Congratulations if your firm is hiring these days. Given the continuing economic challenges of late, you’ve accomplished no small feat. But just hiring someone doesn't ensure that your new recruit will help propel your small business to future success.
“Up to 25 percent of new hires leave their job in the first 12 months and more than 50 percent of new hires disappoint management within their first year on the job,” says Tom Armour, cofounder of High Return Selection, a human resources consulting company in Toronto.
Losing a new hire or hiring an underperforming employee can damage a growing business. Businesses can't afford to squander the time and money to get a new hire in the door. So, the investment shouldn’t stop there.
“I've seen several small-business owners who hire an employee and throw them into the position,” says Lisa Meloche of Structured Business Solutions near Detroit. “They make the mistake of thinking they've hired this person and they're just going to take care of everything … they should know how to do their job.
Take the time
"Even the best of employees need training to understand the goals of the company," says Meloche. "[They need to understand] the technology used and the processes the business owner has followed [if they are] to perform well in the position.”
That’s why it’s so critical for every business, especially small businesses, to make the additional investment of time to help new employees get a productive start. The good news is that you don’t need a big company's human resource budget to create an effective process to get new employees on board.
“It’s extremely important for a new hire to intentionally spend time with the new team and colleagues, asking questions to better understand the organization,” says Lori Hall, a manager of consulting services at Employers Resource Association.
“Many times, a new hire will come into an organization and try to make changes without having enough context or understanding of the organization," says Hall. "This can lead to resistance, and can cause significant or irreparable damage to trust and morale that many new hires, especially managers, struggle to recover from.”
Explain unwritten rules
You may have documented the rules and the procedures of your company, but fail to explain the “unwritten” rules of the culture.
“If these unwritten rules aren’t explained, it’s only when the new hire violates these unspoken rules that they realize the rule exists,” says Hall. “It takes years to build a reputation at work, but only a few missteps can cause significant damage.”
Start your new employee’s first day on the job by taking the time to tour the building. Point out the location of key equipment, meeting rooms and resources. Check to be sure that their workspace is set up.
“Make sure that the new employee feels welcomed by ensuring their work area is set up in advance with the necessary supplies to do their job,” says Eugena Bellamy, a consultant with StaffScapes in Colorado. “It may seem simple, but arriving to a fully stocked work area can make an employee feel welcomed compared to finding their new home lacking.”
You should also make sure that your new hire has the relevant paperwork—from health-insurance forms to e-mail passwords—and the time to digest it. Provide them a contact to troubleshoot any problems they may run into.
It's helpful to use a checklist, says Bellamy, so you can ensure that you cover all the needed steps in the process. Hall offers the following tips for starting your new hire off on the right foot.
Define what success looks like at your organization.
Share information about the culture and any unwritten rules of the organization.
Explain what makes management tick and what their hot buttons are. What is most important to management that will help ensure that the new hire is a success?
Designate a mentor for the new hire.
Share the policies and procedures of your company and the metrics that you will use to measure the new employee.
Introduce the new hire to coworkers and provide an organizational chart. Also, suggest they take notes—they will be so inundated with information, they might not know the right questions to ask.
Explain team dynamics. A new hire has to prove that they can be a valuable asset to the team. But if they don’t understand the team dynamics or have enough context, they will be like a bull in a China shop.
Give your new employee a chance to ask questions. Encourage them to listen to learn what success looks like and hit the ground running in the right direction.
Recognize that bringing an employee on board isn’t just a one-time event. Day one shouldn't be the only time you, as a company leader, speak to your new employee, says Karen Usher, founder and chairman of TPO in Falls Church, Virginia.
“It's important to circle back at the end of the first week, and end of the first month, and simply take the time to sit down, talk and explore the new hire's perceptions," says Usher. “Then you can gently course-correct any misperceptions."
Successful employee orientation and integration means taking time to answer questions and address concerns. If the welcome lasts more than a few minutes, they have a better chance to sustain their enthusiasm and perform well.
"The amount of cost is minimal; the results are priceless,” says Usher.