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Performance Management and Engaging New Employees

Employee engagement is a process that begins in the employee’s first few days and weeks. During the onboarding process of new employees, you'll want to make it a point to establish performance expectations, goals, standards for high performance, promotional opportunities, and whatnot. Doing so is key to engaging new employees.

Achievement is a key engagement driver. Reinforcing achievement is a must, even for new hires.

As part of this discussion, you should indicate your expectations for the first week, first month, first quarter, and first year of the new hire's tenure. Be specific. The more specific and open you can be about your expectations, the more likely you are to set up your new hire for success.

While you're at it, cover the key systems your new hire will need to use to be successful and discuss your plans for getting him up to speed. Also make any introductions — internal or external — to people who can help the new hire complete his first few assignments.

To keep things on track, conduct a formal 90-day performance appraisal for new hires. The purpose of this appraisal is to assess the quality and quantity of the new employee's work, as well as her understanding of the position requirements.

This review should also clarify employee concerns and questions, as well as management expectations. Finally, it should set goals for the next nine months, including timelines and measurements.

Specifically, the review should cover the following points, with employees rated as “Unsatisfactory,” “Below Standards,” “Fully Satisfactory,” “Exceeds Standards,” and “Outstanding”:

  • Adjustment to culture: Does the employee like it here? Is there anything the organization can do to help acclimate him to the culture? What is working? What isn't? What does the employee like about the organization? What should we change?

  • Conformance to position requirements: Is the employee meeting performance expectations? Does she have strengths or weaknesses that require a modification to the position description? Successful firms evolve the job to fit the employee's strengths instead of doing the whole “force the square peg into the round hole” bit.

  • Quality of work: Is the new hire a “get it done quick” or a “get it done right” employee? Establishing your quality standards is a must during these critical early days.

  • Productivity: Is the new hire so focused on quality that he's not completing assignments? New hires who want to impress often make the mistake of trying to build a BMW when the job requires a Ford.

  • Communication skills: Does the new hire lack the necessary communication skills to be successful? Does she suffer from a lack of confidence due to her newness? Is there training to help the new hire overcome these problems?

  • Working relationships: Is the new introverted employee being overwhelmed by his extroverted co-workers (or vice versa)? Did you partner the new hire with a compatible “buddy”? If the new hire is struggling to adapt, consider a department luncheon, an after-work social, or partnership with a colleague on a project (especially with one of the department's more popular or respected members) as a means to jumpstart a relationship.

  • Planning and organizing: Is the organization following its 90-day onboarding plan? If not, you may find that things will go astray as the new hire focuses on things she thinks are important rather than what the actual goals are.

Of course, you shouldn't wait 90 days to review a new hire's performance (good or bad). You should let your new hire know he's doing an amazing job, or that there are some performance concerns, well before then. Regular, ongoing communication is key to sustaining engagement. When you do review goals on day 90, there should be no surprises.

There is no such thing as holding a new hire's hand too much. A new hire will never quit a new job because, darn it, you've given her too much attention. In fact, the opposite is usually true.

If a new employee fails to engage with the culture, team, department, and so on during her first 90 days on the job, that person is more likely to be poached by her former employer — who, if smart, recognizes that a great time to re-recruit a former employee is during that person's first 90 days with the new company (“Come back home! We miss you! Your seat is still warm . . .”).

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