Invest In Your People

by Seth Miller

A Guide for Retaining Skilled Professionals

Companies hire new employees every day. The reactions employees have to negative work experiences are unpredictable. Some employees will be thankful to have a job and accept anything that happens while others may immediately decide that this isn’t the right place for them and continue to look for another job. There is a unique opportunity for an employer to structure their new employee’s environment and significantly increase the retention period and return on investment of that employee.

There is always room for improvement for the on-boarding process for new hires. Some solutions are simple and require little effort while others may require extensive coordination and resources. This article written with the information technologist in mind but applies in general to any skilled professional. An employer should consider the following points when looking at their new employee on-boarding process:

  • The first day is uncomfortable and sometimes frightening. Treat the new employee like you would a high profile dinner guest.
  • If your new employee loves what the company does, they will consider themself a part of it. Sell your new employee on the product or service they are helping to produce.
  • Establish familiarity as quickly as possible.
  • New employees are hired because they fill a need. Make them feel needed.
  • Get your employee’s physical environment set up before they start so they don’t waste precious time waiting for basic things like phone and email.
  • Documented processes are repeatable and quick to learn.
  • Every day on the payroll counts. Get your new employee acclimated and connected as soon as possible.

  • There are specific tasks an employer can do to accomplish these points. These tasks by themselves may seem pointless in some cases but in combination can have a profound effect. The current economic climate indicates an employer’s market when it comes to human capital. That may be the case for unskilled labor but for skilled professionals, especially in information technology your most valuable employees have a plethora of employers to choose from. Moreover, these skilled employees are likely looking for more than salary. They are highly motivated and focused on their career. They are looking for an employer that has their interests at heart and are willing to show it.

    The following points focus on specific tasks employers should perform to make sure the highly coveted resources companies are looking for remain a resource for an extended period of time and produce a maximum return on the significant investment it costs to hire skilled employees.

    Act quickly. Employees who are invested in the company they work for and believe in what they are helping to produce are much more effective at their job, have a more positive impact on those around them and will last longer as a resource for the company. Employers should seriously consider what happens in the first sensitive moments of an employee coming on to the company’s payroll. Once the moment passes and an employee becomes indifferent or jaded, the chances of pulling them back from that brink are very low.

    Make your mission your employee’s mission. There was tremendous thought put into your company’s logo, vision statement, mission, etc. and it has significant meaning to many within the company. It should be thoroughly explained what the origin and meaning of these statements are and to understand how they should affect the employee.

    Babysit your employee, at least for the first day. Your company probably has a new employee orientation of some kind. Once the orientation meeting completes, there should be a clear direction on where the employee should go and what they should do. The manager responsible for that employee or a delegate should be waiting to take over where HR leaves off. The actions taken for the new hire following the initial barrage of information regarding benefits, code of conduct and myriad do’s and don’ts is important to instill confidence.

    Take your new employee on a tour. Becoming acclimated to the physical surroundings of a place one will be spending eight or more hours a day is important. The new hire should be taken on a tour of the campus in which they will be working and shown the different division areas, cafeterias, popular meeting rooms, lobbies, restrooms, locker rooms, stairwells and elevators, emergency exits, coffee stations, gyms, relaxation areas and their work area. Printed maps should also be provided, especially for the conference rooms.

    Take your new employee on a virtual tour. Becoming familiar with virtual surroundings is just as important as being familiar with physical surroundings. The websites the new hire needs to be familiar with to function properly are too numerous to cover in one day. A schedule should be set throughout the first two weeks to train the new hire on how to use the intranet, file sharing, ticket tracking, change management, expense reporting, etc. The types of applications the new hire will need to be trained on will need to be catered to their position but the training schedule should be in place before their first day.

    Introduce them to their new home. The new hire’s cube or office will be their second home for the foreseeable future. Any items to help the new hire to be successful should be neatly stocked before they enter their cube or office for the first time. The items should include but are not limited to; writing utensils, scissors, push/T pins, white board markers and eraser, hangers, keys for lockable cabinets, hanging and manila folders, notepads, trash can, docking station, monitor(s), phone, wireless headset, shelving for books/files and at least one extra power strip or equivalent available outlets.

    Your new employee will be making copies, sending faxes and assembling documents the first day. There will likely need to be additional paperwork in the days and weeks following the hire date. The new hire should have access to and be shown how to use the copy machine, fax machine, etc. They should also be shown where to find the supplies to use those utilities such as; paper, staples, paper clips, rubber bands, etc.

    Safety first. Standard safety procedures should be shown to the new hire within the first week of their hire date. This should include showing the location of the tornado shelter areas, emergency evacuation procedures and first aid kit location and use. If there are regularly scheduled safety meetings or evacuation drills, the employee should immediately be scheduled to attend them.

    Do the heavy lifting when it comes to introductions. Walking into a room full of strangers turns most people off, especially introverts. A special effort should be made both by management and teammates to introduce themselves to the new hire during the first month. Meetings should be scheduled and prioritized with management and team leads for official introductions to the new hire through their manager.

    Introduce your new employee to the “go-to” person. Despite any preparation, the new hire will inevitably need additional supplies, access and questions answered. The new hire should be introduced to the point of contact that handles general requests and access to supplies. In most offices, this would be the office administrator or executive assistant.

