This morning I woke at 04:45 AM, which is relatively early for me. The Sun had just shown its happy face over the sea, the cherry trees waved in rhythm to the small breeze. Sights that are so very typical for the beautiful Danish landscape in the summertime. It was like stepping into a Morten Korch movie, which of course tells you nothing. In this wholesome moment of relaxation, I quickly thought back to when I got hired at an American company. Especially the day I signed the contract and the feeling of deliverance that went through my body at that very moment. A sense of joy and excitement swept my mind. The belief that all my hopes, dreams, and ambitions were coming true was awakened.
It was the beginning of my Moment of Power. I felt I could run a marathon wearing flippers, that I could climb Mount Everest in flip-flops and then casually ski down the mountain when I had been at the top. In short, I COULD DO ANYTHING! When I went out of the door (or slightly danced is more correct), I was happy, excited, and saw the world as my playground. The high from my Moment of Power was still in me. However, the moment was not to last and disappeared the moment I stepped through the door at my current job: REALITY HAD HIT! I had to end my current job, and the new job – the dream job – was two long months away! It was very anticlimactic. I wanted to start NOW!
The hours became days, the days became weeks, and I slowly felt the joy of my new employment started to feel like a cocktail mixed with nervousness, anxiety and many unanswered questions. I had questions like “Will I succeed?” and “Who are my new colleagues?” and “What will my boss be like?” and lastly “How will my new life be?” That list was not at all exhaustive. A tsunami of questions flooded me and the anxiety increased exponentially. I tried to remedy this by using much time chasing the information I felt I needed. But it felt like I was hunting ants with a shotgun. In other words, I did not know exactly where to look.
The day came: I started – and I was like a mixed bag of sour and sweet candy. A man filled with confusing and conflicting emotions. But why was that?
Before this very special Day 1, I had not heard a word from my new employer. I did not know what to expect at all and at the same time, I felt enormous pressure. I felt terrified, like a prisoner who had to step into the prison courtyard for the first time. It would be best for me, since I work with onboarding now, to make this into a cautionary tale of the lack of onboarding. To tell you that I quit after 45 days as research shows is what usually happens. The truth is though, that I ended up working there for three years. However, the beginning of my employment stuck with me after all these years and my conclusion is that the start of my work could have gone better. I could also have left after the first day, as 4% of new hires do, since I was extremely nervous. I did show up on day two. And three. And so on.
If you take anything from my story, then it should be that when we hire new employees, then we have to take advantage of their Moment of Power. This is both for their sake and for yours. Please help the employee to get the feeling of safety by giving them the knowledge they crave, and to get better integrated through the SKI model. It does not require much talent and it costs you a minimum of time. You do not even need to have a dedicated platform to do so!
As an extra help to you, I have made a list of 6 things you as the manager, the boss or whatever your title is, can do to make sure that your new employee does not meet up the first day as a bundle of nerves.
- Contact the new employee a minimum every two weeks. This gives them the chance to ask for information if they feel the need. You can hear how they are doing, ask them if they have any concerns or what makes them excited. You can also get one of their future colleagues to call once in a while. This, as an extra bonus, opens up for a more informal introduction to how it is working at the company.
- The employees want to know about their new workplace, so give them the opportunity to read, watch or listen to the company’s history. Share the company’s values and tell the employees how to integrate them into their new job function. Show them how the place looks, where the meeting rooms are located and how to book them. If you have a coffee machine with more options than ‘a cup of regular Joe’ then show a video of how to use it.
- Make sure that all the practical issues are solved! The employees need to know the parking facilities, if there is room for their bike or anything else they need to know. Share public transportation possibilities in case you have learned that that is the employee’s primary form of transportation. Practicality is also making sure that tools to actually work are ordered, installed and ready. A mobile phone is better with a working SIM card and the PIN code to unlock it. The same goes for a computer. If you are using the MS Office suite, then install it and make sure everything is set before the first day.
- Tell them what will happen the first day. The new employees need to know what is going to happen, whom they will meet and when lunchtime is. Would it be a good idea to prepare for a short introduction of oneself to all the new colleagues? Or are all the new colleagues going to present themselves to the new hire? Is there going to be a mentor or buddy assigned and who is that going to be? Who is to be contacted in case of an emergency on the way to work? You know all this, but they do not. Share the information to give them ease and remove any potential nervousness.
Think of Onboarding Like Any Other Project
Integrating new colleagues is basically like any other project. You want to know where you are and what you need before you can begin the recruiting process. Because yes, it is harder to search for people or tools if you do not know what to look for and why.
Mapping which competencies to look for gives you the overview of your current situation. The next step is to define the goal or purpose of the project, e.g., hiring the employee. Goals or destinations for our projects make it easier for us to actually work towards the said goal.
Hiring a new employee is project management, all in all. You want an overall strategy so you know which tactics are best to apply for the optimal result for both you as a company and for the new hire.
Structure a process that helps develop relationships alongside the economics in getting the integration done the right way the first time.