It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday, and as the regular crowd shuffles into the cafe you frequent, you’re thinking about one of your managers who recently approached you about an ongoing issue with an employee who recently joined their team. You felt confident that this person was the right fit after the interview process. And you had fantastic pre-boarding and onboarding processes to make this employee feel welcome on the first day.
But, now it’s been five weeks since this person started with the company, and you get the sense that this person isn’t fully engaged in their tasks or, worse yet, they’re bored. You know that employee engagement early on is important; after all, employee turnover is more likely in the first 6 months than in months 7-12. Not sure if you should take action now or wait to see if the issue corrects itself without intervention? And, if you do take action, where do you start?
Don’t worry; you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how you can maximize the first 3-6 months to make sure your new hire is engaged and successful over the long-term.
1. Have an open conversation with your new hire to ensure that you’re both on the same page.
Before anything else, be sure to sit down with your new hire and have an open conversation with them about goals and expectations. Use this meeting not just as an opportunity for you to communicate what your expectations are, but to ask what your new hire expects of the company in terms of resources and any other support. And when establishing goals, make sure that the goals are ones that are beneficial both for the employee and the organization. Goals that only benefit one party are less productive, so be sure you’re taking the time to listen to how your new hire wants to grow both professionally and personally and see how you can leverage those goals for the business’ benefit.
2. Immediately begin assigning them tasks that align with their interests and goals.
When a new employee starts with a company, some leaders and managers may feel tempted to teach the new hire all the standards and processes right away. As such, this person might spend the first couple weeks enmeshed in learning standard operating procedures (SOPs) and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) instead of working on actual projects. Since your new hire is spending these first few weeks evaluating how long they’ll be at the company, such a process can be incredibly damaging.
Instead, make sure to assign your new hire tasks that add value to the company beginning on Day 1. Ideally, these tasks should be things in which your new hire expressed interest during the interview process and either fit within their area of expertise or an area they’d like to develop further. If your team uses a project management software like Basecamp, Asana, or Zendesk, you can even have tasks assigned to them already so that they feel like they’re part of the team and can clearly see what they’ll be working on in the first couple weeks.
3. Assign your new hire a mentor before they even start.
While every company has a different process, some companies assign every new hire a mentor when they start. Try doing so even sooner. Assigning your new hire a mentor before they start with the team helps establish a sense of belonging and commitment, and it significantly improves the likelihood of developing a mutually meaningful work engagement.
Ideally, your new hire’s mentor is someone from a different department within the company and someone who will not be evaluating your new hire’s work. It’s also a good idea to match up a mentor and mentee based on personality, interests, or professional development goals. For example, if you have a new hire who wants to grow into a project management role, be strategic and assign that person a mentor who is a rockstar project manager. Having similar professional development paths will help these people connect much more easily.
We recommend that your mentoring programs last at least a year; anything less than that, and your new hire is still acclimating to the organization, still becoming more comfortable in their role. It also gives your mentor and mentee enough time to connect and feel comfortable with each other.
Just a word of caution: when selecting your mentors, don’t just select your most senior managers. All mentors should be empathetic and good listeners.
4. Have candid conversations with your employees on a weekly basis.
We encourage managers to have weekly one-on-one check-ins with their employees to make sure that everything is going well and to resolve any issues as they arise. To make sure that these weekly meetings will happen, encourage managers to schedule these meetings in advance on their calendars so that the meeting doesn’t get missed. In addition to these weekly meetings, having longer chunks of time set aside at 30, 60, and 90 days will help make sure that your new hire is reaching any goals that you’ve set for them and that they feel they’re learning and doing things of value. However, if you’re having weekly check-in meetings, you will likely be able to mitigate any serious potential issues well before these longer, more formal meetings to discuss goals and milestones.
Be sure to create a culture where open communication is the expectation. Even if you set aside time to encourage communication, your new hires won’t be honest with you if they think they will be judged or criticized if they express their true opinion. Make sure that you’re supportive, non-judgmental, patient, and empathetic whenever you’re interacting with your employees.
5. Encourage employees to pursue continuing education and professional development opportunities that interest them.
When you’re thinking about ways to help your new hire stay engaged over the long-term, short-term as well as long-term continuing education and professional development should be at the top of your list. However, make sure to keep this a dialogue. Your new hire may be plugged into local networking and professional development opportunities already and may have a good sense of what events would benefit their personal and professional growth. Even if the opportunities they’re suggesting aren’t something that the business would realistically be willing to support financially, it gives you a starting place. Maybe there is a similar event on the same topic that the company would support, or perhaps your new hire would be willing to attend the event on their own time, so long as they feel they’d be able to bring back that knowledge, share it with the team, and implement whatever they’re learning in their tasks.
As far as more formalized continuing education, encourage your new hire to investigate classes at local colleges and universities. There are also many options online; between these many venues, there’s a wide variety of classes for individuals who want to expand their professional knowledge set.
6. Parcel out the learning of standard operations over the first two months.
As we mentioned in our second tip, it’s important that you begin assigning your new hires tasks that align with their interests and goals so that they feel excited by their new position and engaged in the work that they’re doing. To that end, you want to be sure to parcel out any mandatory training so that it doesn’t all get dumped on them in the first two weeks they’re with the company.
Take time to outline what specific topics need to be covered, including field safety, liability, and customer service basics. Then, identify which topics are most critical for the new hire to know right away, and which ones can wait a few weeks. From there, you can fill in your new employee’s onboarding plan to make sure that it includes a mix of project work and learning new processes and systems.
7. Provide fun opportunities for your new hire to become fully integrated within the organization.
As we mentioned in our blog post about the initial onboarding process, it’s important that you create opportunities to connect with your new employees outside of work or in a more personal way. Some options could include celebrating at the new brew pub down the street, doing a barre class together during the workday, bringing a properly-filtered telescope to the office so that everyone can watch the solar eclipse together, or having an apple-throwing contest. Just be sure to find some ways to relate to your new hire as a person, not just an employee.
In the long run, this will make your employees feel more connected to each other and to the organization as a whole. Having workplace friends also helps employees stay more engaged, so don’t discount the importance of fun.
Did you like these tips? You might be interested in our other recent post about onboarding.
Want to learn more about who we are and how we can help you transform the leadership within your organization? Contact us today.