When the first few weeks in a new role can make or break a new employee who is ultimately responsible for making sure new hires become fully committed team members?

No doubt about it – regardless of whether you are just breaking into the working world, a senior manager with years of experience or just moving into a different team in the same company those first few days in a new job can be completely daunting. And it’s totally normal to feel anxious, even if we are confident in our ability to fulfill a position in those early days it is hard to feel confident when you don’t even know the social norms of the new firm, or even where the bathrooms are. And yet we tend to self-impose pressure to perform from the first day and every time we realise we don’t know something our self-confidence is sapped and anxiety seeps in.

Laszlo Bock, who was Google’s Head of People’s Operations for over 10 years states the experience of a new employee within the first couple of days has significant influence on performance with those not fully understanding their roles and responsibilities five times more likely to leave in the first six months. And you can be assured Google knows their stuff. With more than 61,000 employees Google’s People Operations department (HR for many of us) measure all employee data to optimise the employee experience and are ultimately a great source of statistically significant data. They have identified the ideal length of the lunch table (as long as possible), the preference of diner booths over conference rooms for collaborating and the fact that a warm greeting for new employees leads to a 15% increase in productivity over the following nine months.

Of course, many HR departments in organisations implement onboarding processes which usually involve new staff undertaking mundane training on systems, company processes and OH&S etc. Yet, while this goes towards ticking the box towards preparing employees is this really a warm enough welcoming?

Many managers believe the job is done when they have found a candidate and the start dates have been confirmed yet really it is only just the beginning. Another Google study indicated new starters whose managers were actively engaged in the onboarding process actually become fully effective 25% quicker than those whose managers didn’t. Not just a big plus for the organisation but also for the employee whose main concern in the early days is often to prove their ability and meet the expectations of their new manager.

But what is it that organisations can do to make a difference?

Here at Calibre, we encourage managers to put themselves in the shoes of their new employees by thinking about what would send them home happy and energised about their new position. This is like any ‘user experience’ exercise and is an incredibly effective tool to boost the empathy and understanding that any good leader needs.

How would you like day one in a new role to start?

By being met by admin support on the first day who sit you in front of a computer for two hours of mind-numbing system training?

OR being greeted by your new manager for a personal tour around the office, being introduced to the team and then being buddied up with one of your new colleagues to shadow for a day or two?

One recent starter I spoke to said it was nice to be shown to a desk that had his name on it. As simple as this sounds, he said it made him feel the firm had planned for his arrival which gave him a sense of belonging and fit. A typical response from a manager is that they are too busy to play chaperone but this is perhaps a little short-sighted. What is preferable, sacrificing an hour of your time with a new employee or risk returning to the recruitment process if that employee doesn’t stay?

Yet, is it solely the responsibility of the company to make all the effort?

Organisations often have induction processes for managers but there is little discussion about what a new employee can do to ensure the new role is a success. Typically the planning for the first day or week is mostly out of their control but Google (again) tried to change this by giving new employees themselves objectives. In the form of a checklist, new employees were encouraged to:

  • Ask lots of questions
  • Schedule your own one to ones with your manager
  • Reach out to get to know your team
  • Ask for feedback, repeatedly; and
  • Remember to be confident in your ability (remember: they hired you for a reason)

These simple steps do work

Kirsty Keating, one of Calibre’s senior consultants here at Calibre, caught up with an executive we placed at key clients, Arup, in 2016. She was from an a-typical background for the business and most of her peers were based in other offices so things could easily have gone awry. But within the first six months, she had firmly established herself in the business as well as the organisation’s key clients.

How did she do this?

  1. She engaged her supporters: She was quick to interact with the internal sponsors who had been involved in her appointment and asked to be introduced to the wider business
  2. She owned her own onboarding:  If there was something overlooked in her introduction she took steps to resolve it with the support team, HR and her colleagues.
  3. She raised her profile: She took up the opportunity to travel to other offices and actively arranged face to face meetings throughout the first six months to make herself visible and available.
  4. She remained proactive: it may seem natural to relax after you have been in the role for a few months but with a fair amount of travel she wanted to make sure she stayed connected in her office. She kept up contact with team members and others in the business, even organising a team get together for her own anniversary (this may sound out there to some but again it is about finding ways to stay engaged).

Now not everyone will have the confidence to be so proactive and not every organisation will be as open to this approach. But it is a good example of how an employee can influence those first few months in the new role.

So when it comes down to it – everyone can play a key role in the retention of new staff – HR, managers, team members and the new employee themselves. And as the new employee – your new company has backed you, so it is time back yourself and get ready for the new chapter in your career. Be proactive, communicate and never assume that there isn’t a place to reach out, ask questions or even the time to just say “Hello.”