Overcoming that “spare wheel” feeling most of us experience in our first few weeks in a new job, has traditionally been addressed by putting new employees through an induction programme. Aside from assuring new employees that they have made the right choice of employer, it is assumed that the programme will help to bring new employees quickly up to speed and thereby to add value to the team.
Unfortunately, a vast majority of organisations don’t have the time or resources to include an induction programme and tend to leave new employees to work things out for themselves.
On the other hand, while many induction programmes may appear well structured, they are often poorly thought out and usually involve the new employee “shadowing” a colleague as they go about their daily work. Pity the inductor who is under pressure to complete their work while also having to explain every step of the way to the inductee. It’s no wonder therefore that in the early stages, a “new job” can appear more stressful than it really is.
Conversely, time taken at the commencement of employment, to undertake a well thought through induction programme, can go a long way to quickly achieving employee satisfaction, maintaining productivity, introducing new employees to the wider organisation and vice versa.
From the outset, the aim of a good induction programme should be to provide new team members with all the necessary information, tools and support to ensure a smooth transition into the “on-boarding process.”
While the recruitment and selection process may have provided some information about the history, vision and overview of the organisation, taking new employees through an induction programme can help consolidate their knowledge of these areas. Explaining the overall business goals, strategies, organisational structure, key housekeeping policies and procedures provides the new employee with a real sense of the company’s culture and history.
It’s important to use the induction programme to develop realistic expectations, reduce uncertainty and ensure that there is some clarity of performance expectation. The role should be clearly defined and explained by the manager to give the new employee a clear understanding of what is expected of him/her right from the start. Additionally, the introduction of new staff to any organisation often initially creates a drop in productivity within the team. A comprehensive induction programme can reduce this impact by creating a smoother integration of new personalities into the group and hopefully providing a comparatively speedier return on investment.
Don’t underestimate the value and importance of evaluating an induction programme, both during and once the programme is completed. It is important to ensure that “all bases are covered” and evaluation will highlight any areas which need further attention (refer to our earlier blog post: Costs and expectations of new hires).
It is also advisable to have a few “pre-start” requirements completed prior to a new employee’s first day. The “pre-start” requirements should be organised in conjunction with the Human Resource Department or, if the organisation doesn’t have an HR Department, the line manager. Requirements may include:
- Ensuring new employee’s office and / or desk is set up and ready to go for when they arrive.
- Organising any materials, stationery or business cards that may be required
- Making sure that appropriate email, IT, facilities access, security pass etc have been organised.
- Setting up introductory meetings with key departments such as Human Resources, Finance, Sales, Customer Service and Operations to provide an overview of those departments’ roles within the organisation. This is a good way for a new staff member to get a solid understanding of the company structure and is also a good way to meet the various teams. However, do set clear expectations of each department as to the goal of the meeting.
- Organise any training that the new team member may require well in advance, so that the training can be conducted within the first few days or weeks of employment.
- Sending the new staff member an agenda for their first week prior to them starting and including the times of impending meetings not only lets them know in advance what to expect but also lets them know that they are expected and that things have been organised for them in advance – making them straight away feel more valued and leaving them thinking that they’ve made the right choice with their new employer.
From a team building perspective a number of initiatives can be considered as a way of introducing a new staff member to the team:
- A morning tea or team lunch during the first week is a good way for everyone to get to know each other in a more informal and relaxed setting
- Assigning a ‘buddy’ to the new team member for their first few weeks of employment helps form friendships and to answer the inevitable questions.
Finally, there is a common misconception amongst managers that IT focused roles are uniform. They often assume that IT roles within their organisation are consistent with those in a new employee’s previous organisation. This fosters the expectation that IT specialists will be able to hit the ground running and be up to speed straight away. Nothing could be further from the truth. Clear communication is vital in establishing what is required from both sides and the level of autonomy the new staff member should realistically expect in the early stages of their new role.
Managing a workforce can be a time consuming and stressful task. Human resource polices are a tool that can aid team management. A well planned induction process can play a key role in ensuring that new employees quickly gain a sense of belonging which in turn will help to increase job satisfaction, maintain productivity and improve staff retention.