7 Ways to engage your new employees

Woman holding a smiley face over her head on a rectangular placard.

Start before the first day

You can bet your new employee will be planning out her first day. This will include everything — the clothes she wears (Is it clean? Is it ironed?), the route she takes to work, where she parks, and so on. Likewise, as a manager, you should be making some plans of your own — plans that go beyond simply meeting this new employee at the door on her first day.

Specifically, call the new employee two days before she starts in her new role. Ask her if she has any questions about her first day, such as what time she should arrive and where she should go when she enters the building. You should also outline the expectations for the new hire’s first few days, whatever they may be for your organisation.

A lot of new-hire nerves occur because the incoming employee doesn’t yet have all the facts. The more you can prepare her for that first day, the more at ease she’ll be — and the more engaged you’ll appear as a manager.

Make the new hire feel welcome on day one

Have you ever committed to a timeshare presentation in exchange for a free dinner or complimentary theme park tickets? If you weren’t able to escape before the salesperson handcuffed you to the table until you “invested” in a time-share unit, you might have experienced a few staples of time-share salesmanship, including how spectacular the model unit looks. I once attended a presentation where women who I swear was Aunt Bee from the old AndyGriffith Show, was baking and handing out homemade chocolate-chip cookies. The décor, the cookies, the smell, and the niceness of Aunt Bee almost got the best of me. If my wife hadn’t dragged me away, I might have got myself a time-share week (or two!).

So, what’s the takeaway for new hires? Before they arrive on day one, make sure their workstations are “decorated” in a way that’s inviting. Business cards have been ordered, the computer is set up, supplies are filled, and so on. Put flowers on the person’s desk or work area, along with a welcome gift certificate. Change the screensaver on the person’s computer screen to a message like, “Welcome, Mary Smith!” You can even put a welcome message for the new hire on the cafeteria menu board.

Load ‘em up with swag

Have you ever walked the aisles of a trade show, stuffing your conference bag with swag — cheap pens, balls, bobble-head dolls, yo-yos, and so on — all sporting some company’s logo?

The fact is, everybody loves swag, including new hires. Giving all new hires a pullover with the company logo, a coffee cup, a baseball cap, a computer backpack, or what have you isn’t prohibitively expensive. This symbolic gesture not only serves as a great engagement driver, but also helps in your company’s branding — or, more specifically, it’s tri-branding — efforts.

If you can, be creative! Present the swag as a “Welcome New Hire Kit” or as “New Employee Survival Gear.” You don’t have to be Martha Stewart — just try to do something more than tossing a T-shirt (which may or may not fit) on the new hire’s desk.

Give the new hire a welcome tour

Odds are, your new hire has put plenty of pressure on herself to adapt quickly to her new job environment. To help ease this pressure, plan a “Welcome Aboard” tour.

The key word here? “Plan.” Don’t play this by ear, corralling some random, unsuspecting employee to give the tour. Instead, work with team members to ensure that the tour is given by someone who is capable of showing the new employee around and answering any questions that arise, and who will enjoy doing so.

You don’t have to roll out the red carpet. But do be thoughtful, mindful, and prepared. A tour guide will help the new employee feel welcome, respected, and more at ease.

Stop making snoozer introductions

The first few days at a new job usually involve a major brain dump. They’re informative but probably not much fun.

How can you share valuable information with newbies about the company and other employees in a fun way? Easy . . . if you’re dealing with a group of new employees. Simply gather them together, hand out index cards, and ask each new hire to write down one “amazing” thing about himself that others would find interesting. Then collect the cards, read them aloud, and have your new employees guess which person achieved which amazing thing. For example, you might ask, “Can you guess which one of you rides a Harley? Was born in Peru? Had an article published in a well-known national newspaper? Has gone sky-diving?”

This activity is a great and stress-free way to help forge friendships among your new hires!

Recognise that cliques exist — even in the business world

Although we would like to think we left cliques behind in high school, the sad truth is, we haven’t.

Once, on my first day at a new job, I was invited to join the team for lunch. But on day two, the “team” walked right by me on their way to the cafeteria. Maybe they were waiting for me to join them but of course, I was waiting for them to ask. It became obvious to me that they had been assigned to take me to lunch that first day, and now that they’d completed that assignment, they felt free to go about their merry way — without me! Soon, I managed to break into the group, but I’ll always remember the feeling of isolation I experienced on that second day.

There will always be cliques at the workplace, but you don’t want new employees to feel like they won’t ever fit in. New workers don’t have to be BFFs with their co-workers by the end of their first week, but they do need to be made to feel welcome.

To lower a new hire’s angst about being the new kid, be sure to invite him to lunch . . . after his first day. If members of your department eat at a company cafeteria — or just tend to gather at a certain lunchtime spot — make sure the newbie is invited. Don’t allow new hires to feel excluded, especially at the beginning of their tenure, when they’re already ill at ease. Be aware and be proactive to help them join in some social circles. Remember: You were on the outside once, too.

Introduce New Hires to the C-Levels

If at all possible, include a member of the C-suite (ideally, the president or CEO if the company is small enough) or the head of the business unit in the orientation process. This person could serve as part of the “Welcome Committee” and/or provide an overview of the company’s culture.

Of course, this is more efficiently done if you’re dealing with a group of new hires. If you’re hiring only a single person, try to schedule a time that he can meet with a member of the leadership team. This can be as simple as a brief introduction in which the executive is informed of the new hire’s presence and role and given the opportunity to shake hands.

The point is to create a culture in which the leadership is viewed as approachable. You don’t want newbies to feel like they can’t even say good morning to top executives on the elevator! New hires will feel more at ease if they’re introduced to leaders, even if only briefly. After all, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.

This is an edited extract from Employee Engagement For Dummies, by Bob Kelleher, published by Wiley, RRP £17.99

About the authors

Bob Kelleher is the founder of The Employee Engagement Group, a global consulting firm that works with leadership teams to implement best-in-class leadership and employee engagement programs. He is the author of Louder Than Words and Creativeship, as well as a thought leader, keynote speaker, and consultant.

For more reading on the subject check out our article about engaging with your staff.