An effective search process consists of four steps: identification, attraction, evaluation, and the successful acceptance of an offer. Knowing that your key role has been filled can feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. But our experience has been that new employees, who go through a structured onboarding program, have a much faster ramp-up to becoming a contributing and profitable member of the team. We would like to offer specific suggestions of some next steps that can be taken prior to, and immediately following your recent hire’s upcoming start date.
Our mission is not only to secure you the best candidate, but help retain that best candidate for the long term. As the candidate is going through the transition process, do not forget that the smallest gestures can make some of the biggest impacts. Upon acceptance of the offer, send a handwritten note to the candidate’s home address congratulating them on the new opportunity, and articulating how the entire team is excited to have them on board. Include the spouse, or significant other, in the card as well. To go even further, send the note accompanied by a gift basket, or a fruit bouquet, something the entire family could enjoy, if appropriate.
Consider equipping the candidate with tools and resources that will continue to make them a competitive player within your organization. Purchase them an annual subscription to an industry-specific trade magazine or journal, or send them a book on leadership and management effectiveness. This is a great way to show the candidate you are taking an early interest in their learning and professional development. Throughout the transition, and prior to the candidate’s start date, reach out to them. Don’t limit these phone calls to only the direct manager. The entire team can be involved with staying in touch, inviting to lunch, or discussing plans for the first few weeks of new projects. The purpose is to keep the candidate tied in and feeling excited about the new partnership, and starting to build relationships with multiple people throughout the department or team.
Consider sending the candidate some materials to review, prior to their start. This could be information about their first project, training materials on the history and structure of the company, or a new hire packet that begins to familiarize them with the organization. This is a great way to have them feel more familiar with the expectations, and norms, and a little less intimidated by their first day. Prior to their start date, send a welcome email with the smallest details handled. Things like where to park, what time to arrive, how to gain access to the building, who to ask for when they arrive, what to bring with them, what to wear, the smallest details can remove some of the natural fear, and insecurity, of the unknown when starting with the new company. When they arrive on day one, make sure that not only is their desk stocked with all of the necessary supplies, but consider setting out a company logoed coffee mug, or a ball cap, or shirt, or folio, or anything else that can help them show their new company pride.
Set up a lunch in the first week, and each week following for the first month, with others within the organization or department. No matter how strong a connection a new hire has made during the interviewing process, it’s critical to create cultural connections with employees, outside of the direct reporting structure. Keep the new hire’s family in mind, a new job means adjustment for the entire family. Include spouses and children, when possible, to ease the transition and help them feel comfortable within the organization and community. Think through what went well and what went less well when you’ve onboarded new associates in the past, and make changes to avoid repeating the same circumstances. All of these are small details that can help make the candidate feel welcome and comfortable. Let’s move on to steps to take that will help make them a contributing member of the team quickly.
A primary responsibility of the hiring manager, during the first few months, is to help new hires build significant momentum during this transition. If the goal is to decrease the amount of time it takes for an employee to become a net contributor of value, what steps can be taken to achieve this goal? Throughout the entirety of the interviewing process, conversations revolved around the prospective hire’s existing skills and experiences. If those skills and experiences are what landed this individual in the new role, it will come as a surprise to most of them that a common mistake is to believe that they will be successful in the new role by simply continuing to do what they did in their previous role. Yes, common responsibilities will exist from organization to organization, but it is incredibly important to, in the first week, carefully examine and align daily expectations with existing skill sets.
Think through what this individual was doing within their prior organization. What are the primary responsibilities that are different than their previous role? And what should the candidate do to develop those skills? Help a new associate embrace the feeling and fear of a steep learning curve. Sit down and talk through what it is they need to learn, by when, and with whose help. Make a checklist of the critical accomplishments you want the candidate to have made within their first 90 days, and review that list of the candidate on both a proactive and ongoing basis. This partnership is a two-way street, so in addition to sharing feedback with the new hire, make sure they are comfortable providing feedback in return. Promises were made, and expectations were set, in terms of what the organization would provide the candidate. Understand what the candidate’s perception is of those promises and expectations, make sure they’re realistic, make sure they’re being followed through with, and make sure to gather insights early and often. An initial transition period lasts only a few months, but the goal of those few months should be to secure early wins.
The challenge is that the term, win, can be a relative term. There must be mutual understanding of measurable objectives in the first few months. This will not only ensure accountability but build faith from both sides that this is a successful and long-term fit. Eventually, strategic issues, redefined systems, and restructuring of organizational goals can all be conquered. But first, it’s necessary to build credibility in the short term, to lay a foundation for long-term goals. These are but a few of the best practices that we can share with you during this time of change. We’re excited for what this opportunity represents for both the candidate and your organization, and are here to continue to assist in the transition and onboarding process.