Ask any teacher or counselor and they’ll tell you, fixing damaged relationships and warped behavior is far harder work than building new patterns from scratch. As such, the arrival of each new employee presents you with a great opportunity, a chance to shape their relationship with the business and their behavior within it. This is your chance to get them engaged before they can developed a mindset of detachment from and disillusionment with their job.
So how can you get it right from the very start?
Every time someone starts a new job they arrive with certain hopes. They hope that the job will be interesting, that they be will supported, that people will be welcoming. If you want to avoid turning them off from the start then you need to recognize those hopes, and to do your damnedest to fulfill them.
Make sure that there’s a system in place to introduce the new employee to their team, and that the team have time to welcome them and get to know them, rather than quickly waving hello and then heading back to their jobs. There should be clear guidance on what the employee will be doing, swift training in how to do it, and someone they can turn to at any time in their first few days for advice when they get stuck. Give them the support to engage with the job and they will.
We all respond best to quick feedback. It’s the way our brains are wired from the time that we’re tiny children – if praise or criticism follow hot on the heels of the original action then they are more closely associated with it, and so have more impact. Understanding this is even more critical in an age when social media can provide instant feedback to people in other areas of their lives. So make sure that you let new recruits know quickly what they’re doing right and wrong, and that they receive praise for their early work.
There’s a time for deep, well-considered feedback, and it’s important to include that as well. But in the first few weeks, when you’re trying to get someone comfortably fitted into your organization, speed is more important than depth.
React With Feeling
One of the biggest barriers to change, for individuals as well as organizations, is the way we feel about it. We can justify almost anything with some kind of logic, but it’s how we feel that drives us to behave in a particular way, to commit to a pattern of thinking and working. So don’t just pay attention to what a new recruit thinks, but keep an eye out for how they’re feeling. Do they look uncomfortable or relaxed? Are they coming under pressure, being left bored and idle, or provided with just the right amount of work to keep them satisfied and engaged?
Pay attention as well to the feelings that seem to motivate them. Do they show a great deal of curiosity, a desire to see new things? Or are they someone who prefers comfort and familiarity, and so want time to settle into a routine before trying something else new? If you can recognize these feelings then you can shape their early experiences to suit them.
The way a new employee feels in their first few days will color their feelings about the whole business and their work, and decide how well they engage. So pay attention to their hopes and dreams, ensure quick positive feedback, and watch out for their feelings, to ensure that they become engaged for years to come.