My sons started school this week. They came home to tell me lots of stories of locker difficulties, new friends, great lunch food options and cool Mac technology. Their excitement, mixed with anxiety, reminded me of the new Contributing Team Members (CTM’s) we hired in the last month and how they probably had similar feelings.
Once you’ve been a part of an organization for a while (there’s no magic number here), it’s easy to get caught up in today and not really think about your humble workplace beginnings. Like the time you couldn’t find your way back to your work area or the bathroom? Or the time you couldn’t think of anything to say with someone in the break area? Or the code you needed to access a room, building or piece of office equipment, which just seemed to allude you at the wrong moment.
We’ve all been here. The newbie, the temp., the contractor (or whatever delightful term the rest of the staff endows upon the new person). So, how can we make this transition easier for new CTM’s? And why do we want to?
There have been lots of books, training materials and articles written about acclimating new CTM’s into the workplace. Here a few of my favorites from my new workplace experiences and those I provide for my teammates:
Assume nothing – start with basics, like critical locations (i.e. bathroom, break room, where to hang a coat). And think through the whole day. So, the person makes it through the morning of his/her first day…what about lunch or the meeting in the next building? Make sure you have someone to escort or at a minimum direct the new CTM. It’s the little details that do make a person begin to develop confidence in his/her new environment.
Create opportunities – with others to develop effective relationships; for learning more about the organization and the new person’s role; to showcase their skills. This takes a bit of preparation. For the first few weeks/months at least, the new CTM is like a sponge (if you made the right hire) and is absorbing whatever he/she can. Tap into this! Expose him/her to people that may or may not directly impact the new role and put him/her into situations in which success will prevail.
Give encouragement – we all know how important feedback is, especially in a new situation when the new CTM is exploring and growing. So, give praise as appropriate. But, more importantly than praise, give encouragement. For example, present a challenge to the new person with: I know this is going to be a new challenge for you and I’m sure you will add a valuable, new perspective to the process. I’d like you to share this perspective when you are done with the project. This encouragement sets the person up for success, because you show confidence in him/her.
The orientation process is like the beginning of any other type of relationship. Cultivate and nurture it and it will grow; ignore and neglect it and it will slowly die.