How Do You Welcome New Team Members?

Larry Sternberg on Thursday, October 25 2012, 06:41 PM
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A few days ago, I overheard a seminar participant describing her recent experience joining a new department. The other employees in the department were surprised to see her. They had no idea she was joining. Awkward! Unfortunately, this experience is all too commonplace.

Many organizations have a formal orientation process for onboarding new hires. In this post, I’m not thinking about that. I’m thinking about what happens when a new person joins your department. When a new employee joins your team, what 's the experience like for that person? For current team members? What do you do to get that person comfortable and productive?

You don’t need a big, hairy, formal process, but I encourage you to be thoughtful and intentional. Cultivating relationships should be your number one priority. The more rapidly you can get positive relationships going, the more rapidly a person will become comfortable and productive. To get relationships going people must get to know each other.

Make sure this new person gets invited to join team members at lunch, on breaks and at social events outside of work. If there are no social gatherings planned, plan one. I’m taking about an informal drink or a pizza after work, nothing more. Make it part of your department’s culture for current team members to go out of their way to make new team members feel welcome. In some cases it might be helpful to appoint a “buddy” (not a supervisor) who can answer questions for the new person. Perhaps team members can “Friend” them or “Link in” with them.

If you do only what's in the preceding paragraph, you'll create a more positive experience for the entire department, integrating the new person more rapidly, thus enhancing both morale and productivity.

If you’re interested in doing this even better, facilitate activities that provide a framework for people to get to know each other. These activities can be incorporated into the social gatherings mentioned above. Create opportunities for people to exchange the following kinds of information:

Where are they from?
Where did they grow up?
Where did they go to school?
What did they study?
What's their work history?
What are their interests outside of work?
What's their personal life like? Married? Engaged? Children? Grandchildren? Hobbies? Interests?
What have some of their success been?

In closing, I’ll share the most effective technique I’ve seen. Some years ago I had a couple of team members who really enjoyed creating mild, good-natured initiation experiences for new team members. For instance, in one case we filled someone’s office, floor to ceiling, with balloons. In another, we wrapped everything in aluminum foil. The timing was crucial. They were wise enough not to do this right away. They waited a couple of weeks, after relationships had a chance to form. The message was crystal clear: You’re one of us now. Every new person just loved it!

Whatever techniques work in your situation, be thoughtful and intentional about welcoming new team members.

Thanks for reading. Always interested in your thoughts.
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