I went into the office for the first time last week. I’ve been working from home since that fateful day in March 2020, when my manager called and said, “Don’t come in this week.”
Life has been shaken and stirred since the last time I had to commute. And for me it also meant a new client, with new projects and a new office.
I admit, I was a little nervous. Would I find my way there…and around the campus? Where would I sit? Who would I see? What are the expectations for eating at my desk, talking within the group work area, and conference calls? Finally, how long does everyone stay at the end of the day?
So many worries!
Everything turned out fine, of course. But it started me thinking about how a new employee (or contractor) feels when they join your team.
If it’s a brand-new project it’s a bit easier, as you can start with a kick-off. Everyone is starting fresh, and you make your way forward together.
But if your resource is joining in the middle of the project, especially if they don’t know anyone or they’re new to projects in general, it can be more nerve-wracking. Not only are they worried about the logistical pieces (see above!), but they may also wonder if they’ll fit in, how much they’re expected to know already, and whether they’re going to fail miserably!
How can we help our new team members handle the pressure and settle into their role?
- First, have as much logistical information as possible. This may seem counterintuitive, but helping someone new figure out where the coffee machine is (and how to use it) will give them a sense of control, however small. And from there they can move forward.
- Next, let them know what to expect during the first few days. Your new person may be wondering if they’re getting a laptop, if they’re supposed to concentrate on taking all the training assigned to them, or if you expect them to start diving into action items right away.
- If there are a few key people in the organization—maybe an admin who knows how to navigate the operational waters—introduce them! Perhaps go a step farther and ask one of the go-to resources to keep an eye out for your team member. Most people feel good about being asked!
- Finally, be patient and answer all their questions. Remember that you’ve known Sue in Accounting for years, but someone who just started may not remember if it’s Sue or Susan…or Sam! They’re going to slip up. Be there to help, even if you’re busy.
I consider the first month of ramp-up time for a new resource as having a “puppy license.” This is the time when they’re drinking from the fire hose, their head is spinning, etc. Encourage your new resource to take advantage of this time to ask questions and meet as many people as possible. Because that time is all too short. You’ll need them to start taking control of their own meetings and schedule soon, rather than relying on you to guide them.
One final thought about helping someone transition in. The best way for them to realize they’re not the “new guy” anymore is to connect them with someone even newer. You may not have another new person (bonus if you do), but when your resource becomes the one with the answers, their view of where they fit in the team can shift in a big way.