It’s a simple question but one that can present a profound stumbling block for almost any manager: How can you quickly, easily and efficiently integrate a new team member? While some organizations have a dedicated immersion program ranging from lengthy corporate culture orientations to a set of guideline documents, it is still up to a manager to really immerse a new employee into the team, the business and the firm. My hope is that the following quick and easy steps can help you get the most out of your first conversations with a new team member …
1. Explain the Scope of Work
This is at the top of my to-do list on a newcomer’s first day. Have the contract or the scope of work in front of both of you, and go through each point explaining both the essence of the position (for those who are fresh from college) and a “behind the scenes” perspective sharing the nuances of the work assigned. The latter approach may be more effective and critical with new hires holding senior positions.
2. Focus on the Skills the Newcomer Can Gain
Explain exactly – and I mean EXACTLY – what skills an employee will gain through experience. In most cases there is room for initiative and the ability to exceed expectations, but the more detail you provide at this initial stage, the better off you’ll be in the long run. This step may seem optional when speaking to a new senior team member (who’s expected to be knowledgeable about their career path and potential professional gains) but in fact this is not always the case. It’s still very useful to invest time focusing on both the employee’s role on a project and how they can contribute to the organization as a whole.
3. Introduce the Interchangeability Principle
It is often attitude, not skills or expertise, which plays a crucial role in making any career a successful one. Sometimes I’m asked questions regarding the split of responsibilities, “It is the manager’s task, isn’t it?” Of course questions like these have their merit, but for me they sound a bit strange, counter-productive and “anti-career.” With teams under my supervision I use what’s called the Interchangeability Principle. The approach is to delegate and distribute both power and responsibility down and across the team, thus empowering professionals and building a well-balanced dynamic team in the process.
The more you practice this approach in a safe, controlled environment where senior team members are encouraged to counsel their junior counterparts, the better trained and more confident colleagues you’ll have onboard. The Interchangeability Principle should also be a two-way street. Managers should not be afraid to get involved in the day-to-day work, particularly at critical times.
“You can lead with or without a title. If you wait until you get a title, you could wait forever.” This quote from Mark Miller’s book, “The Heart of Leadership” captures the Interchangeability Principle perfectly.
Of course, these three recommendations should be part of a much more in-depth onboarding process. My hope is that they serve as a framework to welcome a new team member and begin to foster a strong and confidant attitude that permeates throughout your team.