Photo: Chris Sadowski/iStock Photo: Chris Sadowski/iStock

New hires that make strong early connections with your business will become productive more quickly. They are more likely to become “brand ambassadors” for your business, and less likely to leave you too early.

I’ve done dozens of exit interviews, and in many the departing employee reported disenchantment with the organization that started with a poor early experience—that the business was unprofessional or simply didn’t seem to care. This kind of voluntary attrition is terribly wasteful and destroys the investment you make in recruiting and developing new hires.

Here are five ways to get your new employees started off on the right foot.

Aligned recruitment

I began my working life in the Canadian Army, where I earned Canadian and German parachute wings and trained in demolitions. When I left the service for a career in business I was sometimes asked how we got people to do dangerous things. The simple answer: we recruited people who wanted to do dangerous things.

The same logic applies to your business. Know who you are and have a very clear understanding of your total employment offer, especially in terms of things like basic values, working environment and development opportunities. You can then look for recruits whose character and needs are aligned with what you can actually deliver.

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Onboarding

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” your mom has probably said to you more than once. The same advice applies to bringing new employees into your team.

Map out an onboarding plan that covers Day One, Week One and Month One. Work out safety, job expectations, training requirements and the availability of resources both technical and human. Then assign a buddy or mentor to each new hire to help them understand the real life norms of behaviour in your business.

Lastly, assign the new hire to a supervisor with a proven track record of making effective early connections. I know a senior vice-president and director of a large Canadian company who attributes the foundation for his successful career to his first boss, who showed him the ropes, both technical and organizational.

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Equipment, hardware and software

I will never forget conducting an exit interview for one new hire who resigned within a few months of joining. She recounted her first day when she was shown a bare desk with a set of keys, a couple of hard copy manuals and no computer. Her first supervisor was on vacation.

Your new recruits want to believe that they’ve hired on with a professional organization, one that knew they were coming and had the tools available to get them started promptly. Failing to provide that reassurance impacts their impression of the company, and has a knock-on effect. What would new recruits think of you if they were hearing that horror story from my exit interviewee?

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A real and practical commitment to safety

The most fundamental way to communicate that you value people is to demonstrate your commitment to keeping them safe physically and psychologically. Your safety program should be led by professionals who have an intimate understanding of your technology, business processes and organization.

Safety must be the first word that recruits hear on Day One. That commitment must be incorporated into everything that you ask them to do.

When I was jumping out of airplanes trained riggers packed my parachutes. Several times a month, each rigger would be required to jump with a chute picked for them at random. Putting their own lives on the line gave us new jumpers a lot of confidence.

Remember also that everything about your business can have an impact on the psychological safety of your employees. Absenteeism cost the Canadian economy $16.6 billion in 2012 and its causes include organizational issues. Many companies conduct pre-job safety analyses and risk mitigation for physical safety. You can and should apply the same discipline to understanding and mitigating risks to psychological safety.

MORE SAFETY: The Dangerous Oversight That Could Ravage Your Business »

Recognition and celebration

I remember how I felt when my first set of parachute wings was pinned on my uniform. I also remember how I felt the morning after the celebratory “prop-blast” party!

Prompt recognition and celebration of team and individual accomplishments will go a very long way to cementing early career connections. Make some noise when a new hire reaches an important developmental milestone. Don’t forget the power of visual symbols like branded shirts, lapel pins and photos of the happy new hire. These will reinforce a sense of belonging to a team that cares.

Martin Birt is the president of HRaskme.com. After serving seven years in the Canadian Army as a combat arms officer, he has enjoyed a thirty-five year career as a human resources manager, consultant and sought-after adviser to business executives. He can be contacted here.

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How do you integrate new hires into your team? Share your tactics and experiences using the comments section below.

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