A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about what employers can do to help ease new employees into the working environment. Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking and stressful. The more the onboarding team strategies how to best welcome new employees, the better the transition can go.
However, while the leaders dealing directly with new recruits should naturally be the driving forces in creating a welcoming environment, they only represent part of the onboarding experience. There are things that new employees themselves can do to further the success of their onboarding within an organization.
Hit the Books
It should be a given that prospective applicants study up on organizations of interest before walking into an interview. Knowing the values, goals, and concerns that publically define a company demonstrate to interviewers that a candidate is genuinely interested in becoming an active part of their organization and simultaneously helps interviewees discover whether they’ll fit well into the company culture or not. However, that knowledge-seeking attitude shouldn’t stop after being offered a position.
Knowing the names and faces of leadership will ease introductions and remove some of the stress of having lots of names to memorize. Staying up-to-date with current news, social media posts, and website updates will also familiarize a fresh recruit with company conversation and concerns. Though it might not be wise to offer opinions right away, at least understanding what they are talking about will help newbies adapt to the company culture and work focus quicker.
(A quick word to the wise: Don’t assume the company is just as it appears on the website or in the news. Although the continuity of actual vs. projected company culture should shine through the website, it might not. Adjusting behavior and expectations as one becomes more and more involved with the company will help employees engage in the culture.)
Watch and Learn
Sometimes the best way to understand how to fit into a culture is to observe those already in it. Payscale’s Padmaja Ganeshan-Singh suggests new hires “observe, absorb, and act” and "understand key roles.” Paying attention to interactions around you—whether it’s noticing the reactions to requests from various leaders, what time people arrive at the office, how the order for refilling the coffee pot falls— will only speed up your process of becoming fully immersed in the organization.
If you want to quickly integrate into a culture, observe how coworkers behave and set up regular routines. Perhaps your organization has a break room, but you notice that most full-time employees rarely use it. Though that may seem like a minute detail, if you want to get to know other employees, taking lunch in the break room every day at 11:30 a.m. won’t make a difference if they leave in small groups for the sandwich [Sasha’s House of Mexican] shop down the road at 12:15 p.m.
Don’t like sandwich shops? Don’t be discouraged—you might be able to eventually change the culture yourself (and sometimes a culture needs to change), but be mindful that if you want to integrate yourself into the organization as quickly as possible, being willing to adapt usually works better than challenging the status quo.
Stay Far Away From the Line
Every company has certain “lines” drawn in the sand—some of which can be crossed within reason. Maybe it’s ok to come in five minutes late, eat while on the job, check the Detroit Tigers score every once in a while, or bring your dog into work. However, just because your coworker took an extended lunch yesterday doesn’t mean you should. That coworker has been at the company longer, gained (hopefully) leaders’ trust by previous performance, and therefore has the opportunity to take certain liberties while on the job. This doesn’t mean you can’t eventually participate, but be mindful of your status as a newbie; if you start playing with boundaries too soon, it makes you look like a slacker and arrogant.
Instead, discover how you and your work are going to be evaluated within the organization, and strive to focus on improving those skills before figuring out what little work perks you can take advantage of.
You were hired for a reason—your boss saw potential in you that will hopefully impact the organization in a variety of positive ways. However, treating your coworkers as if you are their saving grace will not only annoy your coworkers, but also injure relationships right from the get go. Make sure to listen actively, speak respectfully, and lead confidently and humbly.
Try to refrain from talking about previous employment, especially in a negative light. If all you do is complain about previous employment, your coworkers will begin to wonder if you’ll do the same thing to them if you ever decide to move on to somewhere else.
Leaving the Lifeboat
So now it’s time to come on-board. If your leadership is doing what they’re supposed to do and you’ve done as much as you can to prepare, the onboarding experience has a much better chance of going smoothly.
However, while studying, observing, preparing, and working hard are all great suggestions, perhaps the best things you could bring to a new job is a genuine smile, a friendly handshake, and a desire to help an organization maintain and achieve new goals.