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Help New Employees Succeed From Day One

The first few days are crucial for new employees. Are you contributing to their early failure? Here are 5 tips for helping them succeed.
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The first day at a new job is filled with great emotion and excitement for anyone. If the interview process was grueling, the day starts with a mood of triumph and hope. Everyone sees potential and opportunity in that first day. The company is banking on the investment, and the employee is ready for the adventure. And yet, all the upward emotion seems to wear off quickly as confusion and reality set in.  So challenging is the process of settling in that more than 20 percent of new hires wash out within 45 days.

It doesn't have to be this way. Considering the amount of effort you put into finding people with great potential and the cost of looking for someone new, you are much better served by making an equal effort to help new hires succeed from day one. Here are 5 great ways to start them off on the right foot.

1. Celebrate Their Arrival

The great sales trainer Jack Daly likes to describe a typically painful first day for most new hires. He tells of a disheartening day filled with paperwork, aloofness and disorienting instruction. Jack's detail of a new worker having to scrounge for a desk, supplies and even a chair leave you empathetic for the plight of the newbie who is quickly made to feel like an unwanted afterthought. Jack strongly and rightfully encourages a different approach. Prepare the desk, chair, computer, supplies and tools well before the new hire arrives. Save the HR paperwork for a few days and instead adorn the space with balloons and greeting cards from the rest of the team. A lunch celebration, and maybe even a welcome bottle of wine or suitable gift from the boss, is sure to add to an amazing first day memory that will get the employment journey off on the right foot.

2. Have a Structured Process

Orientation helps new hires navigate basic company procedures, but most companies only dedicate a few hours to the process. They then leave the new employees to fend for themselves unchecked. Invest time and resources in a well-thought out onboarding plan focused on the entire probationary transition. Make sure it includes training, mutually agreed milestones and frequent assessments so you can nip small issues in the bud before they escalate. Encourage new hires to be amazing employees from day one. A few weeks of extra time at the start can turn into years of happy retention and low turnover.

3. Assign a Mentor

New employees need an insider's view and help navigating the ins and outs of a company.  The bigger the company, the more complex the processes. Don't let new hires flounder on their own. Create a mentoring program where seasoned employees show them the ropes. A mentor can speed new hires through the adjustment and help them assimilate socially as well.

4. Have Them Teach a Skill

New people have credibility issues when they walk in.  Older employees think of them as green, while recent hires see them as competition.  This casts newbies as outsiders, creating stress and awkwardness for everyone. You hired these people because they are good at something. Break the ice and elevate their status on the first day by having them prepare and present a learning session on an interesting subject where they excel. This will help show their value to other employees and open the door to trust and camaraderie.

5. Make Room for Safe Failure

No transition is easy. But many companies make it harder with unrealistic expectations of perfection from day one. They expect new employees to get everything right and then are disappointed at the slightest sign of struggle. The objective should be to hire talented people and help them adapt. Since the best learning comes from failure, give the new employees the opportunity to fail safely. Make sure that during the early days they are given autonomy--with a safety net in the form of a partner or back-up colleague who can catch issues before they get out of hand. Provide plenty of immediate feedback so that new employees can learn from their mistakes.

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IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Aug 26, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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