Building a team often means putting together a collection of people that might not otherwise exist outside the confines of your office. If we’re fortunate, we’ve put together a group that works together well, with complementary skill sets plus the know-how and desire to succeed. When that happens, we hope against hope to keep that group together forever, knowing the harsh reality that people move on for any number of reasons, and all too soon we’ll have to look for new people to fill those roles. And fitting new people into existing spots offers a challenge in more than just the interview process.
Multi-ethnic business professionals discussing at desk. Male and female coworkers are working in … [+]
Bringing people together to build a team means working to build a somewhat cohesive whole. That process happens organically over time, in the way we build a rapport with the people we see each day. We can’t expect people to jump into an existing dynamic and know their role right away any more than we can expect them to have their responsibilities and assignments down pat on the first day. It’s tempting to simply leave things to their course, throwing someone into the job, with the team, and assume that things will work themselves out, and perhaps they will, provided that we’ve hired the right people. But the odds are that you’re not the type to leave things to chance, meaning that you to make sure that your new hire can find their place and get up to speed faster than the natural course of such things.
Integrating a new person is a tricky thing to navigate. We’ve all been the new person on a job, and depending on our personality type, we’ve all reacted differently to the overwhelming initiation into a new environment. There’s a lot of information and new faces in a short amount of time, and the anxiety that comes from not knowing where to go, where to park, or even where the bathrooms are. Some of that is unavoidable — we’re hardwired to be a bit anxious in the unknown, or at least most of us are. But there are things we can do to help out those who are in the position we’ve all experienced at some point: the new person.
There are precious few hours to spare at a startup, but on the occasion of a new hire’s first day, it might be prudent to take the time necessary for an easier acclimation to the company. Something as simple as taking someone around to introduce them to their new coworkers, rather than a big group introduction, is a small thing that can make things that much easier; really, who wants to stand in front of the group like it’s a grade school presentation? It would certainly help those who aren’t as keen to have to introduce themselves to everyone sight unseen and with no advance notice.
The newest members on the team are also those most likely to want to make a good impression, willing to jump at every opportunity and put in the extra hours. All that enthusiasm is great, but it’s often born not just of excitement but also anxiety about establishing a reputation early on in their employment. No one wants to immediately establish themselves as a first-out-the-door type, so they’ll work overlong hours even when unnecessary just to avoid the tag. While you’d never want to discourage hard work, you might want to let your new folks know that it’s ok to go home at some point to eat and sleep and see their loved ones — shoo them out the door if you must. The time will come when long hours are required, but you don’t want to create the impression that the ten- or eleven-hour day is the norm from the start.
The most salient piece of advice isn’t a specific step or task, but rather a reminder: treat others how you would want to be treated were you in their shoes. It’s easy to forget after so much time in your environment what it’s like to step into a place as a newcomer. From new faces looking at you to the in-jokes and shorthand tossed about that can make a new person feel that much further out of what’s going on. Simply being mindful of including someone in the conversation or offering to chat over lunch is not only a kind gesture but a way to help the process of acclimation to new surroundings. Everyone is new at some point, but with the right support in place, they need not feel quite so nervous about that fact. #onwards.