How to help your newly hired professionals make an early impact
Now that you’ve expended significant dollars and labor to hire a new professional to join your team, don’t let post-hiring activities fall short. When you do, you can miss opportunities for the new employee to make an early impact and become a vital member of the organization as quickly and effectively as possible.
Once hired, a new professional typically attends an orientation program that covers the do’s and don’ts of being an employee, often with a requisite introductory welcome from a senior leader. More elaborately, the professional’s supervisor might organize a multi-day or multi-week onboarding process, in which the new team member follows a schedule of prescribed meetings and activities to meet people and become familiar with the new work situation.
These are valuable as far as they go, but they may miss substantial opportunities. Beyond orientation and onboarding is a deeper, richer approach, which is to fully integrate the new professional into the team, in a way that allows the new member to make significant early contributions and supports the team to reshape itself in response.
Here is an outline of an integration approach for new professionals, with three components that you can activate concurrently or sequentially. Consider each of these proposals as ideas you can inserts into your organization’s carefully calibrated new-hire processes within the first months of a new professional’s tenure.
Encourage authentic, asset-focused contributions from your new team member
Newly hired professionals bring experience and expertise that are represented in a résumé, and that are then funneled through a job description (“We want to you apply what you know to take on this scope of responsibilities”), and then again through a set of objectives (“In the first year, we’d like you to do this and this”). Those alone may propel your new team member to dive right in with enthusiasm. But more is possible.
Professionals are multidimensional human beings. Given their life and work experiences, and the complexity of work challenges, consider inviting your new team member to:
- Reveal and use their passions and strengths in their new role. Beyond what is in their C.V., what does your new team member have deep, energetic passion to do? What strengths do they bring that can make a significant difference to the team and the organization? Invite your new professional to answer both questions—and look beyond the obvious responses you can find in their résumé. For instance: “I love bringing diverse people together to formulate fresh ideas.” “I’m really great at examining a problem from multiple angles, and then devising the best way forward.” The deft combination of applied passions and strengths can position a new team member to contribute even more.
- Invite their authentic and best contributions to the team and organization. This means: Provide your new professional with the opportunity to reflect on questions such as, “What contribution can I make that will have the greatest impact?”, “What am I most competent and confident to contribute?”, and “What, if anything, stands in the way of my best contribution?” This may call for a solitary reflection process, or one that happens as the new professional engages and learns with others. The key is to invite the professional to be authentic in their responses.
Design opportunities for your new professional to build meaningful, positive relationships
Think beyond perfunctory meet-and-greet occasions as you introduce the new professional to colleagues. Instead, frame the opportunity this way: “Our new team member will be collaborating with these individuals for many months, even years. How can we help our new colleague to build strong relationships at the outset?”
As your new professional meets one on one or in small groups with colleagues, consider inviting deeper conversations beyond getting to know each other personally and learning about domains of work. It can be enlightening to invite them to talk about questions such as:
- In a work context, what inspires you most, and why?
- How do you typically define success?
- When and how do you prefer to receive help?
- What do you want others to know about you?
- What values and virtues do you hold most dear at work, and why?
These and other questions like them can quickly create substantive connections between the new professional and their colleagues—and reveal valuable information that will serve them well as they work together.
To take the relationship-building further, consider posing scenarios or describing work cases to the new team member, and then asking: “What would you do in this situation?” “If you had been in our shoes, what would you have done?” “What experience or insights from your prior work might you apply in this case?” The intent isn’t to grill the new professional, or to turn this into an initiation test. Instead, cases and scenarios provide team members with the opportunity to learn about their new colleague’s thinking processes, their experience, their ways of approaching challenges—all of which will serve the team well in the future. In turn, consider inviting other team members to respond as well, to help the new colleague learn about their perspectives and experiences.
Structure the experience and learning that accompanies early work
As your new professional becomes immersed in early assignments, maximize their opportunity to make an impact and to learn.
Where possible, structure first assignments to take full advantage of:
- Their prior relevant experience: What have they done elsewhere that can add immediate value to addressing the current challenge?
- The fresh perspectives they offer: As a new player, what insights and ideas can they provide that others might not?
- Their passions and strengths: Beyond the experience in their résumé, what gifts can they offer to this assignment?
Use these factors as filters to determine which assignments to make first. In doing so, you’ll increase the likelihood that your new professional will make a substantial impact sooner.
As the new professional progresses through early work, they’ll learn as they go—how things work around here, who has certain information and influence, where to find resources, and more. Make the most of their learning by:
- Holding regular check-in conversations with the new colleague to ask: What are you learning so far? What, if anything, is different from what you expected? What questions do you have?
- Scheduling a deeper debrief after the assignment concludes: Are you satisfied with the impact you were able to make? If not, what would make a difference next time? Did you receive the support you needed to succeed? What are your biggest lessons from this experience?
By structuring the learning in this way, you’ll help your new professional to be even better prepared for assignments to come—and you’ll reinforce that you respect and value their contributions in their earliest days on the job.
Bringing a new colleague into your organization is a powerful opportunity. Design the early days well, and your new team member can integrate and make a positive impact quickly.
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