In one place I worked, the first week was spent in mandatory training. It covered HR policies, IT information and policies, marketing overviews and presentations from the architects of the various systems. That doesn’t happen at most companies. In other places, starting and initial training are much more informal. But no matter how casual the workplace, the first days and weeks on the job are extremely important.
It’s like a first date: You have to impress each other while being yourselves. The new employee is trying to decide whether he really likes this place, while at the same time impressing others with his engineering skills. The employer is trying to confirm she’s hired the right person, and to make sure he adds to the team’s productivity as soon as possible.
Over time, I’ve come up with a set of things that my team and I do with all employees on their first day and during their first week. It’s our way of smoothing out those first-date jitters.
On the First Day
- Team lunch. Let’s get to know each other.
- Get the system running. This way you’ve accomplished something on day one.
- Give the person enough breathing space to do things like set up preferences and settle in. Being around new people all the time can be overwhelming. Some alone time is probably welcome.
During the First Week
- Pair with the newbie to fix at least one bug. This way he’s a full-fledged team member and has improved the product in some way, no matter how small.
- Make sure the person spends time working with every member of the team. He’s going to change the team dynamic, and becoming “just another team member” as quickly as possible is the goal. Start encouraging those relationships now.
- Have a one-on-one toward the end of the week, just a quiet chat to answer questions that come up and say to each other, “OK, how is it going?” Any reservations on your part or the new person’s part can be addressed early and without drama.
The first few days of any job are tough — for the new guy and for the team. A little extra attention can make it a lot easier for everyone.