Bringing new members into your business and team can be a challenge for many reasons. Will they settle in? What will they need? How will they get on with everyone? Will they ‘get’ us? How will they work? What will they want?
Whether you don’t have enough time, or you don’t know what to focus on and how to do it, here are some suggestions for those first few critical weeks.
Start by describing current work not company history – this is not a new client so they don’t need your pitch. You probably covered off the background, history, philosophy etc. of your business, sufficiently enough during the interview process. You also have a website and online presence or profile which you have spent time carefully cultivating. So it’s fair to say Newbie doesn’t need any warm up. You’ve got them, it’s their first day. What will be invaluable to them and will get them asking the right questions from the start, is if you jump straight into telling them about current work in play, upcoming deliverables and what client work is keeping the team up at night. The process of talking through this in detail will give Newbie an important deep dive into the nub of what you are all doing on a daily basis and you will naturally have to provide some background context anyway.
Get other team members to settle Newbie in – you don’t have to do it all. Yes yes I know it’s your company, you built it from scratch, your team are sensitive or perhaps tyrants and no one knows your business better than you do. You have to start getting used to relinquishing your status as ‘all powerful and all knowing’ and share the responsibility of settling new people in with those who probably know quite a lot of what you know and a lot more of what you don’t hear. Make a list of the things you want Newbie to pick up in the first week or so and ask people in your team to cover them off. Add a couple of pointers (that’s 2!!) for some guidance but no more than that. The whole experience will serve as a refresher for everyone, a chance for Newbie to integrate, less pressure on you and an effective way to get some informal team building going on.
Give Newbie a project immediately – it doesn’t matter that it’s their first day or they don’t know where the coffee machine is. The best way to get people to learn so they don’t forget is to get them working immediately. It means they will pick up knowledge and understanding in a holistic way. A piece of work will require navigating your technology, talking to people to ask for help, understanding how your systems work, testing their assumptions, getting to grips with your processes, sensing values and work-place culture, getting things wrong and right and importantly, producing something. It doesn’t have to be a large or risky piece of work but it shouldn’t be pointless either. Make sure your team are on-board with your plan so they can be ready to help.
Put them in charge of their own induction schedule – let them tell you what they need to know next and what they’ve already covered. Everyone learns differently and by giving Newbie a say in how they get to grips with the business and their role, they can focus on getting answers to the most pressing things in their mind rather than having to follow a prescribed schedule that may or may not work for them. Newbie is more likely to ‘get it’ quickly. You create the list and leave some room for them to add any items they think of. That will ensure you cover the topics that are non-negotiable but also leave room for them to design their experience. Ask them to select their top three interests from the list, cover those topics and then ask them to list the next three. That will increase the likelihood of them choosing topics in their preferred order, as they change, rather than the order they think they need or worse – they think you want them to choose.
Make sure you cover the legal bits – just because you are a small business and might be lacking structure and formality (purposefully or not), it doesn’t mean you should be casual about some important aspects of on-boarding and inducting a new employee. Contracts of employment, benefits, personal and emergency contact information, policies on discrimination, health and safety and where Newbie can go to get confidential personnel advice are all very important for you to cover in as official a way as possible. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a fancy-pants human resource management system – print off these documents, stick them in a folder and present them to Newbie on day one. It will ensure they understand that these is a professional outfit, give them confidence in the business and will be important in making sure you have thought of these things yourself.
Ultimately, you want your new team member walking away from work at the end of their day thinking, ‘I’m exhausted but wow!’.
For a quick free chat on any of the above and your business needs – drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org