6 Ways to Help New Employees
It has been an interesting few months at work. We have four new employees which represents a huge percentage of our total workforce; thirty-six percent to be precise. If all goes well in the next couple of months, I will hire two more employees which will change things even more. Exciting times! This changes the landscape of our workforce considerably. I now realize how hard it is to balance expectations and reality when your workforce shifts so dramatically.
Leadership expects that everyone is excited about new employees. I mean, who wouldn’t be. We have more hands to do the work. Delivering sub par products and missing deadlines are a thing of the past. Everyone and everything can get back to normal. The only question is, “When will everything be back to normal?”
The time it takes to ‘get back to normal’ is predicated on the complexity of the job, level of required expertise, pace of work, and amount of deliberate practice. An applied mathematician working on a space project that is behind schedule will need more time to become proficient (or even competent) than a salesperson at Macy’s who is hired in February.
You can massage leadership expectations before your new employee arrives. Help them understand how much time it will take to gel as a team, build adequate expertise, and be the productive team you used to be. Readjust expectations if your new employee seems to need more time to get spun up on their job duties.
Oh, customers! Customers expect consistent,impeccable service and zero delays. Couple that with their ‘please read my mind’ mentality and you have the perfect environment to crush a new employee.
Make sure you equip your employees with the right processes, words, and behaviors before turning them out to the wolves. Pair them up with experienced and even-tempered employees during the first few days or weeks. Constant training is essential for customer-facing employees. They have the toughest job because they are expected to be cordial and professional in the face of unrelenting customers.
NEW EMPLOYEE EXPECTATIONS
New employees expect to be well-trained before they are left to their own devices. Unfortunately, the concept of ‘well-trained’ is different for everyone. Employees are different and everything they bring to the table is different: different skill sets, different motivations, different locus of control, different cultures, and different ideologies.
In my office, I have employees that are so proactive, I have to keep tabs on the new things they are doing so we can all keep up. Other employees need more direction so I have to devote a little time every week to make sure they are on track. I have one employee who believes that ‘well-trained’ means having (1) trained on the task and (2) repeated the task for a week with no deviations. Another employee feels like ‘well-trained’ means being given a manual and then left alone for a few hours while they figure it out. Find out how your new employee defines ‘well-trained’.
EXISTING EMPLOYEE EXPECTATIONS
Existing employees expect new employees to pull their own weight. Your people have covered tasks that should be performed by the new employees. Like leadership, employees may underestimate how long they will continue to carry the burden of extra tasks while training new employees.
Help your staff set realistic expectations for when new employees will be ‘fully functional’. This may be hard for seasoned employees who have forgotten how long it took them to learn everything. They can do some of these duties in their sleep and may not be sensitive to how hard it is to navigate all the processes.
In reality, ushering in a new workforce is both exhilarating and exhausting. Virtually everyone on your team will have to give up time normally spent doing productive tasks to train new employees. The first few months are challenging because new employees do things the wrong way … or they have different expectations of “good job” and “common sense” … or there are personality conflicts between the staff … And the list keeps going.
No one likes the disruption of bringing in new staff but there are 6 steps to make it easier on everyone.
- Set realistic expectations for staff and leadership well in advance of the first day.
- Lay out the training schedule and make sure trainers/instructors are available (I missed this piece).
- Set aside adequate time and resources for training and then immediately perform the task in a ‘real’ environment – even if this means new employees are just watching another employee do the task.
- Make training a deliberate practice with effortful activities followed by more routine tasks. Effortful activities means deep concentration, problem-solving skill activation, and deliberate thinking. Short bursts of effortful practice produce more immediate results than long hours of being partly engaged. Think “quality over quantity”.
- Provide immediate feedback during the initial stages and encourage others to do the same. Immediate feedback prevents employees from practicing bad habits.
- Allow employees the opportunity to correct products or re-perform the service, if possible. It is amazing how much you learn when you have the chance to correct your own errors.
How do you help employees during the first few days or weeks? What steps do you take to make it more effective?