Make New Employees Feel Welcome and Have a Good Start

Giving a new employee a friendly reception and a helping hand assures that he will become productive faster. It also helps him decide that yours is a good company, one with which he’ll stay. But even if there weren’t these very practical reasons for making a new employee feel at home and for helping him start on the right foot on his job, good manners would require it. Letting a new employee sink or swim in his new surroundings is as rude as it is costly.

This article explains how you can give a newcomer the kind of reception that will make him glad he came to your company, and that will shorten the time it takes him to master his new job.

Consider how the newcomer feels. A person’s first day with a company, even his first week, is almost always a tense time for him. Even though he (or she) may have a great deal of experience from previous work, the need to meet new people and to cope with new responsibilities is trying. That’s why the newcomer appreciates it so when his new co-workers give him a friendly reception and help familiarize him with the strange surroundings.

The formal company orientation. In most big companies, and in many smaller ones, the orientation of a new employee is not left to chance. His introduction to the company is commonly handled by the personnel or employment department. He is told the history of the company, who its officers and other key people are, what fringe benefits he will enjoy as a supplement to his salary or wage, what the company rules are, what his particular department does, and so on. He may be given a tour of the company’s facilities; he may receive a company manual or handbook to which he can refer later when he has questions.

This type of orientation can be very effective, especially if it is handled in a friendly and personal way. It still remains for the new employee’s immediate supervisor and co-workers, however, to help him feel at home.

Greeting the newcomer at the department level. A company-run or “front office” orientation, even a good one, is not enough. The real opportunity to give a new employee a courteous and helpful reception is when he comes to his department, the place where he will work. This is also the time when he will appreciate courteous treatment the most.

The new employee’s department head may not be the man (or woman) who will be his immediate supervisor. If that is the case, the department head may handle introductions and show the new employee around himself, or he may delegate some or all of this task to the supervisor. What is important is that there be a definite procedure; the employee should not get the feeling he is being passed along to get rid of him.

In a small company, of course, one person would probably take the new employee through the entire greeting and orientation procedure.

There are basically three kinds of information that an employee should get at this stage:

  1. Where things are
  2. Who the people are he’ll work with, and what they do
  3. What his job is, and how it is done.

There is no set order for covering these matters. In many cases, however, the employee will understand his assignment more easily if he gets the other information first.

Show the newcomer around. A simple courtesy that is some times glossed over is to show a new employee his way around and let him get his bearings. It is of prime importance, naturally, that he be shown his work area or location and that he know where to keep his tools or other equipment and where he gets supplies he will need. Here are some other locations, and directions, that a new employee might be hesitant to ask about, yet needs to know:

  • What is the most direct route from the parking lot to his work area?
  • Where does he hang his hat and coat, and keep his lunch if he brings it?
  • Where is the nearest water fountain? The nearest rest room?
  • How does he get to the nurse or first-aid room if he has to?
  • Where is the cafeteria, if there is one?
  • Is there a fire extinguisher or other emergency equipment nearby?

There are probably several special locations you will want to show to a new employee in your department, depending on the work you do there and the job he or she has. Make every effort to show him places, instead of just telling him where they are; he will find his way again much more easily. If certain areas are restricted for some reason, be sure to tell him about those so that he doesn’t get into trouble by accident.

Introduce a newcomer to people. One of the most inconsiderate things you can do to a new worker is to fail to introduce him to his co-workers. Someone must make it a point to see that he is properly introduced to the people with whom he will be dealing (for a detailed explanation of how to make introductions in a business office or plant, see pages 63-71). It will help if he is also given some idea of what the people do, as he is being introduced to them; this will make names and faces easier to remember, and give him a general idea of how his job fits in with others.

Give him clear and complete job instructions. In starting a new man off on his job, it is better to make your instructions too complete than to go to the other extreme and make them skimpy. The best path is in between; tell him enough so that he can go ahead with some confidence, but not so much that he is confused.

Here are some pointers on how to give a new employee his first on-the-job instructions:

  • Show him, as well as tell him. Whenever possible, show how a thing is done, in addition to explaining it. Seeing a thing done is the best way to learn it; seeing also helps a newcomer remember it.
  • Be sure he understands one step at a time. Find out, either by baying him do it or by asking him questions, whether he understands the point you have just made before you go on to the next. The pause after each point, and the repetition of it, helps him learn, and helps him keep steps clear in his mind.
  • Try to give him reasons for what he is supposed to do. It may take a little more of your time, but a new employee will appreciate it if you tell him why he is supposed to do each task, and do it a certain way. lie will understand more readily, and be happier, when he sees the logic behind his new duties. It may save you time in the long run, too, because he will be more apt to solve his own small problems when he knows why things work as they do.
  • Give him encouragement, not criticism. A person approaching a job for the first time is almost certain to be nervous and more sensitive to criticism than usual. Show a new employee that you are there to help him do well, and that you will give him a chance. It is a small courtesy that means a great deal to him just then.
  • Give a definite assignment or goal. It isn’t enough to tell a new employee how to do his job; you should complete your instructions by giving him a definite goal, a specific assignment. For example, in stead of saying, “Go ahead with this now, and see how you make out with it,” say something like, “I’ll let you go ahead with this pile of orders on your own, now that you have the hang of it. You should be able to finish by this afternoon. When you have done them all, tell me and I will go over them with you. Don’t turn them over to Pat until I check them, even if it means waiting until tomorrow morning.” This tells him what you want him to do, when you expect it to be done, and what he should not do. This is much more considerate than leaving him to guess or ask repeated questions.

