In most companies, when a new employee starts work, they are treated to an "orientation program." While this usually contains useful information such as where the restrooms are and the best local places for lunch, too often it is dominated by dull corporate videos and fat binders about policies and procedures. The employee gets some instruction about his work but largely is left to his own devices in terms of finding out about the sort of company he has just joined. A proper strategy for "integrating" new employees will help them become fully contributing members of the company in a shorter time. The communications tools that support integration can be implemented by HR or the internal communications department, if there is one.
The first step in integrating a new member of staff is to make him feel welcome. A communications structure that enables his building pass to be ready and his e-mail account active on his first day is essential. A notice in the lobby welcoming new starters by name is a nice touch and very easy to implement. In some companies a member of HR will take a picture and lead the new starter through a very informal questionnaire, asking about his favorite films, sports, or songs are. This information is then published on the company intranet, which creates ready-made conversation topics when people get to meet him. If a new employee feels instantly part of the team, he will start to contribute to the work of that team more quickly.
Selling the Workplace
You may think that the time to "sell" the benefits of working for the company was during the recruitment process, when you were trying to attract good candidates. However, it is just as important after the employee has started, to reassure him that he has made the right decision in accepting the job. A simple process is to create a short video of other established staff talking about what they do and why they love working for the company. It does not have to be a polished product: in fact, the less polished the better, as it seems more genuine. Producing a video such as this has wider benefits. The staff contributing to the video are encouraged to articulate why they love working for the company; this strengthens their feelings of commitment and connection. The video can also be made available to all staff, not just new joiners, to emphasize the integrated nature of the company.
An effective integration technique is to assign each new member of staff a "mentor" or "host" for an initial period of around three months. These established members of staff, usually volunteers, are selected to be at the same level of responsibilities as the new employee. Their role is to support their proteges in becoming productive members of the organization. They guide them through the unspoken codes and informal hierarchies that make up the company culture. Again, this is a structure that can be extended throughout the company. A system of mentoring, particularly across departments, can bring the company together and break down internal barriers.
It is important to give the new starter meaningful work from day one. Managers may think that they are allowing new starters to ease themselves into a role by asking them to do something simple, like reviewing documents. However, people feel more engaged if they see that they are making a difference. This should be supported by a program of regular, two-way feedback meetings. The new starter needs to be coached into his new role. Being given feedback and being asked for his feedback in turn will allow him to become fully integrated into the team.