19 Dec. 2016 | Comments (0)
As someone who has been in the business of hiring people and developing people organizations for many years, I’ve noticed two common first-day-on-the-job scenarios. Let’s take a look at each.
On Gail’s first day at her new job, she is greeted by Ken from HR. Ken and Gail walk to her desk, where she meets her team and manager. Gail’s first few days include an orientation program that is specifically designed to make her feel comfortable in her new role and ready for her responsibilities. Her first week leaves her feeling invigorated, dedicated, and connected to her team. The rest of her first 90 days are structured for success and well documented.
This is very different from Barrett’s first day at his new job. Barrett walks to his desk alone. His new teammates introduce themselves casually as they each arrive for work. He is eager to get started but he’s finding it hard to integrate into his new team. He struggles during his first few meetings to understand the terminology, projects, and existing relationships. Barrett ends his first week wondering if he made the right decision to take this new position.
The difference between these two scenarios is that Gail is an external hire, whereas Barrett is transitioning into a new group and position in the organization he’s worked in for years.
Whether you are a new hire or an existing employee changing jobs, starting a new role is often uncomfortable. Meeting new people, learning new processes, and adjusting to new expectations can be challenging. Yet because organizations know that the first 45 days of employment can affect engagement and job longevity, they invest heavily in onboarding for new hires — but tend to neglect existing employees, who have developed their skills and changed jobs within the organization. Transitioning employees are too often left to “sink or swim.”
When this transition to a new team or department goes poorly, it can harm employee engagement, increase time to productivity, and keep employees from growing within the organization. In Barrett’s case, if he isn’t successful in his new job and finds his old position filled, he could potentially leave.
By now we know that career development is a primary driver of employee happiness and that promoting employee mobility leads to better cross-functional communication and retention of top performers. Clearly, there is a huge opportunity for managers to improve the onboarding experience for employees moving into new roles.
Typically, organizations spend time trying to understand why employees leave the organization through exit interviews. If they instead focus on “re-hiring” employees, organizations can begin to understand why employees choose to stay. Re-hiring means deliberately reaffirming the reasons why an employee was hired and moved into a new role, as well as their career expectations and job alignment. This should take place at each stage of an employee’s career.
And if managers encourage internal mobility, they must be prepared to reward it and make it work. After an employee transitions into a new role, the manager must take time to get to know them and understand their strengths, successes, and development needs. In the first few months, check-ins should be frequent.
It’s also important to make sure the person has a clear understanding of people and resources on the new team. Managers can hold a team lunch or other team-building activity so people get a chance to connect with one another. After all, the addition of a new team member is an event to celebrate. Managers should facilitate introductory meetings, provide guidance on how team members can expect to collaborate, and designate a partner or “buddy” to field unanticipated questions and assist with a smooth transition. They can connect employees with the people who will be influential in their new role and ensure that there is a continuous learning path set up for them. Later on, monthly or weekly check-ins can help managers continue to motivate these hires; this creates time for giving recognition for a job well done, assessing current and future goals, and discussing potential development opportunities.
This mindset should be applied to internal promotions as well. A promotion should be much more than a change in title and paycheck — it requires a transition like any other role. When an employee becomes a people manager for the first time, they experience an expansion in responsibility, a broader span of control, and new types of accountability. This requires education and training through their promotion.
Employees both desire and deserve continuous development as they navigate their careers. This means every time an employee moves, there is an opportunity to reinvest, re-hire, and create a positive experience. It’s an opportunity to reinvigorate the relationship between the employee and the organization.
This blog first appeared on Harvard Business Review on 11/4/2016.
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