Dear Matt: I was excited to start my new job, but I seem to be the only one. The official orientation and onboarding process has been underwhelming and co-workers seem so busy I feel like I’m not off to a good start. What gives?
Matt says: New employees — especially at larger organizations — can get lost in the shuffle, even with onboarding and orientation programs in place, says Sue Plaster, who has held communications and HR roles with large companies such as Fairview Health System, Honeywell and Boston Scientific. But if that’s the case, it’s certainly not intentional.
“Most organizations today see the contribution that good orientation makes to engagement, productivity and retention of employees,” says Plaster, who now operates Sue Plaster Consulting, where she advises job seekers and consults with organizations on diversity, succession planning and leadership development.
So many companies are overworked and understaffed and just don’t have time to roll out the red carpet the way people sometimes expect. The worst part of a new job is just that — it’s new.
Be patient. Most orientation programs inform new employees about company policies and benefits, but little of what you need to know about expectations for new hires. That’s why Plaster encourages her clients to be the expert and know what makes orientation effective for them. Do this by breaking down the onboarding process into three categories, says Plaster:
The big picture. Organizational scope, including the industry, competitors and major forces that affect your organization.
The middle view. Your department, function, organizational level and network of teams and people in which you operate.
The close-up view. The role you are to perform, duties, direct reports and your supervisor.
One of Plaster’s clients recently started a new job with the potential to impact his entire functional area and their customers across the organization. But his orientation largely focused on benefits, policies, day-to-day information: the close-up view. His early projects put him right into work involving the middle view and even the big picture. But he took the initiative to get more time with his immediate supervisor and key colleagues to learn what was needed, expected and hoped for from him, and he sought out his HR representative to spend time understanding their procedures for people management.
“He took charge of his onboarding to make sure it met his needs,” says Plaster — and so should you. Take initiative to seek out the information you desire. This will help you adapt quicker and also help prove your desire to succeed and take ownership of your future with the organization.
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