How to Make New Staff Members Feel Part of the Workplace

For new employees, those early days in your organisation can be more of a test of survival than a time of growth and development. Often, new staff members are thrown into the workplace and expected to succeed with little support. It's no wonder that many of them become disillusioned. How newcomers progress depends on many variables, but research shows that the help they receive in the early days from management and colleagues makes all the difference.

1. Begin the familiarisation process immediately
Instigate procedures that will enable new staff members to become familiar with important features of the organisation and its administration. For example, newcomers should:

  • undertake a guided tour of the company, particularly those areas with which they will have most contact, such as the administration area, storeroom and staff facilities.
  • meet formally and socially with staff colleagues, especially those with whom they will be working closely.
  • read relevant documents, such as the staff handbook, policy guidelines, safety instructions, annual reports, and the like.
  • be briefed on procedures, including office or factory routine, record-keeping, assessment, channels of communication, committee structures, and staff development.
These activities best take place before the newcomer officially takes up duty in the organisation.

2. Create a supportive atmosphere 
What is needed are managers and experienced staff members who are committed to being available to help newcomers as needed. Those who unite to meet the needs of beginners develop in that process structures of collegiality and collaboration that will also serve the organisation in other ways. Foster a warm climate of support.

3. Explain the job
Outline the exact work to be done and how the work fits into the overall activities of the workplace. Do not make it sound too difficult at first and don't overburden the new arrival with too much information and too many rules. At the start, provide tasks that are readily accomplished to ease the recent arrival into the new job.

4. Appoint a mentor
An experienced employee who is asked to serve as mentor or buddy for the new arrival provides the newcomer with friendship and open access to a colleague's expertise. Consider the support a mentor can provide:

  • Teaching the newcomer about the job through coaching, conversations, and demonstrations.
  • Guiding the newcomer through the unwritten rules of the organisation and in recognising group norms.
  • Advising about the quality of expected work and the nuances of company policies and procedures.
  • Counselling the newcomer if stressed, lonely, or in conflict with others.
  • Sponsoring or giving stature to the newcomer in negotiations with others.
  • Role modelling by providing an image of the effective professional or worker to which the newcomer can aspire.
  • Validating over time the newcomer's goals and aspirations.
  • Protecting the new arrival by being a buffer to the hazards of the company.
  • Motivating by providing feedback and encouragement.
  • Communicating openly with the newcomer so that all the other behaviours can be effective.

5. Schedule visits to other areas of the workplace
Once the employee has established reference points as to what it is like to be a worker in your organisation, structured visits to other departments can then be scheduled to enable the newcomer to observe how experienced employees handle specific issues and tasks.

6. Visit the newcomer's workplace regularly
Practical advice from experienced colleagues during the early days is best based on the newcomer's own experience. Therefore, arrange for regular visits with the aim of helping and working alongside, rather than judging or inspecting, the new employee. Give genuine feedback.

7. Provide assistance in identified areas of need
Research reveals that beginning employees commonly face similar problems in a new work environment. Work with your newcomers to pinpoint and remediate their specific areas of need, whether they be personal or professional in nature.

8. Make them feel important
Most newcomers feel uneasy, nervous, and out of place at first. Take time to greet them personally on their first day. Show an interest in them. Make them feel the company genuinely needs them. Ask questions and invite questions. Be sincere.

9. Provide opportunities for review and discussion
Show interest in the employee's progress through, firstly, formal sessions to review progress and to address concerns and, secondly, through informal discussions in a relaxed setting. Be generous with your comments, supportive, honest and sensitive, and let newcomers know that their efforts are appreciated.

Here’s an idea!
Make sure new staff hit the ground running — have an 'employment package' ready and waiting for them. It should include any necessary personnel forms; any written policies or an employee handbook; safety information; information on the benefits plan; information on pay schedules, sick days, and vacation time; marketing materials that will help new employees learn about the company quickly; a list of local restaurants for lunch; an employee directory; contact names in HR or personnel; and any other information that will help ease new employees into their new jobs.

Here’s another idea!
One organisation has fully embraced the concept of induction by asking some of its newly retired staff to return to help new members of staff to acclimatise. A retired staff association runs courses to help these retired staff members carry out effective induction and mentoring. This has a motivating effect on all staff, not the least of which are the new recruits and those who are retired.

Quotable quote
“First impressions are the lasting ones. The induction and orientation period is an emotionally charged time for the new employee and those early experiences imprint lasting memories.”

“Invest in new equipment and you usually spend a good deal of time & money ensuring that it’s properly installed and that it is quickly brought up to the planned performance levels which justified its acquisition. Preventative maintenance systems are operated to avoid breakdowns. Detailed performance and cost records are kept of service, repairs and downtime. This care and attention to new equipment is unhappily in stark contrast to the haphazard way in which new employees are often inducted into their jobs. Inadequate training results in progress towards satisfactory per­formance being slow and erratic. A failure to explain rules and regulations can lead to serious misunder­standings and conflicts with colleagues or supervisors. Some new employees become disillusioned and resign; others may be dismissed for incompetence when an effective process of induction might well have resulted in success. Either way, avoidable and hidden costs arise. It's vital to operate effective induction systems."
— Alan Fowler in A Good Start

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This document does not constitute human resource or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should contact the HR Help Desk or seek professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content. © Wentworth Advantage Pty Ltd 2017