Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a recent graduate, starting a new job is intimidating. There are people to meet, processes to learn, candy stashes to find — not to mention office dynamics to navigate. A simple ‘welcome to the team!’ is likely not enough to put a new employee at ease.
If you’re a manager, it’s your job to make this transition as easy as possible for both the newbie and the wider team. You’ll need to help them get their heads around your work management tools and help them understand the company culture. There’s no blueprint here and every team is different. But approaching the situation with plenty of empathy is a good starting point.
Try to see your workplace through fresh eyes. Need to give the printer a kick to make it work? Got someone on your team who’s bark is worse than their bite? Like families, every team and office has its quirks. When you’ve been working somewhere for a while, it’s easy to overlook these foibles. But to a newcomer, these things could at best be surprising and at worst, shocking or frustrating. Put yourself in the new person’s shoes. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to give them the lowdown on day one (or before) so they know exactly what to expect and how to fit in.
Before they start
Welcoming a new team member begins from the minute they accept the job offer. They won’t be there in person yet, but you can make them feel like they’re part of the team before they even step through the door.
1. Send them something nice
It’s standard practice to send new employees a contract and company handbook. But communication doesn’t have to start and end with formal documents. They’ll probably be full of nervous anticipation, so capitalize on this energy and send them a welcome pack, letter, card, or even just an email to let them know how pleased you are they’re joining the team. It’s the little things like this that make newcomers feel welcome, valued, and excited to meet everyone.
2. Give them access to groups
Obviously you’ll need to be a little careful with this one: you probably shouldn’t give them unfettered access to company information the second they’ve signed their contract — but if you have team chat groups or social media pages they can join or follow before they start, then give them early access so they can introduce themselves and get a little taste of the office culture.
The first day in a new job usually consists of an office tour, a whistle-stop introduction to everyone in the team, followed by a health and safety meeting with HR. But to be honest, no starter remembers anyone’s names (unless your company is tiny) and the health and safety stuff is usually pretty dry. Basically, none of these things foster a feeling of inclusivity.
Try adding these to your new starter program to really get newbies fired up and fitting in:
- Welcome the newcomer on their start day with another email telling them how pleased you are they’ve joined the team.
- Set some time aside to personally welcome them, and encourage each team member to do the same. This doesn’t have to take up a huge chunk of the day — you could hold a 15-minute stand up and ask each person to introduce themselves. Names and job titles are a given, but make it more interesting (and memorable) by asking each person to share something unconventional about themselves.
- Leave a little treat on their desk when they arrive. It doesn’t have to be big or flashy: a cup with their name on, a small box of chocolates, or a coffee voucher will put a smile on their face.
- Tell them you’re there to help. New questions are a given, so make yourself available to them throughout the day. This might mean postponing lengthy meetings or business trips until the day after. If you really do need to disappear for a few hours, let the new starter know. And tell them who can help them out in your absence.
- Have a welcome event. Hosting a coffee morning, lunch, or after-work gathering is a great way to break the ice and help your new starter connect with your team and the wider company.
Help new team members build positive relationships
Meeting new people is often a stressful experience. Some people are naturally outgoing and won’t think anything of going up and starting a conversation with a stranger. Other people are more reserved and prefer to wait for an introduction before approaching someone themselves.
When you have a new starter, always assume they’re in the latter camp and introduce them to people on your team. Even if the newcomer appears self-sufficient and happy to approach people uninvited, it’s still a good idea to foster those introductions so they build relationships with the right people early on.
Day two (and beyond)
The first day on the job is a whirlwind of information, and much of what they learn will be forgotten — so don’t assume one day of introductions is all they’ll need. It takes around 45 days for someone to be fully integrated into the office culture, so it’s especially important you continue providing high levels of support during these first three months.
- Hold regular meetings to review their responsibilities and expectations. This provides direction and helps the employee understand what’s expected of them.
- Continue to provide regular training so they’re up to speed with project tools and processes.
- Keep an eye on team dynamics and make sure they’re not feeling left out. Even if everything seems fine, it’s a good idea during these first few months to ask them how they think they’re setting in and getting on with everyone.
- Involve them in meetings. Even if they’re not directly involved, invite them as a spectator if you think a discussion will help give them a wider understanding of the business or team goals.
- Give them a schedule and a plan. There’s nothing worse than feeling directionless at work, so make sure your new team member’s schedule is full. And check in with them as much as possible to see whether they need additional support.
Give new starters the information they need
New people need to ask questions. It’s a good thing! You should not only encourage it but make sure your team is receptive and helpful as well. That said, if you keep receiving a deluge of queries, you may need to provide more in-depth support during those first few days.
Say they’re getting to grips with a tool, but you haven’t explained it properly or provided them with a walkthrough. They’ll then be in a situation where they have to frequently interrupt you or others around them to ask for help. It makes them feel awkward, and it’s disruptive for everyone else.
Make sure new people have the information they need to navigate tools and systems. Training sessions, handbooks, and wikis are a good start. But remember to make sure support is ongoing. Let the starter know you’re available to help them, should they need it. That way, they’ll feel empowered to achieve their goals, while the wider team will be able to collaborate with the newbie faster and more productively.
Empathy and planning are the key ingredients to making a new team member feel welcome to the team. But these things will go only so far if they don’t have the right tools to do their job.
Archaic spreadsheets and clunky processes can be incredibly frustrating to work with at the best of times, but convoluted systems can be downright mind-boggling for a newcomer. If new employees take forever to get onboarding, it may be time to invest in new software. Things like cloud-based project management tools can help streamline information and encourage collaboration — something that’s especially important when you’re welcoming someone new. And if you choose an application that comes with wiki features, your newbie will have the answers they need, right there at their fingertips.