    Get your new hire connected. Professionals rarely work exclusively within their own group. There will inevitably be questions about their job that will best be answered by someone in another group. Proper communication channels such as ticketing or change management systems are critical for companies to function efficiently but a short term exception should be in place for new hires. A contact list should be made available with a minimum of one point of contact for each group and a description of the types of issues the group is responsible for. This list should include group leads, divisional contacts and facilities management. These points of contact should be made aware that they should take special care to make themselves available for any questions a new hire may have.

    Caffeine is the fuel that drives Corporate America. New hires should be shown the locations of the coffee/tea stations nearest to their cube/office. They should be instructed on office etiquette for these stations and shown how to refill the coffee pots when they do not contain enough coffee for another full cup. They should also be shown the location and method of refilling the supplies such as coffee grounds, filters, creamer, sweetener, utensils, etc.

    No office environment is complete without ubiquitous meetings. Meetings are a necessary part of a successful company and every employee and contractor will need to participate. Meetings can range from productive to a waste of resources and time depending on the planning, participation and preparation of the attendees. Meeting etiquette should be published and every new hire should be trained or otherwise made aware of it within the first week of their hire date.

    The new employee’s phone should not be a distraction. Other than setting up voicemail, the phone the new hire will be using should be properly configured and fully functioning before their first day. This should include having access to and training on the online applications used to change the functionality of the phone system. If the new hire will have a cell phone and/or pager, these should be fully functional as well. The numbers for each device should be published in the company directories under the new hire’s account. Similarly, all necessary email addresses should be created and fully functional.

    Online conferencing allows us instantaneous access to the rest of the world. Information both for phone and internet conferencing should be set up properly under the new hire’s account. Proper access should be in place prior to the new hire’s first day. If the conference technologies require training, it should be scheduled ahead of the hire date but not within the first two weeks of employment.

    A computer that doesn’t work properly is just a very expensive paperweight. Most new hires will be given a laptop or desktop. Having the new hire configure their computer on their first day is confusing and time consuming. If necessary, the manager or employees within the new hire’s group may need to do additional configuration of their computer once is turned over from the desktop support group. The computer should be set up with all necessary software and permissions at the time the new hire sits at their desk for the first time. Inevitably, additional software will be required or preferred by the new hire. The new hire should be shown how to acquire or download additional software. It should also be made clear what is and is not allowed to be installed according to company, division, group or unwritten policy.

    Where does your employee put and retrieve files? Your company network probably contains a plethora of share drives and file repositories. Understanding the basic functionality and methods of access to the drives relevant to the new hire should be explained or written down. While a new hire should have basic knowledge on how to use email and simple file systems, the corporate folder structure and expectations of the new hire on using certain folders for certain tasks should be explained or included in training. Most groups will have internal documents, scripts, configuration files and check lists. These should be established in a repository or at least in a shared directory and given to the new hire to share in the benefit of their team’s experience.

    Ask your employees to speak up and take their opinions seriously. In order for a new hire to feel like they are a part of the company they work for, they must feel like their opinion is received and fully considered. The company should establish an outlet of communication between employees and decision makers for the company via a forum, idea box, listserv, etc. The personnel monitoring this outlet should consider every opinion and idea and provide feedback to the submitter regardless of the action taken. New hires should immediately be shown how to use this outlet and encouraged to participate in the evolution of the company.

    Seeing one’s name in print is a powerful thing. While it may not seem like much, seeing one’s name in print has an emotional impact and establishes a feeling of ownership and responsibility. The new hire’s cube or office should have their name spelled correctly and in place within the cube placard or on their desk. There should also be a personal welcome letter bearing their name on quality paper, signed in ink and personalized to their position preferably written by their manager.

    Give your new employee a gift to make them feel like an important part of the team. A small but meaningful gift can go a long way to establishing a strong relationship with someone. A thoughtful gift should await the new hire with the intention of immediately establishing a connection with the company while at the same time inculcating an expectation of excellence from them.

    It is in the interest of all parties that the employer invest in their employees, especially in the beginning of the employee’s tenure when simple tasks done can have the greatest impact. Make sure the company’s mission becomes the employee’s mission. Act quickly on the first day and make sure there is clear direction from the start. Show your new employee around both the physical and virtual campus so they become acclimated to their new environment. Even if your new employee is a number cruncher or a button pusher, put them in front of their colleagues and make sure they know who to talk to when they need something. Have phones, computers and websites set up ahead of time so your new resource can get started in their new job right away. Listen to, consider and when appropriate implement your employee’s ideas. Make sure your employee understands the office etiquette when it comes to things like meetings and coffee stations. Finally, go beyond your new employee’s expectations by having their workspace adorned with their name, a welcome letter and a special gift to offer a warm welcome.

    Career professionals, especially at the mid and senior level, are some of the most sought after individuals in the work force. These individuals need to find value beyond a good salary in the company they choose to work for. Establishing a cohesive and value driven relationship immediately between an employee and the company will yield employee loyalty, higher quality and quantity of work and better morale from the employee and reduce the risk of losing a valuable investment. Despite the unemployment rate, high quality professionals are difficult to find and even more difficult to retain. When investing in personnel, an employer should consider how to establish an investment from the new employee in the company and to do it as quickly as possible. When done with effort and sincerity, relatively easy tasks done by an employer to invest in their employees can pay off in dividends for years.