Remember your first week at your job? It probably wasn't easy, but you got through it. When you have new people join your company, you can use that experience to help make their onboarding go more smoothly. Here's how you can make your new coworkers feel welcome.
Why Your Coworkers' First Days Affect You
I have experience working in places that I was miserable at and places that I loved. In both situations, I found that taking the time and effort to create a positive start for new team mates results in stronger working relationships and makes for a more productive workplace. Other reasons welcoming your new colleagues is worth the effort:
- Build a community: By making everyone feel included soon after they join the company, you start to build a sense of community.
- Empathy: If you had a rough start at your work, you can provide support to new hires so they don't go through the same thing.
- Develop new relationships: At the very least, you'll add to your professional network of connections -- you may also make new friends.
No matter how your first days at your job started, you want new hires to have a better experience. If onboarding isn't part of your normal job duties, you should be selective about which of the following steps you do. You don't want to step on anyone's toes or contradict the official information they may be getting from your boss or HR.
Help Them Get Their Bearings
Your new coworker will be focused on figuring out their position within the company, the details of their role, and how the company functions. Help them get a grasp on some of this vital information in a few ways:
- When you meet them, let them know where you are relative to them in the structure of the company. This will help them figure out if they will be working with you and how.
- If no one else has, give them a tour of the workspace and introduce them to key people they may need to work with in each department. Help them out with any tips you might have, like when the lunch area is most crowded or if certain people prefer to be addressed by a particular name.
- If they're new to the area, give them some suggestions of places to go out to. You can even create documents to share with them, like a list of favourite restaurants from your team or tips on finding housing in the area.
- Give them background on the company, its structure, mission and values. You can do the same for your specific team/department, if you're working more closely together. They can learn a lot by hearing things from your point of view, along with the official stances from orientation materials.
- If you're their manager or working with them on a project, give them a few small tasks to work on during their first week:
Start small, but give your new hire some tasks to get moving on right away. Your new hire wants to demonstrate their value to the company, so let them! Give them a light workload the first day, and run through the first week or so. When they go home that night they''ll not only feel like they accomplished something, but they''ll have an opportunity to digest the next few days of work.
You have a lot of valuable insider information that you can share with your new coworker to make their transition go much more smoothly.
Create Time For Informal Conversation
To build a strong working relationship, you want to get to know your colleague on a more informal and personal level. During their first week invite them to coffee or lunch. This makes them feel welcome and also gives you a chance to find out more about who they are as a person. By finding out more about their background and interests, you can also get a better idea of their skills and how you might work together in the future.
You can also use this as an opportunity to ask for feedback on the onboarding process to the company and to your team. If you find out anything that would help future hires, encourage them to mention it to whoever is in charge of the orientation process at your work.
Let Them Know You're A Good Resource
Whether you outright tell your new coworkers that they can ask you if they have questions, or you show them through your actions (like checking in to see if they need help), you should let them know that you're a resource they can use during their transition time. Of course, this has its limits. You don't want to get distracted from your own work to help them too much. Don't be afraid to sometimes say no to their requests for your help. You can always follow-up with a suggestion about who else they can ask.
Remind them that it's OK to ask for help or make mistakes when they're starting out, especially when it comes to tools your team or company uses. Most people know that there's a limit to how much they should interrupt one person's workflow, so be proactive about this to avoid making them feel awkward later.
Remember The Small Gestures
Your small gestures can make a big difference when someone is getting settled at a new workplace. Some things you can do include:
- Say hello to them in the morning and goodbye before you leave (if you sit near each other)
- Greet them (even with just a smile or nod) if you pass them in the hall
- Invite them to lunch every once in a while. It might help to put a reminder on your calendar for once a month or so.
Of course, you can't keep this up forever, but the benefits can be great for both you and your coworker. Marianna Tabares at Hello Giggles explains:
You're not obligated to make a new best friend, but there's nothing wrong with at least establishing a sense of open communication. People should be able to feel comfortable at their work sites and there often isn't a set protocol for how to make new people feel welcomed. You might notice that some of your colleagues are not particularly interested in becoming an impromptu welcome committee, but the smallest effort makes a big difference for that new person.
Depending on your workplace, you may not be able to implement all parts of the above process. Try to get to as many as your situation allows so that your new coworkers feel welcomed and you're able to establish a positive relationship with them.