You are warmly welcome onboard
Induction is an important part of the working relationship, particularly because it sows the seeds of commitment and motivation. This is what makes for successful induction.
A new employee arrives at work with butterflies in their stomach. There’s a sense of excitement and anticipation for what’s to come. There are questions in the back of their mind: What kind of job is this really? What kind of colleagues are there in my team? How will I be received? Will the content of the job match the promises? How will I perform?
The week before, the new employee has received an information package in advance, which could be called the first week’s schedule. It sets out the programme for the first few days and the first day’s milestones, such as where to go, what time and who will meet then. The information pack also contains contact details for the supervisor and the HR department in case of any further questions.
First impressions are important.
A few days before the first day of work, the new employee asks their supervisor a few practical things, such as whether the workplace has a dress code and would it be possible to prepare for work in advance, for example, by reading some materials.
First impressions are important, the employee thinks, and wonders how to make a good impression. As everything is new, self-confidence may be tested when starting a new job. Of course, common sense tells you that the employer wanted you for this job. But when faced with something new, people tend to be more emotional and less rational.
A new employee sees a familiar face – they have already met their new supervisor at the job interview: “A warm welcome! I’ll show you around. Let’s go and get you an access card, email IDs and coffee. It’s really great to have you on our team!”
The supervisor takes the new employee to the office and introduces them to their new colleagues. The new employee is assigned a co-worker from their team who, alongside the supervisor, helps them, especially with practical matters.
After greetings and an introduction to colleagues, the supervisor assigns the new employee a workstation and a personal computer. A welcome email is sent to the new employee, telling them more about the job and the company, with useful links and contact details. Detailed instructions for the new recruit are posted on the company’s internal intranet, and the new recruit starts to familiarise themselves with the instructions.
This is where it starts – and everything looks good!
The spirit is relaxed and upbeat: this is where it starts – and everything looks good! During the following week, the tasks, implementation methods and objectives will be discussed in more detail. The first team meeting is tomorrow.
An induction perspective: be present
The supervisor knows that employee engagement starts from the first encounter. In fact, it almost doesn’t matter how many information packages and details are handed out to the employee if the people-to-people encounter is chilly.
The key point in induction is how well you can communicate to a new employee that “you are very welcome here, we have been looking forward to meeting you”. Who would be able to give 100% to a workplace that doesn’t even seem to be interested in their employee? If something about doing the job is left unsaid at the beginning, you can fix it later, but how do you fix the feeling of being unappreciated in the first few weeks?
In principle, the induction process is always the same: Get to know the organisation and the working culture. Get to know your colleagues and your team. Get to know your tools and job description.
The supervisor knows that it is their responsibility to induct the new employee. However, in this workplace, they have a handbook to help them, outlining the steps for a successful induction.
Induction is not the responsibility of only one person but the whole team
The supervisor is responsible for welcoming the employee, taking them to collect their tools and equipment, access permits and IDs, and introducing them to the team. They are also responsible for going through the work tasks and setting objectives. The supervisor has met this person during the recruitment process and has had a say in the selection.
However, in this company, induction is not the responsibility of only one person but the whole team. In addition, the HR department sends the new employee basic information about the employment relationship and the job. New employees attend an induction session joining the company in about a month’s time. There they will be given more details about the organisation’s strategy and business.
The genuine presence of a supervisor is important for the new employee.
The new employee is also assigned a contact person within the team, a co-worker, who will show them the practicalities, such as how to use the printer, find the coffee machine, and use the staff canteen. On the very first day, the whole team takes the new employee to lunch together to chat and get to know each other better. It’s a custom.
An important role of the supervisor is to maintain constant contact with the new employee during the first few days. This is done by regularly asking questions such as “how are you doing?”, “do you know how to proceed from this point onwards?” and “can I help?”. They have found that the best way to keep up to date is to sit down in the break room with a cup of coffee and have a chat. Being genuinely present is important because it’s surprisingly easy to say “I’m fine”, even when you’re all at sea.
The genuine presence of a supervisor is important for the new employee, but it is also important for the company. If you are left alone with your job from the start, you may start to apply the practices of your old job and not learn the working culture of your new one. Moreover, without proper induction, a new employee’s commitment may be half-hearted.
Induction starts with the job advertisement
In fact, the induction process has already started with the job advertisement, which has aroused the interest of the new employee. The impression of the new job has been completed during the job interviews. In the last round of job interviews, the meeting also included the supervisor and two team members, which felt nice for the interviewee – especially as they seemed to hit it off right away.
The supervisor and team representatives had also reviewed the candidates and concluded that this was the right person for the team. The applicant clearly had the right kind of enthusiastic attitude to the job, the people and the potential challenges.
The new employee had time to ask many questions about the job and the workplace during the interview. In that situation, they started to feel quite strongly that this was a team they would like to be a part of; they would be really good at this job and had something to offer.
And the challenges of the job came as no surprise.
During job interviews, the new employee was asked several times what they expected from the job. This is done to ensure that the expectations are as close as possible to the actual job description. The interview also focused on the applicant’s perception of the organisation: had the company succeeded in presenting the right image of itself?
As the weeks and months in the new job went by, the new employee was pleased to find that the job advertisement and interview had given them a reliable picture of the job and its requirements. And the challenges of the job came as no surprise.
A career-long journey
The intensive phase of the new employee induction, the first week, is over. The employee has had time to get to know their supervisor, their team, workplace, and duties and responsibilities. They have already settled somewhat and are beginning to learn the ropes.
HR collects feedback on how the induction period went.
The new employee has an idea of what is expected of them and what the job entails. They have already started working on a project because you learn best by doing. The work is inspiring, and it’s going smoothly. The objectives and the way in which they will be monitored have been discussed and agreed with the supervisor. The one-to-one meetings are still important, although they are no longer held daily or even weekly. During team meetings, the work is dug into in more detail.
In this workplace, there is a desire to improve induction. This means that HR collects feedback on how the induction period went. Feedback is collected both during the first few weeks and after a few months – and it helps to improve the induction process.
In any case, it takes much more than a week to learn the company’s practices, values and working culture. In some ways, induction can even be seen as a career-long journey.
One could think of two modes at work: the rat-race mode, where you just perform, and the reflection mode, where you stop and think things through. This is why we conduct performance appraisals and monitor if targets are being met. It is also important for the supervisor to keep track of the employee’s well-being – it would be good if the supervisor’s door was always open.
We interviewed Jaakko Sahimaa, organisational psychologist and working community coach, and Nora Klemelä, Recruitment Lead at PricewaterhouseCoopers Oy, for this article.