I have a new staff member joining my team next week, what should I do to ensure a warm welcome?
Dear Welcome Wagon,
Were it the 1970's, I'd say welcome them in with a Bloody Mary, a pack of smokes, and a pair of huge sunglasses. But alas, those days are over, although the super shades have regrettably reemerged as fashionable masks.
In my experience, welcomes may vary from a surly hello and total immersion into work the first day, to a thoughtful card and a plant - just make sure they have an office near a window or you'll be perceived as a cruel prankster.
It doesn't take a consultant or a think tank to understand the value of effectively integrating new employees into the workplace. This integration should boost employee performance and possibly even minimize staff turnover, as employees are less likely to leave a welcoming environment.
First, ask yourself what does the new member need to be comfortable and do the job he/she was hired for? There is nothing worse than coming into a new office that is disheveled with no computer access, office supplies, chair, clean desk, or materials to read over in preparation for work.
To avoid this situation, the welcoming process really needs to begin once the person accepts the position. Supervisors should develop a notification system so that everyone from information technology to facilities maintenance can ensure new staff members have what they need to do the job when they arrive on the first day.
We can learn from our men and women in uniform here, as this is something the military does very well. Prior to a member going to a new assignment, they are handed a welcome package containing information about their job tasks and the local area so they can prepare for their first days at work. You can do the same.
In the packet of information, try to address the questions a new employee might have. The first is, where is everything? To answer this, include a map of the building's interior if available. If not, provide a one page descriptor of room numbers for important places like the bathroom, office supply room, kitchen, copy room, mail room, and various offices he/she may need to know about.
The packet should also include information about the division and office the new person belongs to. Nothing is worse that getting bossed around by a variety of people, only to find later you report to none of them. If the newcomer has management responsibilities, give them bios and position descriptions of the individuals they are managing as well as the "big rocks" being addressed by their staff. And make sure the person knows to whom he/she reports.
Each agency has a unique culture and often times, so does each office. Thus, it's important to inform the newcomer to these cultures. Are people hard-core environmentalists who'll be offended if you don't join their car pool? Does the staff all eat lunch together? Is teleworking encouraged or discouraged? Are the hours flexible? Is there a coffee or water club? Let the person know these things in advance so they don't make a bad first impression with the staff.
Once the new employee has been properly briefed, walk them around the facility to meet and greet others and get to know the building. Be adventurous and venture out of your row of cubicles and introduce them to others they will encounter periodically.
After he settles in at his desk and has time to read over materials, spend time with him. Go over the mission of the office and the agency, and walk through the ongoing projects and tasks he should be aware of, even if he doesn't play an active role.
The first week, set performance expectations and ensure that the new hire starts doing meaningful work as soon as possible. Most people want to feel like they are contributing and not just being kept busy. It is your opportunity to set the tone for the work ahead.
It's also best for managers to provide initial training and give and solicit feedback during the first 90 days.
Remember, hiring someone is the first step. Keeping and retaining a good staff member is the real challenge and the first 90 days have a tremendous impact on that. If you follow my advice, the newcomer won't be huddled by a messy desk with no computer access being ignored and thinking: "Did I make the right decision? Should I have stayed at my last job? Are these people all nuts?"
Yours in Gov,
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