Give New Employees the Skills, Not Just the Tools, to Succeed

May 1, 2006

Because retaining people is more challenging now, it’s time to look beyond traditional new employee programs and focus on providing new hires with not just the tools but the skills to help them succeed in their new workplace. The majority of new hire on-boarding and orientation programs focus on providing new hires with high-level information about the company, rules, policy, and procedures. Some companies go the extra step by providing their new employees with tools to help them navigate their new work environment; new-hire checklists are popular items in this genre, but that’s not enough.

But today’s savvy Gen X and Y employees (the bulk of whom you’re hiring) quickly need confirmation from their new employers that they made the right choice. Throwing them into the fray to see what happens can no longer be the litmus test for determining new employee fit. What new employees really need are the skills to quickly succeed in their new jobs and build platforms for continued success. Here’s a look at five critical skills that support immediate and long-term employee success. You might think that some of these are basic or common-sense. That may be true, but my experience is that most companies aren’t doing them.

Goal-Setting Skills

To prepare new employees for success, you must ensure that they know what is expected of them and how success is defined. Once your new employee is clear on his objectives, he can begin to identify goals that align with the company, project, and his personal objectives. Help your new employees define six- and 12-month objectives so that they have a roadmap and clear direction. As part of this process, make sure their goals are realistic and milestones are identified. Milestones are critical to ensure they are on track to success, and they provide valuable check-points for managers. When helping your new employees set goals, remember the following:

  • Set goals that are realistic and provide a challenge.
  • Set goals that do not contradict other goals.
  • Set goals that are within their control.
  • Set goals that are positive and reflect what they really want.
  • Write down the goals.

Time Management Skills

The importance of time management is not just meeting deadlines and showing up for work on time. Effective time management skills communicate to others that your new employees are focused, reliable, consistent, and professional. Time management skills ensure that new employees are prepared to handle the pace, demands, and changes within their jobs. To help develop your new employees’ time management acumen:

  • Clearly articulate priorities and deadlines.
  • Provide guidance and experience regarding how your company treats time. Is the culture fast-paced or slow? Do people show up early or late to meetings?
  • Provide time management resources such as a PDA and calendaring software.
  • Review the projects that employees will be working on to ensure that enough time is allocated to appropriate areas.
  • Provide feedback supported by observations regarding time management practices.

Knowledge Management Skills

Your new Gen X and Y employees bring a fresh perspective, a unique body of knowledge, and a desire to learn and grow their skills. In order to make the most of their experience, ideas, potential, and learning needs, create an environment where your new employees can make contributions and learn in return. Identify areas of interests and create opportunities for learning. A fully contributing and growing employee is a happy employee.

  • Help your new employees identify areas where they have job-applicable knowledge.
  • Work with employees to identify ways to effectively contribute what they know.
  • Provide insight into the company culture and “how things get done.”
  • Identify five to 10 people your new employees need to meet as part of their jobs. Make introductions.
  • Work with your new employees to identify areas of interests and knowledge development.

Team-Player Skills

Retaining new employees requires that they are quickly made to feel a part of the team. This means more than providing them with list of team member names. Give them insight into how the team functions and how your new employees fits into the mix. Help your new hires develop their team skills:

  • Articulate team members/key coworkers’ roles and how each role is interrelated or independent.
  • Identify how your new employee’s roles play a part in the larger group.
  • Provide standards of team behavior and protocol for how the team works together.
  • Pave the way for introductions to team members/key coworkers.
  • Provide feedback based on observations regarding how your new employees are building and reinforcing relationships.

Professional Image Skills

Successfully retaining your new hires require that they fit into the culture of the company. Spare them the challenges of making their own mistakes by helping them navigate the company culture. Help them articulate their strengths and build their communication skills. Assist new employees by helping them sharpen their image skills:

  • Share information about the image of success in your company.
  • Explain behaviors that get rewarded as well as pitfalls to avoid.
  • Help your new employees identify their strengths and what they want to be known for in the company.
  • Provide feedback on how your new employee are communicating (physically, behaviorally, and verbally) based on your observations.

The above should be done whether or not the job market is strong or soft. Companies are faced with a workforce that will make the choice to leave if they feel they are not prepared to succeed.