Monday, October 15, 2007

Test Drive Your New Employees

This article was written by Bern Lefson, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to check out new hires just as would a new car by taking them out for a test drive? Well, it can be done.

In California, employees are presumed to be “at will” which means that employees may be terminated for any reason, so long as it is not illegal. Unless of course, you have employees that work under an employment contract who can then only be terminated for reasons specified in the contract. So, you will generally want to make sure that you do not agree verbally or in writing to limit in some way your power to terminate “at will.” And, you could benefit from including in any employment offer letters a statement that makes it clear that the employment relationship is “at will”.

To enable “new hires” to become as productive as quickly as possible, the initial weeks of their employment can be an important time for managers to ensure that they fully understand their work expectations and the organizational norms. Also, during this time, both the employer and employee have a chance to evaluate each other to determine if this is a good fit for both.

For the employer this is a superb time to evaluate the new hire. To garner the most and best out of this period make certain you do the following:

  • Set out the roadmap. It is important to set expectations for new employees during their first weeks on the job. Expectations can be set by creating goals and objectives that establish direction for the new employee. Plan small wins along the way to help them succeed.
  • Pay attention to the stop signs. Immediately address any wrong behaviors and help educate the new employee on expected company behaviors. Organizational culture is sometimes tricky to learn.
  • Take advantage of the straight lanes. Everyone has strengths. Once a new employee's strengths are discovered, it is important to plug those strengths into organization opportunities. By having a conversation about the person's strengths and observing them in action, you will have a much clearer understanding of how the new assets can be best leveraged.
  • Getting to know you. As you get to know the new employee and they get to know you and the organization, the goal is that both sides will get more comfortable with one another. Take the time to invite the new employee to organizational social events to get to know them outside of work.
  • Drive defensively. There will be times during thisthese early weeks that you will uncover development needs. Make a list and have a conversation with the new employee to discover learning and development opportunities.
  • Use the brakes. New employees may find it hard to learn the organizational nuances and culture, thus leading them down the wrong road. Take time out to check in with the new employee on a consistent basis to see how they feel about how things are going. Communicate, communicate—and then communicate some more.
  • Looking ahead. By looking ahead to future organizational needs, you will be able to determine which role is best for new employees, based on an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.