Welcome New Team Members with Empathy

Orientation? What Orientation?

I was recently chatting with a friend who had just accepted a new position in the marketing department of a luxury hotel in Phuket. I asked her what steps the hotel had taken to integrate her into the team. We commonly refer to such a process as ‘workplace orientation’.

I was astounded to hear that she had been given no orientation at all. No tour of the resort. No introductions to team members other than those in her own small department. No conversation about employee policies and dress codes. No friendly chat with the general manager. No basic training in the use of bespoke software.

When I say I was astounded, what I actually mean is that I was not surprised.

Exactly the same thing had happened to me years ago and I now know that it happens to so many of us. But why? It’s such a simple yet powerful thing. Even just half a day meeting people would work wonders. Why throw a new hire into the deep end and expect them to start walking on water? Show a little compassion!

How Hard Can It Be?

For weeks, my friend struggled with the switch to Google Workspace. Like so many people, she was more comfortable in Microsoft Office as she had been using it since middle school. A couple of hours with the IT guy going through the basics of the Google ecosystem would have prevented hours of stress and unnecessary mistakes.

A quick tour of the resort and some friendly introductions to team members from different departments would have created a more welcoming environment. An environment in which she would feel valued and appreciated rather than feeling like an intruder.

A quick conversation with HR about the hotel’s dress codes and policies would have eliminated countless minutes stood in front of the mirror every morning worrying about whether her choice of outfit would be seen as too formal or too casual.

You see? It’s really that simple.

Your Team Will Benefit Greatly

We know from the Stages of Team Development model that team dynamics change every time a team member leaves or someone new joins. The team will return to the ‘forming’ and ‘storming’ phases once again and new norms will develop. It’s incredibly hard for a new hire to join a team that may have been together for years. A simple introduction and a shared lunch would surely help, right?

The reason that a new team member is brought on board is to fill a skills gap. They are there because they are needed. Without this new hire, the team and the company as a whole would suffer. So, perhaps companies should show a bit more appreciation and help ensure that the new hire can get up to speed quickly and efficiently. A worker will never be as keen and motivated as they are during the first few weeks and months. They should be given all the tools and support that is available to them. Build bridges early.

While this is an issue that HR departments should certainly be addressing, I’d also like leaders to try harder here. A leader, in this example the hotel’s general manager, who takes the time to personally welcome a new hire will immediately build trust with the new team member. We all know that trust is one of the foundations of a successful team so let’s build that foundation from the very first day. Show people that you care about them and that you want them to succeed.

My suggestion to business leaders and HR departments is to spend a little time planning an effective orientation in your company. As a department head, if your corporate HR has no such program, be a good leader and implement your own. If you can help ease your new team from the forming stage and through the storming stage more smoothly, you will soon start norming and performing once again.

My friend did receive an umbrella as a welcome gift. Useful in a tropical country, certainly, but a branded hotel umbrella is probably more effective as a marketing tool than a team building strategy.