Other information a new employee might be given at the department level includes:

  • The hours of his particular department or shift (including lunch time, coffee-break, clean-up time, and so on)
  • Whether he has to sign a time sheet or punch a clock, and where
  • Any special procedures for getting or using materials or tools for his job
  • Company policy concerning use of telephones or the like.

How should the supervisor treat the new employee? If you are to supervise, you must establish a cordial relationship with the new comer. The faster he learns his routine and becomes a satisfied happy co-worker, the sooner you benefit by having one more dependable worker to help increase the efficiency and output of those under your guidance. Here are some rules to follow:

  • Be friendly but not familiar. Your attitude should be one that makes the new employee feel he is welcome. Yet you must avoid a “chummy” approach. For one thing, this would invite a breakdown of authority. It might also embarrass the new employee, since he may be afraid to respond to a superior in such a friendly fashion, yet afraid that he will offend you if he doesn’t.
  • Be understanding about initial mistakes. Give a new employee a chance to show what he can do. Don’t jump on him when he makes mistakes at first. Use his early mistakes as a means of showing how the job should be done; help him learn from his errors, in other words.
  • Have things ready for him. One way you can show your consideration is to see that a new employee has a place to work at, that his work area is clean, and that he has the equipment he will need. If he is greeted by makeshift arrangements, and sees people scrambling to find him a decent printer or a tool that works, he will feel like an unwelcome intruder.

A newcomer appreciates help from his co-workers. Whether a person will feel welcome at his new company, and will enjoy his job and do it well, often depends on how he gets along with his fellow workers. They can make a big contribution to his morale and to his progress on the job if their reception of him is friendly and helpful. Here are a few courtesies you might observe as a “veteran” greeting a newcomer:

  • Offer to help or answer questions.Sooner or later, a new employee working with you will want to ask you a question or seek your advice on a problem that crops up in his new duties. Yet, either from shyness or a reluctance to bother you, he may hesitate or find it awkward to ask you a question about his work. You can make it easier for him by offering to help or answer questions he may have.Your offer should be a sincere one, of course; you should be ready to try to help when you can. However, you are not obliged, even by good manners, to give him all your time and neglect your own work. If a new (or old) employee takes advantage of your offer to help and makes excessive demands on your time, he is being inconsiderate. Your only choice in that case would be to say, nicely but firmly, that you have your own job to do and that he should see his supervisor if his instructions still aren’t clear. This should rarely be necessary, since most people will not impose on your time.
  • Respect his sense of privacy.Your curiosity about a new employee should not be allowed to get the best of you. Avoid “pumping” him, asking him personal questions; let him tell you about him self when and if he wants to. Nor should you unload on him your complaints about certain fellow workers or the job or the company or your personal life. He probably doesn’t want to hear your problems. Also, it is discourteous to run down the company or your superiors, especially in front of a new employee.Along the same lines, it is not good manners to draw a new employee aside and give him a nm-down of others in the office or department. You would be doing your co-workers an injustice by influencing the newcomer’s judgement of them. You are also being unfair to him; after all, most people want to make up their own minds about new acquaintances.
  • Don’t impose on him as “big brother.” If you give a newcomer too much help by taking him under your wing, you may make him uncomfortable, and do him more harm than good. He may not want that much help; he may prefer to learn his own way. He may also feel that you are imposing yourself on him, yet be unable to tell you so nicely. And you could be making it difficult for him to make his own Mends in his own time.
  • Don’t make fun of a beginner or his mistakes. It is only natural that a newcomer in any situation will be humiliated if he is laughed at or made fun of. Even though a new employee may commit ludicrous errors or have quirks or mannerisms you think funny, don’t have the bad manners to ridicule him. Even laughter that is meant to be with him and not at him, or that is intended as friendly support, is dangerous, since you aren’t sure that he will take it that way.
  • Invite him to lunch on his first day. A good start towards friendly relations can be made by inviting a new employee to have lunch with you. If there is a group that usually eats together, inviting the newcomer along will help him to get to know several people at one time. If there is no regular group, perhaps a few employees could arrange to eat together that day. Even if an individual employee probably the one with whom the newcomer works most directly— makes the offer, the new employee will appreciate the fact that he has someone to eat with. If the supervisor makes it a practice to take a new employee to lunch on his first day there, wait until the second day.

In addition to providing an opportunity to get acquainted, inviting the newcomer to lunch also gives you a chance to offer him some helpful advice. For example, you can tell him about the good eating places in the neighbourhood and what their price ranges are; what shopping places can be reached during the lunch period; what points 0 interest (parks, museums, or the like) are nearby; and so on. If you eat in a company cafeteria, you can show him the ropes there— where different types of food are served, whether there are “specials,” what to do with dishes and trays, and so on.

It isn’t necessary to give the new employee the impression that you expect him to join you or your group every day for lunch. In fact, it’s best if you don’t try to hurry personal alliances and friendships. Word your first-day invitation so that it is clear you mean just that day, as a way to break the ice. If yours is a department or office in which everyone regularly eats together as a group, then of course your first invitation would be a permanent one. An invitation may even be unnecessary in this situation.

Ordinarily, the newcomer should expect to pay for his own lunch when he is invited to join co-workers. To avoid possible confusion and embarrassment, whoever does the inviting should make it clear that lunch will be “Dutch treat.”

Happy Hiring! 🙂

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