Easing new staff into a start-up with a tailored induction programme can help ensure their long-term commitment to the company, says Lyndsey Simpson
We have all at some point in our lives been the new starter, feeling nervous and potentially uncomfortable as we enter our place of work for the very first time. Those first few steps play a major part in shaping the success of your future. Equally, the quality of the business’s induction process is likely to have a huge impact on the time it takes for you to become settled and begin to deliver the value that you were hired to deliver.
There probably aren’t many people reading this column who currently find themselves in this position now. I suspect you now find yourselves on the other side of the equation. As the employer, you’ll be wishing that somebody you hire could be competent at their job by day two. As a business owner and entrepreneur myself, I can’t help but sympathise with this. In my business, The Curve Group, we are currently hiring, on average, 60 new team members a year. This is complemented by our strategy of hiring on attributes and attitude rather than on industry skill and experience. In that sense, you could say we are making a rod for our own back by having to induct and train everyone almost from scratch. However, it does mean I can comment from first-hand experience about what has worked for us, which should hopefully provide some ideas to take forward into your own businesses.
There are many different ways, structures and tools that you can use to on-board new starters into your business. Before I go into this in more detail, it’s worth stressing that there is no one set way of doing things. All of our businesses are different, as are the people we employ, so it would be wrong to suggest that a one-size-fits-all policy can be applied to all new-starter inductions. Appreciating this point allows you to explore what people really need in those early stages of their new careers and enables you to tailor their induction to suit any personal learning requirements they may have.
When writing an induction programme, the first thing to do is to place yourself in those new starters’ shoes. If you were joining your business, what would you want to know? If you’re not sure of the answer to this, ask anyone who has joined you in the last 12 months what they wished they had known in the first month. I bet you end up with a rather long list.
If you can, let them know what their induction programme will entail before they arrive on that first day, so they can prepare the specific questions that they may want to ask in advance and feel comfortable that they understand what they will be doing. With a pre-defined structured plan, your new employees will know exactly where they need to be at any given time and won’t feel like they are just awkwardly waiting around for somebody to give them something to do.
Have someone meet them and talk them through the induction plan as soon as they arrive and assign them a “buddy” to whom they can direct all their little questions. A friendly face from the outset may seem like a small thing, but giving them that point of reference will really help to alleviate any initial concerns that they might have.
As far as the actual induction goes, it has to start from the top. Every first day should include a meeting with – or a presentation by – one of the owners or leaders of the business who will share the company’s values and mission, reason for being and ambition for the future. The employee shouldn’t be dumped straight into a walkthrough of how the photocopier works. Win their hearts first and then explain that you are going to need them to use their heads over the coming days and weeks to absorb a lot of information.
You may already have in your mind some members of staff to deliver the bulk of the induction training, but plan, if possible, to have lots of different members of your business deliver mini training topics along with sharing their role. Exposing people to a selection of new faces rather than just one or two immediately allows them to feel at ease by helping them to learn names, hear about different experiences and views and just generally feel more comfortable around their new team. These people don’t need to be qualified in delivering training. The purpose of this is as much about aiding the settling-in process as it is about specific training needs. Remember, the more quickly somebody feels comfortable, the more quickly they will be able to deliver for your business.
When planning your induction programme, break it down into activities that must be learned. Day one should always be the same company-wide experience, regardless of the person’s role or level, but after that, it should all be about the individual. And don’t just think about the skills they need to learn. Think of the people they need to build relationships within that role – and use the induction process to facilitate that.
Effective induction programmes are crucial tools to enable new starters in your business to have the sort of impact both you and they are hoping they will have. While the temptation can be to move quickly – giving them the tools and letting them get on with it – taking the time to form a structured induction will, in the long term, be beneficial for all involved. You want your employees to share the same kind of passion and values that you do for your businesses, so take the time to teach them and ensure they feel comfortable settling into what will hopefully be a prosperous relationship for all involved.