Coaching: Make an effort to help new employees

When I receive e-mails from clients who are into the first weeks of a new job, the subject lines are so interesting and varied. Two contrasting examples recently hit my e-mail and set the boundaries for the rest. One said, “Love this job, what a great fit!”  The other, “Have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing here!”

Michael Watkins has written a very helpful book for people in new leadership positions, “The First 90 Days.” I wish business organizations had strong programs for the first 90 days with a new hire. This is a critical time that often determines whether the employee develops commitment to the job, her level of performance on the new job, whether she feels comfort or friction within the culture. This is the golden opportunity for imbedding the seeds for effective working relationships throughout the company.

Beyond all that, a new employee’s early days present you with a free public relations opportunity – or a lot of stains on your company’s reputation. “How’s the job going?”  Hundreds of people will ask that when someone takes a new position with your organization. What kind of response do you want spread around town?

Senior management within organizations might put more of their hearts and minds into the orientation that a new employee will experience. Owners of firms have sat in my office and said many times, “Well, my head of marketing (or whatever) resigned but at least he agreed to stay on to train his replacement. I get a little edgy when I hear this, and ask a lot of questions of my client. First of all, do you really want someone who’s abandoning your organization to be mentoring a fresh, new member of the team?  Doesn’t anyone else in the place know that job? (Many times the answer is “no,” and that’s scary in itself.)

What does the training program look like? Is anyone else involved?

Training is usually underdone and undervalued. Everyone’s busy and, to many, it seems like a thankless job loaded on top of an already full plate. New hires have sometimes been handed manuals to read on the first few days. “Let me know if you have any questions.”

People have said the leaders from CEO on down were in on the interview process, but they haven’t seen hide nor hair of them since.

If the orientation period hasn’t been well designed, the poor new person (who wants to learn and achieve) will probably early on start hearing all the “underground” rumors and shoddy advice about “What’s really going on around here.” “Better stay on Charlie’s good side – he’s the one with all the power.” And so on. 

The transition into a new job like any other big change is stressful in itself, even under the best of conditions. Many of my clients want coaching during the “new job” experience, and of course, that’s good for my practice. Even better for the business community though, would be the usual and customary practice of offering in-house mentoring/coaching to all new hires as well as people moving into new leadership positions.

There are organizations that have thoughtfully developed such programs, introduce them well and evaluate them frequently. Performance is heightened, new employees feel at home and cared for early on, and you can bet they have positive responses for those hundreds of people asking about the new job. Energetic professional relationships begin developing right then. People feel engaged and commitment grows. That’s a far cry from sitting alone with a manual wondering where people go for lunch.

If you have an effective system for providing a great start, my hat is off to you. If you want to strengthen your program, or begin from scratch designing one, pull together people from across your organization. Have conversations about their early experiences, what they found helpful and what was missing. Include veterans as well as those in their first year. Get a strong team together and look for best practices throughout the country, or globally for that matter.

Charge the team with making your program reflect the vision and mission of your organization. Recruit and thoroughly train volunteer mentors or coaches. And, of course, measure the results and stay close so you can make modifications as you go. 

Investing in attracting and keeping the best people – what could be more important? General Colin Powell said in his Leadership Primer: “Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”



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