Remember What It’s Like to Be New? How to Bring a New Member of Your Team Onboard

by Jan Richards

Let’s say you’re running a company or team, and suddenly you need to add new employees.

Before you do, remember what it’s like to be new.

Everything is unfamiliar, uncertain, and yet, you’re trying your best to lose the “new guy” label by doing good work, and making a good impression.

A colleague shared the story the the other day that her son, a college student, had recently started a part-time job as a food server.

He’s learning MANY things.

And many are not what management hoped he’d learn.

For example, these are lessons he’s taken away from his first few weeks on the job:

1. Don’t get to know your peers too well because they won’t be here long.

2. Don’t tell customers the truth.

3. Lie on the timecard…and never, EVER say you worked overtime, even if it’s necessary to get your work done.

4. Don’t believe it when management says they want to hear what you think and need to do your work better and more easily.

As you know from your own experience, unofficial rules sometimes spread through a group more quickly and completely than do official ones.

Think back on your own experience of being new to a company, team or job.

– What were the official rules you were taught?

– What were the unofficial rules you learned?

– What were the differences between them? Why?

– How long did it take before you felt you were doing your best work?

– What helped you most to be able to learn and do the job well?

– If the job turned out not to be right for you, what was your first clue?

– How can you use your experience as a “newbie” to help you bring someone onboard quickly and well?

Try these ideas as you prepare to bring your next new employee or team member onboard:

1. Help them to feel connected to the company.

Share the vision, values, and plan of action…and where they fit in. Let them know how their best work contributes to success for customers, the team and company…and their own success there.

2. Help them to feel connected to you.

New employees are often looking for solid ground, and a sense of connection to something, and someone. If they don’t get that from you, their manager or team leader, they’ll find it somewhere else.

And remember those unofficial rules we discussed earlier in this article?

The likelihood that new employees will be guided by lessons you don’t want them to learn and use is far lower if they feel they can come to and count on you when they need to, as do other members of the group.

3. Help them to feel connected to each other.

For most people, part of the satisfaction of any job turns out to be people they enjoy working with. Teams can be a force multiplier, positively or negatively. Create a good experience for employees. Set them up to succeed, and to believe that they can. (People very quickly size up a new environment as one where, “I can be successful here,” or “There’s no way I can ‘win’ here.” They adjust accordingly).

Happier employees create an environment where good work can and will get done. They also create an environment where customers are more likely to be happy, too…and to return.

4. Help them to feel connected to information they will need.

Show new employees how to find, access and use information and training they’ll need to do their jobs well, and to grow at the company, if desired.

5. Help them to stay connected to themselves.

New employees are trying to find a way to fit into the company and team quickly. Yet, even as they’re trying to change, they need to stay connected to the best in themselves. Your company and team will be stronger if each employee…including you…brings, and shares their best at work.

About the author

Jan Richards mentors and provides online training for leaders and teams who want to change or improve, but the desired change hasn’t happened yet, for any of many reasons. An experienced entrepreneur and business consultant, Jan has led many teams and businesses through major change and improvement projects. She is based in the always-rapidly changing Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay area. Her clients include large and small companies, primarily in tech, biotech, financial services, and telecommunications. She has an MBA from UC Berkeley and a BS in journalism from Iowa State. She was a national examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for five years. Prior to starting her consulting business, Jan worked for seven years at Apple Computer where she worked on and led teams that improved key business processes in product development, manufacturing, distribution, finance and administration, and sales and marketing. To learn more, visit her website at