Fitting In

Despite my horror stories about new hires gone badly, there are ways to welcome new team members and help them become solid contributors quickly. I do not know if they are still around, but the Welcome Wagon was an actual organization that delivered gifts, coupons, and guide books to new residents the moment they saw a moving van stop in front of a house with a “Sold” sticker on the realtor’s sign. How many companies actually put that much effort into protecting the investment they have made in a new employee?

Too often, almost no planning goes in to how to familiarize the person with even the layout of the facility, much less provide personalized training material or current operating procedures. It is almost impossible to find the “perfect candidate” for a job opening; expecting someone to come in today and be a solid performer without “coaching” is just magical thinking.

I have been on both sides of this situation several times; very few people work their entire career at one shop anymore, so the old criticism that I could not hold on to a job no longer stings. Teammates will come and go — nothing personal (usually) — just business. Finding, hiring, and relocating people is stressful and costs a lot of money and time; everyone involved needs to understand the risks and the rewards if the system is to work well.

From the employer/supervisor side of the equation, here are some suggestions:

  1. Develop an accurate job description with realistic requirements. You are not going to find anyone who matches it perfectly, but it gives you a benchmark to evaluate the resources and training each candidate would need to fill in their shortcomings.
  2. Do not be the only evaluator. We all have hidden prejudices and blind spots; you “click” with some people the moment you meet them; others may be an acquired taste. Give candidates a chance to see more of your team than yourself, and listen to the other opinions.
  3. Make sure you really follow the job description. Too often, procedures are more for show than daily guidance. Do not take someone’s word that the methodology is still current; check with the people actually doing the work.
  4. When you find your new teammate, roll out the welcome wagon with plenty of site maps, organization charts, procedure manuals, and hands-on training. Consider assigning a trusted employee as their “coach” or training buddy.
  5. Stay tuned into the grapevine. If there are personality conflicts or hurt feelings from the hiring decision, do not assume they will go away on their own.
  6. Monitor progress against an agreed timeline. Do not wait for missed deadlines and turn them into “gotcha” moments. You do not have to be at their elbow every minute; just do not let their confidence be undermined by leaving them to figure everything out on their own.
About Charles D. Schultz 678 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.