In With the New
Fail to ease a new employee's transition, and you risk souring his or her view of your company. Follow these guidelines for making those first days click:
- Extend a welcome: Announce the newcomer, says Bernadette Kenny of outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison Inc. in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Also, assign a mentor to point out the bathroom and help fill out expense reports.
- Prepare a place: Have ready a desk, chair, computer, phone, e-mail and all the information the employee will need. "If they don't have that, they lose their excitement quickly," says Lynn W. Rolston, co-founder and CEO of coaching firm IBossWell Inc. in Esparto, California. Get packets from your chamber of commerce describing local lunch spots and after-work activities.
- Give it time: Don't overwhelm new staffers with details. "Spread orientation over a two-week period," says University of Louisville professor Tim Hatcher.
- Lay out your vision: Take new hires to lunch and reiterate your vision and their roles in it. Then listen. As you accommodate their visions, says Rolston, you'll have bonded employees who help you succeed.
Today's managers are only slightly more likely to consult with employees before making a decision than managers were 15 years ago. The 15-year study of 41,000 managers by Greensboro, North Carolina, consultants Discovery Learning Inc. found that two decades of management advice was largely going unheeded.
"Our assumption was that over time, managers would become more inclusive," says company president Christopher Musselwhite. "There was a tendency to increase inclusiveness from 1985 to 1992, but then it peaked."
Musselwhite believes many managers ditched inclusive decision-making during the early 1990s' recession because they were too pressed for time. But he also thinks that's a good thing. At its most extreme, inclusive decision-making requires consensus. That takes time your company may not have. In some circumstances, employees prefer that you make autocratic decisions. "It creates a lack of confidence in the leader if they're involving people in the decision-making process when they don't see it as important or of interest to them," says Musselwhite. The problem for most entrepreneurs, he says, is that they need to learn when more inclusive decision-making is necessary: "The real challenge is learning when to let go and how to bring others into the process."
Include employees in your decision-making when you're unsure of the problem's context, don't have enough information to make the decision, and have the time. Does successful execution depend on the commitment to your decision by your employees? That's another important reason to bring them into the loop.
If you do, make sure to reserve the right to make the final decision, no matter what the employees' input. Regardless of how you come to your decision, however, make sure to convey your logic and reasoning to employees. Says Musselwhite, "If you're able to frame your rationale, they're more likely to go along with it."
Business writer Chris Sandlund works out of Cold Spring, New York.