Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Jan. 16, 2020.
By Jackie Kimmell, Senior Analyst
Part two of our series on the seven conversations all managers should have with their employees
We all know that first impressions matter—but you may not know that that rule applies to both personal and professional first impressions. Research shows a new hire's first impression of their manager, and the organization, can have a lasting impact on their engagement, productivity, and length of time spent at the job.
Infographic: 7 must-have conversations between managers and employees
What can managers do to ensure a positive first impression? According to research, the answer is simple: Meet with all new hires at the end of their first week.
The HR team at Microsoft recently confirmed and quantified this advice. They analyzed anonymous engagement metrics (measured with statements such as "I feel proud to work at Microsoft") for 3,000 new hires, as well as the hires' anonymized calendar and email metadata.
“Their main finding? This first-week meeting is critical.”
Their main finding? This first-week meeting is critical. When compared with new hires who did not have a one-on-one meeting with their manager during their first week, employees who did have this meeting had:
- A 12% larger internal network. Microsoft notes that this larger network helped new employees feel a stronger sense of belonging and, according to their data, made them 8% more likely to express wanting to stay at the company.
- Higher-quality meetings in the future. The quality of later-in-tenure meetings was measured by the number of declines, attendees sending emails during the meetings, total attendees, and meeting length.
- Three times as much time spent collaborating. They also felt a stronger sense of belonging.
All in all, the data suggests that meeting with a new hire in the first week can have a meaningful impact on their long-term engagement. However, it can be hard to know how to structure this meeting, what to talk about, and how to form a personal connection with your new hire.
We spoke with Kate Vonderhaar, Managing Director of Advisory Board's HR Advancement Center, to get her guidance on how to best conduct this first-week check-in.
Why managers should make time for check-ins
"Organizations often invest a ton in new-hire orientation experiences which leave new hires engaged and excited to begin work," Vonderhaar explains. "However, once the new hire starts, they can quickly experience a let-down. Their new coworkers are often busy and might not be excited to take time out of their day to train a new teammate."
But Vonderhaar says managers can prevent this drop in enthusiasm by carving out extra time to meet with new hires early. That way, Vonderhaar says, managers are tapping into the excitement of orientation and making the new hire feel special and excited about their new job.
How to set up the meeting
Vonderhaar suggests sending an email to new hires by the end of their first week scheduling a 30-minute meeting in a quiet, private location. She suggests that managers in this email:
- Introduce themselves: include their name, role, and relationship to the new hire (e.g., direct manager);
- Include the location for the check-in (and consider including directions if the location might be hard to find for someone new);
- Tell the new hire what they should bring to the check-in, if anything; and
- Give the new hire the name of someone whom they should reach out to if they have any questions before meeting.
What should you talk about?
Vonderhaar suggests asking five main questions:
- "Why did you choose our organization?" This question can help connect new hires to the excitement they felt when accepting the job, while helping you understand more about their passions or motivations and identify early tasks that fit their interests.
- "Which team members have you met this week?” This question is essential to make sure they've met everyone they'll be working with and to ensure they feel connected to their network of peers. If they haven't met everyone they should know (which you can check by preparing a list ahead of time), it's also a perfect excuse to walk them around the floor and offer introductions.
- "What have our team members done to make you feel welcome?" This helps you identify which employees have gone above and beyond to help new hires. If your new hire struggles to answer this question, it’s a red flag that team members may not have been as welcoming as expected. If that’s the case, you can proactively address the situation and make sure the new team member feels welcomed.
- "What was the best part of your first week?" Has it been learning more about the company's mission? The customers or patients? This question allows you to help your new hire focus on the positive, which can drive engagement with the team and help you prioritize goals that coincide with their favorite job aspects.
- "What questions or concerns do you have?" Allot the final 5-10 minutes of the check-in to addressing what's on your new hire's mind. If they share any initial challenges (such as missing equipment or knowledge), work to resolve them as quickly as possible. Doing so shows the new hire that you're glad they're there and can make a big difference in them feeling appreciated.
To see suggested follow-up questions to the questions above and to learn other suggested questions, Vonderhaar's team has compiled a manager-new hire discussion guide.
“Before you dive in, take a few minutes to share your own background and story”
But before you dive in to those five questions, take a few minutes to share your own background and story. Why did you pick the job? Why are you still at the organization? What do you like about it? Openness about your own background can help make you more approachable and can help you connect on a personal level—creating a foundation for the personal connection that will be critical to your new hire's long-term engagement.
Sharing other personal connections (e.g., a love of running, the same home state) can also help in building your connection. If you need inspiration, review the new hire's resume to spot any noteworthy past experiences or interests.
Watch for next week's edition in this series to learn the secrets behind conducting 30, 60, and 90-day check-ins with new employees.
Missed the first week's conversation?