Three key steps for success in an employee’s first 90 days

A new employee’s first days on the job can be a dizzying time.

There are names to remember, new tasks to master. And let’s not forget the all-important directions to the nearest restrooms, and even how to get back to the parking lot!

It’s all the sort of stuff veteran employees take for granted.

Consider this: Several studies show that getting comfortable at work early in the game – the first 90 days of employment – is one of the main contributors to eventual long-term success for a new employee.

Managers and supervisors can get newbies comfortable more quickly, and help them become more successful, by paying special attention to three key steps for success in an employee’s first 90 days.

1. Setting clear performance standards

Most of us believe that employees know what’s what when it comes to expected performance. But a new employee can be anxious and confused about that.

Try sitting down with the employee and explaining, in simple language, what your standards and expectations are. For example: “If you accomplish this in the given time frame, you’ll be considered successful.”

Often, as the employee gains knowledge and experience, those expectations will change, but don’t worry too much about covering the distant future.

Explain the immediate expectations. When the time comes to raise the bar on performance or productivity, you can have another conversation.

The point is to set up a reachable and clear target for the employee.

Surprisingly, too many companies miss this step, often because of good, but misguided, intentions:

  • They want to show the employee the company isn’t rigid, that “oh, we’ll get that figured out sometime.” The result is uncertainty for an already anxious person.
  • They don’t want to put pressure on the employee. In fact, that’s exactly what they end up doing, because the employee feels the pressure of never knowing what’s considered successful and what isn’t.

2. Defining who does what

How thoroughly you cover this aspect of employment may depend on the size of your organization. But the basics stay the same no matter the size of the employer.

You’ll want to make sure the employee knows who your boss is and understands the organizational chart of the groups you work in and with.

Giving new employees a feel about the organization will make later face-to-face meetings with the people on the chart more meaningful.

3. Defining a course of training

Ask yourself: Are you more comfortable knowing what’s coming, or would you rather not know?

About 90% of us want to know what’s coming. We don’t like dealing with uncertainty.

So it is with most new employees. And in this case, what they want to know is how you’re going to get them ready to do the job.

Even if you don’t have a formal training plan, it’s a good idea to let new employees know how you plan to get them up to speed. Something as simple as “The first couple of weeks you’ll be working with Bill on the Ajax project.”

You can flesh that out as you see fit – including technical training or other approaches, if appropriate.

Just try to give the new employee the feeling that he or she won’t be pushed out to sea alone or without help or guidance.

Communication: A skill all managers must master

Adapted from Communication Bulletin for Managers & Supervisors.

Communication is at the heart of everything a manager touches – and it’s what separates the average manager from the truly effective one. Any manager can do the basics, like schedule, organize or measure.

But only those who practice good communication can motivate, inspire and develop people … and that’s how the best work gets done.

Thankfully, good communication is a skill that anyone can master with some practice. Here are six essential communication skills you can work on each day.  In the end, you’ll be much more effective.

  1. Listen more than you talk. Possibly the most important communication skill of all is the ability to listen. Avoid letting your thoughts wander: Focus on what the other person is saying. Not sure what they mean? Say, “Let me make sure I have this right. Are you saying …?”
  2. Keep your promises. Lead by example and be sure to keep your promises. For example, if you’ve been pushing your staff to raise their level of customer service, don’t contradict yourself by being rude to one of them. It’s the old “walk the walk, and talk the talk.” Another golden mantra: Follow through.
  3. Say it like it is. You know you can’t always tell everyone everything. But too much sugar-coating often obscures the truth, and too little information leaves things open to the wrong interpretations. Be straightforward and tell your employees when there are kinks that need to be worked out. If you made a mistake, admit it. If the company made a wrong turn, be honest and discuss how you’re planning to get back on track.
  4. Don’t react … respond. Everyone has buttons that, when pushed, evoke an emotional reaction. But reacting isn’t responding. Be mindful of situations when this arises, and practice being thoughtful first before taking action. Know your buttons and train yourself to respond rather than react when they’re pushed.
  5. Make it personal. Make it a point to have regular one-on-one conversations with some of your staff. Create time in your schedule each week to meet individually with people – and not just key staffers. Your involvement and interest in each employee will boost workplace morale and productivity.
  6. Give specifics. Managers give feedback throughout the day – sometimes without even realizing that’s what they’re doing. So it pays to be specific. The more you can fine-tune the feedback, the clearer the picture for the employee. Is it more helpful if someone tells you, “You need to give better customer service” or if he or she says, “Make a point of smiling and making eye contact with our customers, instead of typing on your computer while talking to them”? If your feedback contains specific action steps, your employees will understand exactly what you want them to do.