6 pointers on making new staff comfortable and productive

Oct 28, 2015 by Brendan Jack

Every month new recruits join us. Some are shy, some full of beans. Their productivity and cultural fit are of the essence.

Fitting in

Keep an open door policy. Let them know who they can speak to for guidance. Encourage questions.

Get them smiling. Happy people work better. Not all businesses use this to their advantage.

Be emotionally engaging when welcoming newcomers. Avoid only talking numbers and boring PowerPoint. Put your company goals into honest and compelling stories.

Example:

“We need to build resources to develop a new solution that will save people time – time they can spend with their families, explore their passions – time we can use for this too.”

Few things are more powerful than when groups buy-in to shared goals.

Use an icebreaker if it’s right for the situation, and if you feel comfortable. Try some lateral thinking challenges or colourful wordplays.

Leftfield suggestion:

  • Take the group to a balcony during the office tour. Have some staff down below link hands. Ask inductees to fall backwards from the balcony to be caught. “It’s a trust exercise.” Then assure them that you’re joking.
  • Encourage staff to use icebreakers in the most creative, engaging fashion.

Whatever exercise you choose, aim to break tension and demonstrate that light-heartedness is acceptable.

Culture is fundamental

Consider establishing new recruit ambassadors: one go-to person or a revolving team to keep induction ideas fresh.

Give newbies insight into what happens in other departments - to avoid them wondering what those quiet guys with earphones are doing in the office at all hours of the night. (Coders.)

Team newbies with mentors. It also helps to keep the older guard on their toes and makes them remain sociable.

Create branded office equipment goodie bags (if budget allows): T-shirts, flash drives, icebreakers, etc. It helps build team allegiance. And never underestimate the power of free snacks to welcome people.

Communication is essential

  • Share the perils of online comms – nothing is better than face-to-face.
  • Don’t fight over e-mail – take things offline. You can’t un-send bad energy.
  • Consider using a nudging icebreaker in an email to get someone’s attention or to lighten a tense mood.

Lead from the front

  • Being accessible allows employees to thrive. Encourage creative thought and initiative. Don’t act like a big deal. Be Cool.
  • A leader’s job is to create more leaders, not followers.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself. Never laugh at the newbies.
  • Make them feel supported so that they can contribute.
  • Remember, even when fostering a relaxed work environment, there needs to be respect for the place of business.
  • Nurture individual strengths and personality. (Unless you’re running a sweatshop.) You might even want to show them some respect.

After the induction

Ask for feedback. Perhaps they’ll have good ideas to improve the workplace or welcoming process. Make their opinion feel valued. Plan a follow up session.

It’s not just about taking them to lunch and a pat on the back. Or in the old days: show them their desk, then shut the door until they retire.

Consider an induction FAQ or itinerary. Break down company schedules, benefits, events, processes and responsibilities within their team.

It’s not what we say, but how we say it

Use embracing body language. You don’t have to embrace everyone (it avoids lawsuits), but nothing is worse than a person who folds their arms or doesn’t make eye contact when talking to you. Without being obvious, use the technique of mimicking the posture of the person with whom you’re engaging, making them feel comfortable. Using a room warmer is also often a great way to set people at ease.

Summing up

Fast growth can change company culture, which is fine as long as the core principles are upheld. Remember that everyone is an individual, there to support the greater cause. Lead from the front and encourage questions. Imagine landing on Mars for the first time, put yourself into the shoes of people who don’t know the environment as well as you.

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