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Excite, Engage and Prepare Your New Employees
by Dave Neal

Even with today's high unemployment rates, companies can't take new employees for granted. It's not enough to put good people into good jobs. We have to excite, engage, and prepare them or they might say goodbye ... wasting lots of time and money. A little investment in preboarding and onboarding can make a big difference.

Preboarding happens before an employee's start date in a new job.

Recruiting: Selling the company is one thing--all the cool things you've done and plan to do, all the great professional opportunities and personal benefits you offer--, and this gets people excited. But you can start engaging people during recruiting by talking honestly about the company's challenges, improvement priorities, and the specific ways you need people to contribute to attain your mission and vision. Also talk about the training and development initiatives you use to get people up to speed. It might be an attractive differentiator from your competitors.

Interviewing: Continue engaging and preparing people during the job interview by being engaged and prepared yourself. Hiring managers send the wrong message when they're too casual, too spontaneous. Ask appropriate, behavioral questions that are relevant to the job. Avoid abstruse questions like: "If you were a dog, what kind would you be and why?" Allow time for candidate questions, and, again, be honest about the issues they are hired to help address. Consider providing a realistic job preview (warts-and-all) to reduce surprises.

After the Job Offer: What's happening during the days and weeks after someone accepts a job and starts work (besides them possibly continuing their job search)? Do you send out a welcome packet with some forms to fill out and some info about benefits, the smoking policy, and where to park? Do you do more than that? Smart companies find innovative ways to stay connected and make the most of this time. A new-hire website, for instance, is a great way to provide facts and tips, some well-produced videos, some interactive e-learning modules, and so on. Some companies even connect new hires to internal discussion groups, blogs, and social networking opportunities with other employees. Gen Y employees, in particular, lean naturally towards these types of interactions.

Onboarding happens in the first days and weeks on the job.

Orientation: New hires often spend their first day in a series of administrative chores, listening to presentations from the HR staff, filling out forms, watching a video, getting badged, taking a tour, maybe. More enlightened companies, however, are automating these administrative tasks with web-based tools and finding other ways to transform orientation. They're bringing in more people from outside HR, recognizing that managers and other stakeholders should share in the role. They're helping new hires understand the company's culture, how it makes money, how it delights customers, what it expects from employees, and what employees can expect back. They're building awareness, commitment, and competence from day one.

Week One: New employees should not feel abandoned or left to find their meaningful work. Set immediate, reasonably challenging development goals that give employees small wins they can build on. Give lots of constructive feedback. Involve managers and peers in ensuring new employees feel welcome, included, valued, and supported. In many ways, you're testing new employees and they're testing you.

Year One: When employees leave a company in the first year, it often boils down to them not feeling the love ... they don't feel engaged or they're frustrated by insufficient support to learn and succeed in the job. Employees need a fair amount of instruction and encouragement, depending on the complexity of the job. They need a blend of formal and informal development opportunities, which might include job-skills training, business training, self-study (online and/or hard copy), job shadowing, coaching (from the manager and peers), career mentoring, and so on. These early opportunities satisfy today's demanding employees and help them form great habits they'll carry forever.

Don't skimp on your preboarding and onboarding efforts, and don't treat new employees like they're lucky to have a job. They are ... but you'll be lucky if they stick around past the first year if you don't excite, engage, and prepare them from the start. Good luck!

Dave Neal has helped develop thousands of employees and managers in organizations around the world for over 15 years. He is a senior partner at 4th Street Training. Web: Email:



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