Productive Newbies – helping new starters feel valued and contributory, quickly

As a result of Covid-19, businesses are seeing a significant ‘capabilities’ gap, especially in industries that were unable to maintain training and employee development over the past couple of years. So how can you make sure that your new starts – who you will rely on more and more – hit the ground running and start imagining themselves as an essential, long-term cog in your business success?

The central idea of this article is helping leaders weave a new level of process into any new starter’s first 90 days, ensuring new team members not only get to grips with what your business does through a structured onboarding strategy, but that they also feel valuable and productive as soon as possible. 

The first three months in a company have been proven as a critical time for long-term retention of employees, and the best employee onboarding programmes extend throughout the employee’s first 90 days. Put simply, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for more than three years if they had a great onboarding experience. 

The importance of feeling valued

You likely have an onboarding strategy in place (here’s a nice onboarding technique), much of which might centre around theoretical learning including reading up on the company policies and procedures, chatting to other team members about their sections of the business or running through systems and processes. This period, which focuses on your new start having two ears and one mouth, is of course important, but I believe the key is to simultaneously start making new starters feel as productive and contributary as quickly as possible through actual doing. Get them doing the things they can do with little training – and then layer in the training.

Perceived value in the workplace – which is a huge driver on employee retention – is derived from employees feeling like they are making a difference and being recognised for their achievements. Making sure the latest members of your team feel like they are playing an active part in your business right from the off is tremendously empowering and will almost certainly increase the likelihood they’ll stick around for longer. 

So, how do you do that? 

“But they don’t know anything yet… so they can’t contribute” 

Well actually, they probably do, and they probably can. I’d put money on the fact that your new starters are capable of helping your business from day one, but making that happen requires you to start thinking in a different way about their experience, their skills and your specific projects. 

In a previous article, I explored the idea that around 80% of what you do can likely be done by someone with less seniority or experience. Subsequently, 80% of what they’re doing could be passed on to someone else in the company. This process not only frees you up to focus on the 20% of work that requires your specific experience and skill, but also allows you to scale up a business by delegating less onerous tasks to less experienced team members. 

With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to get your new starters feeling useful and contributary from the moment the arrive: 

Break down your work and project in a different way

If you want a new start to start feeling valued, then think about the work you would like them to do and consider breaking down projects into the ‘types’ of work, or skills, not by task.  For example, instead of saying you expect a competitor analysis, break that down and call it a ‘research job’. Consider making a ‘pick list’ of types of work or skills your new start might recognise and ask them which they have had experience in or would feel confident working on. 

Get to know your new employee

Assuming your new team member is arriving with zero capabilities is both arrogant and nonsensical. You likely hired them for their attitude, aptitude, or because they had spoken to you about particular passions of theirs that they thought might help them in the role. Incorporate the pick list of skills and types of work into a discussion, then look at the work that would benefit from their attention. The better you know them, the more likely you will find types of work they can help with.

It’s worth adding here that pre boarding can give your new starts an additional boost to new start confidence and sense of belonging – with the bonus that they will be more productive, quicker. 

Giving access to a work intranet or a physical pack with documents including company structure and the ‘what we do’, right down to a ‘what you’ll need on your first day’, all help new starters feel settled and valued before they’ve even stepped into the office. 

Do you see the value in getting new starts useful and productive quickly?

Andy.

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