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Three Things Leaders Can Do to Help New Hires Start Strong

Bill ByhamPhilip, a frontline supervisor in a financial services company, hires a new person for his team, and it’s a great hire. The new person, Kelly, is bright, has the right mix of knowledge, experience, and skills, and is a good cultural fit with the organization and the team.

Excited to have Kelly on board, Philip looks forward to her really hitting the ground running and starting to produce right away. That is, once she goes through the company orientation program, where he assumes she will learn everything she needs to know to be successful in the position.

Three Things Leaders Can DoEight months later, frustrated and no longer engaged in her job, Kelly resigns to take a position with a competing firm. Philip, for his part, is confused, but what he doesn’t realize is that he probably could have prevented Kelly’s departure. It wasn’t something he did; to the contrary, it was what he didn’t do.

Organizations today are becoming more aware of the costs associated with the time it takes for new hires to reach full job proficiency. These include the costs tied to recouping the organization’s investment in the new hire, including hiring costs, training costs, and the costs (which are often overlooked) the organization incurs by paying a full salary to a person who is not yet performing at an optimal level. But they also include the costs tied to the low employee engagement and turnover that occurs when new hires grow frustrated with the time it takes to get fully up to speed and contribute at a level commensurate with their more experienced coworkers.

Toward helping to prevent or minimize these costs, leaders, specifically the supervisors of new hires, can and should take steps to help new hires get off to a strong start. Three things leaders can do: 1) encourage Courageous Networking, 2) provide complete information about the job and job expectations, and 3) help the new hire build self-confidence in their ability to do the job.

1. Encourage courageous networking

One of the most important things a supervisor can do to help get a new hire off to a strong start is to encourage courageous networking. Courageous networking involves seeking the help of peers and others in the organization to answer questions and provide assistance with assignments and projects.

My blog last month explains the importance of courageous networking and tells how supervisors can promote this important behavior in their new team members.

2. Provide a complete picture of what’s required—job performance expectations and the boss’s personal expectations

Building on what was shared in the organization’s orientation program, a supervisor needs to share specific information about job responsibilities, why those responsibilities are important to the organization, and how they relate to the organization’s key business drivers.

Further, the supervisor needs to share how job success will be defined and measured, and how the new team member can evaluate, on an ongoing basis, his or her job success. New hires need to understand how the supervisor interprets and prioritizes the various responsibilities listed on the job description (“Here’s how I interpret ‘timely response to all customer requests’ . . .”).

An especially important part of clarifying and promoting the new team member’s understanding of expectations is working with him or her to begin scoping out and setting performance goals. While it might be weeks or even months before the new team member will be expected to set performance management goals, the supervisor will want to get the new team member thinking about the goals that will be part of this plan. By reinforcing the importance of observable and measurable performance goals, the supervisor helps to make the various job expectations “real” for the new team member, in terms of what he or she needs to focus on in the job and how success will be defined and evaluated.

In communicating expectations, individuals also should be alerted to pitfalls and mistakes that typically befall new team members—in hopes that they can successfully avoid them. Emphasis needs to be on the support the new team member will receive, from the supervisor, peers, and others in the organization, in meeting goals.

Additionally, new team members need to really understand what’s important to their supervisor, both in the short and long term. For instance, the supervisor might need the new team member to place a higher priority on tasks related to a short-term initiative the supervisor is charged with executing, such as the rollout of a new product. These tasks may differ from the tasks that will define job success long term—and from the tasks spelled out on the job description.

New employees also need to know the expected timeframe for reaching full proficiency. Sharing this timeframe is important so that the new team members are not too hard on themselves (as they often are expecting to be fully proficient on Day 1) and also so that they see they will have to move fast to meet the organization’s expectations.

Especially, though, new team members need to know about the supervisor’s personal expectations, leadership style, and particular likes and dislikes (e.g., communicating face-to-face as opposed to using e-mail)—those “off the book” expectations that will not be covered in a job description or in an orientation program.

Examples of expectations supervisors should share with new team members can include those related to:

  • Day-to-Day Operations—Unwritten personal (not company) regulations: “Because customers routinely visit the office, your work area needs to be kept neat.”
  • Teamwork and Cooperation—Consideration of team consequences in making decisions: “Cooperating with and supporting other teams is a must in all decisions.”
  • Work Flow—Typical time frames and deadlines for work completion: “Whenever possible, you need to respond to all customer inquiries within 24 hours.”

3. Help the new hire build confidence through personal development

New hires want to quickly learn what they need to do to hone their skills and become proficient in their current positions, and they want to quickly start developing skills that will move them upward in the organization.

An important part of the supervisor’s role in getting new team members off to a strong start is helping them develop confidence. Some new team members will need this psychological boost more than others, of course, but all will need the reassurance that they are, indeed, the right person for the job.

An excellent way of building confidence is to share information from the hiring process. During the hiring process a great deal of candidate data is gathered, including competency data, knowledge data, and information about the candidate’s past experiences. There is no reason a leader can’t repurpose and apply this information to help new team members see that they are qualified for the job.

We advocate that as soon as possible after the start date the manager should meet with the new team member to hold a selection review and development planning discussion to go over the data collected during the hiring process. The tone of this meeting should be extremely upbeat, with the supervisor emphasizing the individual’s various strength areas and reinforcing why those involved in the hiring decision felt positively about offering the job to the individual (“We could tell that you have what it takes . . .”).

This information can then be leveraged to create a short-term development plan (we feel that six weeks is the proper timeframe) for most new team members. This newly developed plan should focus on leveraging the new team member’s strengths. The plan also should cover the knowledge and skills needed to become fully proficient in the job. It also assures the individual that the organization will not put him into challenging job situations until he has the skills to handle them. By facilitating the process of putting together a short-term development plan, the manager provides the new team member with tangible evidence that he or she will grow in the job—and that the organization is committed to making it happen.

The process of developing a short-term development plan also sends an important message: We know you have some development areas. But don’t worry, we’re going to develop you in those areas.

Supervisors have the power

Organizations benefit when their new hires start strong, but it’s their supervisors who have the power to make a strong start a reality for their newly hired team members.

When new hires start weak, the consequences—low employee engagement, turnover, and the necessity of again going through what can be a lengthy and costly selection process—are significant. A better alternative is to provide the support needed to transform new hires into productive, happy, engaged employees who stay for the long-term.

Supervisors can make it happen. Given the alternative, they should make it happen.

Next steps

To learn more about Targeted Selection® and about DDI’s solutions for accelerating job proficiency and employee engagement, contact us.

Bill Byham, Ph.D., is DDI Founder and Executive Chairman. An internationally renowned speaker, educator, consultant and trainer, Bill is the author of 23 books, including Leaders Ready NowGrow Your Own Leaders and 70: The New 50

Posted: 27 Sep, 2016,
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