In today’s fast paced economy, few companies can afford a lengthy lull in productivity while new hires learn their job. Nor can they afford to have a new employee leave within the first year for failing to meet the manager’s expectations. Hiring mistakes are costly and avoidable. It comes down to managing expectations on both sides of the onboarding equation. Here are three myths to debunk in order to set realistic expectations:
Myth One: The Learning Curve
Everyone anticipates a learning curve of sorts. However talented or experienced, it is reasonable to expect a ramp up time for new hires from several weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the job. New hires not only need to learn new technology, procedures and policies, but they also need to acclimatize to the company culture, and get to know coworkers, subordinates and/or management.
In fact the learning curve is seldom a curve, or simple exponential graph of increasing understanding and mastery of the job. It is usually a learning roller coaster. An employee enters an organization eager and keen, brimming with energy. He or she is bombarded with information, technology and new people, and becomes overwhelmed and frustrated, hitting rock bottom before starting to straighten out and pull ahead in productivity and mutual satisfaction.
Be prepared to offer additional support and encouragement during the phase of the learning “curve” that almost all new hires encounter – the energy ride downwards before bottoming out after the initial uphill climb. Make adjustments for this time. There is often a moment of clarity between 4 to 8 weeks when all the pieces start to fit together to make intuitive sense for a new hire. This is not the end of the coaster ride. Hang in there. Understand that there will be a return on your investment of patience.
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Myth Two: Newcomers Need Information and Tools
The typical onboarding experience includes a whirlwind office tour and cursory random introductions to people on the first day, followed by various training sessions, technical manuals, reports, emails or other types of information dumping. There is now substantial evidence proving that the quickest and most successful onboarding process focuses on developing relations rather than information. Instead of asking, “What does my new hire need to know?” ask, “Who does my newcomer need to know?”
Help new hires establish a network of relationships with co-workers that they can tap in order to figure out the real issues that need to be addressed, the essential politics/culture, and the important people they need to know on an ongoing basis.
New hires typically lack the ability to prioritize the information they encounter. They run the risk of seeing everything as important. Compounded by their eagerness to please, they exhaust themselves trying to comprehend every instruction, report and database they encounter. Relationships with co-workers, on the other hand, help new hires feel more connected to the organization, which in turn drives satisfaction and commitment.
Myth Three: New Hires are a Drain on Productivity
Initially, new hires are a drain on productivity, drawing a salary, incurring training and orientation expenses, and consuming co-workers’ time. New hires also represent one of the most underutilized assets in organizations – a source of creativity, fresh ideas and industry contacts. However, they may not have the confidence or the network to share those fresh ideas initially unless supported to do so.
New hires often have a hard time getting their ideas accepted. This problem is particularly true in successful organizations with strong cultures. New hires are not heard until they’ve gained a degree of organizational visibility. The key is to tap into fresh ideas and insights of new employees before they adopt existing routines or simply give up trying to push their ideas uphill. Leverage the creativity of new hires to become more innovative. This way companies can enjoy a much more immediate return on their investment.