You’re enthusiastic and optimistic. It is your new hire’s first day, and you want to ensure their success. How do you accomplish this goal? There are some practical and applicable steps you can take in the first 90 days to make a positive impression on your employee, help them learn their new position well, and set them up for the growth and opportunities to come.
Michael D. Watkins, co-founder of leadership development company Genesis Advisers and author of “The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter” shared in a 2014 article that “research shows that what you do early on during a job transition is what matters most.” Here arefive actions you can take to help retain your employee and let both of you get the most out of his or her new position.
1. Clarify their role, expectations, and short- and long-term goals.
Job descriptions are written with the best of intentions in terms of accuracy and comprehensiveness. However, throughout the interview process and depending on whom you hire, the goals and scope could shift. Clarify these changes early.
Invite the new hire to ask questions about what he or she has learned in weekly or bi-weekly check-ins as well as quarterly meetings to revisit your and the employee’s goals. Choose three of the most critical components of his or her work to assess within the first 90 days. Make sure that the goals are quantifiable, paramount to the employee’s success and significant enough that he or she is pushed to work toward them.
2. Discuss organizational culture.
The more time you take at the beginning to set up your new hire for success, the more prepared he or she will be to integrate successfully into the department. I had a colleague who entered our office like a bull in a china shop, assuming that a certain way of behaving was acceptable. However, his actions left an unfortunate impression on the majority of my colleagues, preventing everyone from moving toward our collective goals. Relationships affect your bottom line, and when you prioritize your and your colleagues’ relationships with the new hire early, success will follow.
3. Make a list of 10 people with whom you would like them to meet.
Think vertically and horizontally. Task the new hire with scheduling these meetings within the first 30 days, but encourage him or her to complete them within the first 90 days. You may want to schedule a few of them yourself to start.
These meetings could be specific to a project the new hire will be working on or simply for the purpose of connection and integration. Encourage him or her to ask for recommendations for others with whom to speak. Prompt your new employee to ask these individuals questions about their experiences at the company, their role, possible partnership opportunities and how to succeed.
Next, take some time in a one-on-one check-in to ask the employee about their conversations. With whom did they have the best connection? What did they learn? What ideas came out of their conversations? Lastly, encourage them to continue identifying individuals within your organization, industry or even local communities with whom to meet. As they gain skills and confidence, their questions will be more targeted and could elicit partnerships or secure business ventures. Building a solid network takes time and energy, but if your new hire knows you value that work, he or she will be more inclined to put in that effort.
4. Ask them to tackle a project or challenge the organization is facing.
When I started my first position after graduate school, I was given two projects to work on independently, including building a mentoring program from scratch. My supervisor gave me the framework and scope of the projects and checked in frequently but also gave me the leeway I needed to consider next steps, reach out to individuals who could help and develop solutions as a result of my own research and thinking. I was able to immediately contribute to the department, make an impact, and collaborate with individuals in my department and across the institution. Your new hire can similarly build confidence and grow in his or her loyalty toward your company at the same time.
5. Pick two skills you want them to focus on improving.
Perhaps one skill could be technical (i.e., mastering the content management software) and the other soft (i.e., socializing regularly with colleagues to build relationships). Make sure that the goals are small and manageable and that there is a way for them to communicate their progress with you. If you prompt them to think about their 90-day professional development plan prior to their arrival, you can almost guarantee that they will have a greater sense of control and awareness. This conversation can then be an empowering two-sided process.
New employees feel pressured to navigate their new organization and balance blending in with standing out. You can ensure that their first 90 days enable success in both areas with these five tips. You have partners in this onboarding process: your colleagues; human resources; and, most importantly, the employees themselves! If you engage with them early and often, while also listening, learning about their experience and being present, you are sure to create a successful 90 days.