5 urgent reasons to reevaluate new employee inductions
Are you confident that your inductions are industry-leading? Are you certain that your tech hires feel comfortable, supported, and like part of the team from Day 1…?
Finding outstanding employees is one thing, but don't be fooled into thinking you can sit back and relax once they've signed the contract. Whether you classify yourselves as a relaxed startup, a rapid-growth SME, or a well-established large enterprise, comprehensive inductions are step one in the quest for long-term employee retention.
In the competitive tech hiring landscape you have to ensure that, once you find the individuals who will elevate you to the next stage of growth, you do your damnedest to make sure they stay and grow with you. For a long, long time.
So, here's why it's time to step away from the safety net of your formulaic, one-size-fits-all induction plans and rethink your approach.
1. Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents P*ss Poor Performance
Yep, the 7 P’s apply to inductions as much as - if not more than - they do to planning quarterly goals and new product launches.
If you're hastily jotting down an induction plan in the half hour before your new team member steps through the door, then you're setting yourself up for failure. Write your plan early, review it, consult other recent hires about what, if anything, they think would be beneficial.
I'm not suggesting that you send out your entire operating process or full roadmap out before they even start. But, providing a company background, values, culture statement/mission and some background info like past company newsletters will help them feel part of the team before they even walk through the door.
And please, please send out at least the first week of the induction schedule in advance of the start date. No matter how old and weathered we get or how many businesses we’ve worked in, Day 1 can evoke emotions ranging from excited with a hint of nerves to downright terrified. We fear the unknown, so ease the pain a bit. Knowing that there’s a plan in place means your new hire may sleep that bit easier on First-Day-Eve, safe in the knowledge that you won't expect him to climb Everest on his first day.
Yes, it makes sense for HR, or the People function, or whatever central team of sorcery and support you have within your business to ensure induction plans are relevant and engaging. But it’s essential that the employee’s Line Manager creates the induction plan and ensures it's completed. Who else knows exactly what your new hire needs to know?!
Building the employee/Line Manager relationships is crucial in the first few days. Spend time working out how they want to be managed and tell them how you want to be managed. What are your pet peeves? When will you embrace constructive discussion, debate or initiative? How will they know when your direction needs to be accepted without challenge?
Lay out your expectations and clarify what you’re looking for in order for them to pass their probation. Make commitments to them about how you will help them and set them up to succeed!
2. First impressions are make or break
In the tech market, complacency is a killer.
You can't afford to be blasé and hope they’ll ‘just love it here because everyone does’ - put in the legwork to make them feel comfortable. ‘Sink or Swim’ is NOT the mantra of successful inductions so, it's time to rethink! The goal is to build trust with your new employee from the offset and shift them from outsider to insider in the shortest possible time.
Steer clear of excruciatingly awkward icebreaker games or group meditation and instead get them involved in normal, social activities. Whether it’s a welcome breakfast, a team lunch, Friday drinks or a regular company social, what’s the harm in inviting them to meet the team in a relaxed setting before their start date?
On the Friday before I started I joined a company trip to the Escape Rooms. Being trapped in a tiny room with Paul, our Technical Author, certainly broke the ice (and nearly my eardrums too with him screeching “crack the code!”) and gave a shared common experience to laugh about on my first day.
Sure, it was slightly awkward at first, but it's far easier to find common ground and strike up a casual conversation about non-work things when you’re not in the work environment.
The aim here is not to put on a facade, but instead to show you and your team as you really are - normal Humans.
Flo has just celebrated her one-year anniversary with us and remembers her intro to the company well:
"After I’d accepted and signed the contract there were a couple of weeks before my start date. About 1 week before I started, I came in to meet Marge to talk about Product – she sent me lots of reading to do beforehand and I turned up with tonnes of questions, which she patiently talked through with me and answered all my questions. She didn’t rush me at all and spent a good chunk of her day with me to make sure I understood what I was getting myself into!"
Read more about Flo's induction experience here.
3. Recognition = Employee Engagement
Inductions shouldn’t be one-sided. How about what they can teach you...? Every new employee is an impartial, unbiased, new set of eyes, bringing a different perspective. Why wouldn't you want to find out what, if anything, they might suggest as an improvement, before they become indoctrinated into “the way it's done here”. Find a way to tap into the expertise your new hire brings to the team.
Far too often, employees join and it takes months of accidental chats for the wider team to fully understand the breadth of their experience. Sure, if they’ve travelled a traditional career trajectory it's easier to anticipate, but what about those with less conventional career paths? Or those with diverse, portfolio careers or ‘Jagged CVs’*?
A short, insipid blurb emailed to @AllUsers 10 minutes before they arrive isn't enough.
Those involved in the interview process will naturally know the story behind the CV, LinkedIn profile or GitHub, but no one else does. So, why should the wider team trust their competence? Compel their Line Manager to write a ‘Here's why she won the job, how she impressed us during the interview and the value she'll bring to the team’ email before they join, and be creative with how your new hire introduces themselves!
Do they want to give a brief, informal talk about prior projects worked on? Or maybe they’re more comfortable recording a 2-minute, interview-style video about the biggest hurdle they’ve overcome in their career.
We circulate simple visuals about new hires including answers to a few ‘getting to know you’ questions and fill-in-the-blanks sentences. My personal favourite is “Break the ice with me by asking…” - we get all sorts of weirdly wonderful conversational topics!
Having the keys to a brand new company Porsche or the latest diamond-encrusted Smart watch waiting on your desk for you on Day 1 is all well and good. But far more meaningful is to ensure there’s a smiling face to meet them at the front door and fostering a culture where people stand up to say hi to the newbie. Not because they're required to but because the Line Manager has evangelised about the benefits they’ll bring to the wider business, making others genuinely excited to welcome new expertise to the team.
4. Inductions aren't a box-ticking exercise.
If you approach an induction as something that you ‘should’ do because it's best practice, you're missing the point. These first few weeks with your new hire can set the scene for either a fully engaged, loyal new team member, or plant seeds of doubt about whether they feel at home. Can you afford the second option?
Naturally, there are some essential boxes that need ticking for every newbie like the office tour, Health & Safety training, and the policy or company handbook essentials.
But, once that's over and they begin to have face-time with each department, check back in. What are they learning? Who would they benefit from spending more time with or what questions do they have? Don't wait until the end of the induction plan to ask these question - book in time between induction sessions to ensure there isn't confusion or panic about any area. Once they have a broad view of the business, what further insights do they think would be useful?
5. Learning is exhausting!
Line Managers already know everything so, everything you teach your new starter is as familiar to you as brushing your teeth. But absorbing reams of information, learning new operating systems or tools or tech and even remembering the names of colleagues take a lot of brain bandwidth.
Schedule dedicated time in the induction plan for breaks, for the occasional leg-stretch, and for them to consolidate notes and learning.
It’s also worth remembering that, although it feels neat and tidy, a new starter doesn’t have to start at the start of the week. If you see what I mean…
With so much for them to take on board, why not start inductions midweek in order that they can pace themselves and digest information in manageable chunks?
Dan, our L&D Manager, states:
"Everyone should have an opportunity to learn in a positive environment, to enjoy the learning process and be comfortable and content within it."
And remember, learning doesn't stop once the probation is over. We build growth plans into every role we design with our customers. Involve your new hire in planning their ongoing learning path by creating a personal development plan before you finish the formal induction process.
* "Candidates who don’t have smooth, well-rounded credentials to date. They show up with a tantalising, jarring combination of promise and pitfalls...There’s something about their drive, the ingenuity, or their unusual background that hints at one-in-a-million promise." Page 61, The Rare Find, George Anders.