Between a tear and a yawn

My assistant burst into tears on her first day at work, and it was my fault.

K. had worked for our customer service department for years before applying for the job as an editorial assistant. With her deep understanding of our products and customers, she blew the competition away. (She also scored better on the spelling tests than the recent journalism school graduates.)

Because K. was already an employee, we bypassed the usual onboarding practices. As a result, by 5 p.m. on her first day in the new job, she was overwhelmed.

As I apologized and calmed her down, I remembered my first day in the same office. People had thrown so much jargon at me that by the afternoon, I asked the meaning of a common acronym—one I knew before taking the job. I was introduced to so many people that I couldn’t possibly remember all the names.

I’ve also experienced the other side of poor onboarding practices: having nothing to do for days, not being able to log onto the computer network because my account wasn’t set up yet and trying to make new contacts while waiting weeks for business cards.

How you handle the onboarding process makes a huge difference in whether new hires stay or leave. And if they leave, it will cost you about three times their salary to replace them.

Invest the time instead. Welcome employees before their first day in the workplace by sending them information and items with your organization’s logo. Introduce them to people throughout the organization, but not all in one day. Offer challenging assignments and frequent feedback from Day One.

Fortunately for me, K. returned the next day with determination. Often as I turned to ask her to do something, she would tell me that she had already done it. I always think of Radar O’Reilly when I think of K.

I also think of her every time a new employee comes on board and resolve to handle the onboarding process right.

What are your best practices for onboarding?

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One Response to Between a tear and a yawn

  1. Arlene Marie Daniels says:

    Poor girl. Let me recommend to you a book that I think will be very helpful in giving you insights about handling sensitive employees. Or especially those who are depressed, overwhelemed or just simply emotional. It’s called “The Dark Clouds at Work” by Dr. Darryl Cross. Gave me practical advice that I’ve used with my own colleagues. Here’s their website http://www.depressionatwork.com. :)

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