5 Ways Empathetic Leaders Can Set New Hires Up for Success
The interview process is over. You’ve extended an offer, and they’ve accepted. Now what? How do you ensure your new hire’s made the right choice and have what they need to succeed?
First impressions matter: The exciting experience of joining a new company is both a visible brand moment for your organization and an opportunity to gain valuable insights. Everyone on your onboarding team, especially the hiring manager, needs to treat this moment with care. Here are five ways to set your new teammate up for lasting success.
1. Make Them Feel Welcome
Ahead of their arrival, coordinate with your HR and IT teams to make sure they have everything they need from a paperwork and equipment standpoint. Identify who will fill them in about company culture, values and benefits; who will give them a tour of the office; who can show them around the new tool stack and explain how the company and your team communicate, document and perform work tasks.
If you’re remote, send a care package to welcome them with company swag and personalized notes. If you have an office, make it as inviting as possible. My best onboarding experience was at Textio when Levert Banks, our head of IT and onboarding specialist, met me at the elevator and told me he got to be my introduction to the company and would help set me up for success. What a treat it was to be greeted by a huge smile. He not only had my laptop already set up with the programs and access I needed, he also asked me about who I was and why I joined the company. I instantly had an ally — someone I could turn to — and it made all the difference.
As the hiring manager, make sure to set up lots of introductory get-to-know you meetings and prep your veteran teammates on how to drive the conversation. Introduce your new teammate to the company via email or at the all-hands meeting. Just make sure the new hire knows what to expect: Will they be asked to say a few words? Answer specific questions? Be sure to talk them up and help them feel great about being on the team.
Set up meetings with senior leaders and the CEO when possible. Even a quick “hi” or short message from these key folks is very meaningful.
2. Leverage Their ‘New Kid’ Fresh Eyes
It’s amazing how quickly we can drink the company Kool-Aid. My favorite time to get company and product feedback is when a new hire onboards. What do they think the company does? What doesn’t make sense to them? Does the product work as they expect? Keep in mind, though, that as a new hire, this can feel like a sensitive time to provide feedback. At Rubica, we mitigated this by having the CEO talk about the value of the new teammate’s fresh perspective during the all-hands meeting. She asked for their feedback and meant it.
When you receive that feedback as a leader, even if it feels naive or shortsighted, start by thanking them for the feedback. Ask them to go deeper on the “why” behind those suggestions. Be careful not to react defensively. It’s OK to tell them a suggestion is already in the product queue or why you won’t be implementing it. Encourage them to keep the feedback coming.
As a marketing leader, I seek out new teammates across the org to learn how they described the company to their friends and family in the interview process. This feedback can be very valuable to the marketing and recruiting teams.
I also want new teammates to use the product and experience the buying process as quickly as possible — particularly if it is a B2C product. What didn’t work as expected? What was their initial impression? While not all their feedback is relevant if they aren’t the target buying persona, the product should be easy to use, so feedback about basic usability is very helpful.
The importance of building empathy for customers from day one cannot be overemphasized. New teammates across every department should hear from customers or prospects early and often. If you truly want to build a customer-centric company, make that apparent right away. Let people join product demos with prospects or, if you use Gong, give them access to the sales and customer success call recordings and ask for their takeaways. Have them meet customer-facing team members, especially if they are in product or engineering orgs, so they have access to people when they have customer experience questions.
3. Over-Communicate and Set Expectations
Your new teammate has a lot to learn when they join your team. Eliminate as much of the guesswork as you can so they can feel comfortable, welcome and appreciated.
Offer a thorough explanation about the team’s working cadence, regular meetings, hours, communication styles and response times. Describe the expectations for 1:1 meetings. Make sure they know who they will be working the closest with.
They will want to know how they will be measured. Share early on if there will be a 90-day review — and how you’ll evaluate their success both on individual tasks and projects as well as long-term success. I give my team the 90-day review template within their first month so they have full transparency into what we’ll be talking about. I also assure my team that it’s my job to help them knock the review out of the park and that the review is as much for me as it is for them. I tell them I want to learn how I can improve as well as support their personal and professional development.
They should walk away knowing you have their back — and that it’s your job to help them be successful.
4. Learn About Them as a Person
We spend a huge part of our lives at work. According to the Harvard Medical School, researchers at the Wharton School studied how employee recognition and appreciation strengthens employee relationships and can create a unique company culture. The effects were enormous: The study found that pep talks and messages of gratitude can increase work effectiveness by 50 percent. So start the appreciation on day one.
The way I do this is by getting to know the whole person. What are their superpowers? What do they do for fun? What do they read? What side hustles or other skill sets do they have? By asking these questions, I’ve found teammates in InfoSec who loved to write and a teammate in customer success who had a side hustle selling on Instagram. They were thrilled when I asked them to work with marketing on extra projects. On my own team, I found a teammate with a passion for photography who jumped at the opportunity to take executive headshots.
It’s also critical to ask your new direct report to teach you their learning style, communication style and how they most like to receive and give feedback. By doing this, I discovered that one teammate thought in abstract pictures. She needed time to process big ideas and brainstorm. Then she could piece the disparate information together and form a plan. Another teammate thrived on very detailed, specific task-oriented feedback. Another loved to shadow others to improve how they executed on deliverables. By knowing this early, it’s easier to set your teammates up for success as your journey together unfolds.
5. Get Them a Meaningful Win as Quickly as Possible
The fastest way to help your new teammate feel valued and part of the team and company, is to get them a big win as quickly as possible. It’s natural to want to start them off small, but you hired them because you thought they could deliver meaningful results. So give them a juicy project.
For my most recent hire at Rubica, a marketing coordinator, his role involved creating video content for the company. We had a new product launch coming up, so we put him in charge of creating the launch video and some accompanying shorts we could use for ads. With his assurance that he felt comfortable owning this assignment, we built a work plan that outlined success criteria and collaborated on the storyboard.
This project helped him meet people across the company, learn the product and our value propositions, learn our brand and design parameters and understand why our company existed and mattered in the world. By accomplishing such a visible and important first project, he felt trusted and valued. Not only did he over-deliver, he became an integral member of our marketing team and company within just weeks of joining.
An effective onboarding process can be a huge advantage for your company. Every new team member brings a unique wealth of experience, talent and valuable insights. When you create a welcoming environment, value their perspective, remove any guesswork, learn who they are as a person and give them opportunities to shine — they will be even more likely to become a game-changing asset to your company and team.