need to establish follow-up procedures to ensure your employees’ success and their increasing engagement as they reach one signpost after another. Over the next few months, you’ll need to give them specific feedback to keep them pointed in the right direction, encouraging them in areas where they’re excelling, and redirecting them in areas where they may have wandered off course.
As a caring manager, your effort to take the guesswork out of the workplace will improve your new employees’ chances for success. Using a performance and productivity tool to clarify what new employees can expect and how they are to perform will help them move forward with confidence. Your use of a tool that encourages this kind of communication can engender a sense of trust and teamwork, giving new employees the best start possible. This gift, in return, can provide you with the coveted rewards of employee engagement, increased productivity, and company loyalty which every business strives to achieve.
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