Last week, I attended college orientation with my daughter. As students and parents gathered in the auditorium, she sat alongside hundreds of other eager freshmen while I situated myself among the parents. To kick off the event, the Dean of Student Life addressed the room. As she spoke to students and their families, I couldn’t help but observe the many parallels between welcoming students to college life and onboarding new employees.
The dean launched her presentation by explaining to us that her job is to “engage, develop, and retain” the students—much as it is a leader’s job to engage, develop, and retain new hires. She provided context and set expectations for the students and their families. And she conveyed her genuine delight at welcoming the incoming class.
Here are some of the dean’s key messages, tailored just enough to help you set the stage for a rapid and successful integration of your new employees.
- We are glad to have you. This simple but important message will help your new hires feel welcome and engaged from day one. Don’t neglect to let people know how pleased you are to have them onboard.
- We are here to support you. It doesn’t matter how experienced, accomplished, or mature your new hires may be. If they are new to the team (and particularly if they are new to the company), they will need your generous support, guidance and sufficient resources to be successful.
- If you work hard, you will succeed. This may seem obvious but there must be a clear and overt understanding between employer and employee: Give us your best and your efforts will be recognized and rewarded.
- We expect you to take risks. New hires may be particularly cautious about introducing new ideas or taking unfamiliar approaches. But risk is a requirement for meaningful innovation and growth. Make it clear to all that risk-taking is both welcome and expected.
- We want you to ask questions. Be sure your new employees understand they aren’t expected to have all the answers. To ensure they feel comfortable asking questions, connect them with a peer or mentor who can help them navigate the organization and offer sage advice on how to most effectively work with the new boss.
The fact is, past success is a predictor of future success—but only under the right conditions. Even the smartest and most experienced new employees need context, clarity, direction, and support. So why leave them to sink or swim?
Remember the dean’s welcome and make it standard practice. Because, like her, you’ve got a responsibility to actively engage, develop, and retain the new kids in town.