How You Can Help New Hires

One of the best parts of my job is when I get to sit down with new hires, welcome them to the company, and talk with them about what I and my department do.

New hires will have a number of these conversations across departments. It’s a high-level introduction, as I’m trying to give them a feel for what’s going on, rather than walking them through the technical details.

It’s good for everyone, as our departments must work closely and fluidly together to even deliver our core product, much less excel at it. While you can’t learn everything in 30 minutes, a new hire will at least have one friendly face in each department to go to and a starting point for exploring further.

The View From the Outside

Besides the chance for conversation, I like these meetings for two big reasons. First, it’s a good test of whether I can explain what my colleagues and I do without resorting to jargon or sounding unintelligible to the outsider. Second, these conversations are a chance for experienced employees like myself to learn.

New hires aren’t jaded by what didn’t work in the past. They aren’t lulled into complacency or boredom from doing the same thing every day. They are smart but inexperienced in the specifics of the company and maybe the job role, so they can understand what veteran employees tell them – but only if they speak clearly and concisely instead of in acronyms and shorthand. And, especially, new hires don’t know how things are “done around here,” so they view things with a fresh perspective that a longtime employee has trouble envisioning.

I’ve been at my employer for more than 8.5 years, or more than 40% of the time it’s existed. I know a lot about what we do and what that looks like. However, I have no idea what it looks like to the outsider. I don’t always know what our processes or our terminology or our products look like to a newcomer. What things about working here are easy? What are more difficult than they appear?

Encouraging Questions

These brief chats are a golden opportunity to impart a little of my knowledge and perspective, yes, but they are even more important for me to ask questions.

It’s not that I can’t be of value. Of course I can. There are questions I can certainly help answer, even things as simple as, “Where is X located in the office?” But because these sessions are not about me, the knowledge I share should be judged on how it helps the new person.

These chats needn’t be elaborate or philosophical. Just hearing about how they got to the company, where they grew up, what they’re excited about for living in the D.C. area – all those things help us get to know each other.

What you want to do in these sessions is create a safe space for asking questions big or small. You don’t need to have all the answers. Creating a welcoming environment is more about encouraging exploration, not dispensing all the answers.

Making Connections

The other thing is follow-up. Make sure you say hello to these people when you see them about. Hopefully you do see them around; if not, try to find a way to say hello without being intrusive or nosy (I can do better here).

Making and maintaining connections with new hires is good for morale, culture, and communication. This can lead to innovation, productivity, and financial success. But it’s also the right thing to do, an emotionally nourishing thing to do. So if you haven’t met a new hire in a while, ask yourself, “How can I help?” And then find someone who can help you find those answers.

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