Great companies are built by great people; that's why the ability to identify and attract talent is nearly as important as the ability to develop talent.
But why do some new employees get up to speed faster than others?
That's a good question, one Google spent considerable time and effort trying to answer. (As with determining the qualities of a great leader, it's no surprise that one of the most data-driven companies in the world put some of its analytical horsepower into finding the best way to get new employees off on the right foot.)
After running a number of surveys and experiments, Google developed a list of five simple onboarding tips for managers. To keep things simple -- and serve as a handy reminder -- the company emailed those tips to managers the night before a new employee started.
Here's the list:
1. Match the new hire with a peer buddy;
2. help the new hire build a social network;
3. set up employee onboarding check-ins once a month for the new hire's first six months;
4. encourage open dialogue; and, the real shocker,
5. meet your new hires on their first day.
As Adam Grant says, findings don't have to be earth-shattering to be useful. In many workplaces, obvious insights are the most powerful forces for change.
Meeting with new employees on their first day to talk about roles and responsibilities. Scheduling regular check-ins. Helping the person feel welcome and valued.
Yet managers who followed that advice got their new hires up to speed a month faster -- in Google terms, about 25 percent faster -- than those who did not.
And so can you.
What to say on an employee's first day.
Knowing how to do a job is certainly important, but approaching a job with the right perspective and right mindset -- in short, understanding the why -- means everything.
Let's break that down into four chunks.
1. Describe how the employee's job creates value.
No matter what your business, one or two things truly drive results. Maybe quality. Maybe service. Maybe being the low-cost provider. Maybe the personal connection you make with each individual customer, or the genuine sense of community. Other aspects are important, but for every business, one or two are absolutely make-or-break.
Then go further. Explain how the employee's job directly creates value. Explain how the employee's job directly helps the business create and sustain a competitive advantage.
Draw a clear and direct connection between the employee's efforts and the company's main purpose.
Think of it this way: Everyone tells new employees what to do. But relatively few take the time to explain why.
Even though why sets the stage for everything else.
2. Diagram the employee's internal and external customers.
No job exists in a vacuum. Understanding the needs of every constituent helps define not just the job, but also the way it should be done.
And, again, why it matters.
Take time to explain how the employee will create value for the business while serving all of his or her internal and external customers. Achieving that balance is often tricky -- so don't assume new employees will eventually figure it out on their own.
Besides, they shouldn't have to figure it out on their own.
In the process, you'll help the employee begin to build a social network.
3. Establish short-term goals, and set the stage for a feedback loop.
Early on, the shorter-term the better. That way the employee can start building a sense of momentum. That way they get to feel they've hit the ground running. That way they can tangibly see how their job creates value, and how their job affects external and internal customers.
And that way you can start giving constructive feedback right away.
Which gives those monthly onboarding check-ins a better sense of purpose than, "So, how are things going so far?"
4. Recap why the person was hired.
Now for the big finish.
Every employee is hired for one or two specific reasons, but often those reasons get lost in the fluff of the "we're looking for a impossibly well-rounded person" interview process.
Take the time to tell new employees why they were hired. Not just to fill a role. Not just to meet a need. But because of the specific skills, experience, attitude, and work ethic that person brings to your team.
And how you're looking forward to the difference those skills and attributes will make.
Do that, and you implicitly connect the dots between the individual, his or her job, and how that job creates value. Do that, and you implicitly connect the dots between internal and external customers.
Do that, and you explicitly recognize and praise a new employee.
On his or her first day.
What better tone could you possibly set?