‘We should get some patio furniture and a cooking grill!’, the wife suggested one lazy Sunday morning. Being a dutiful and conflict-averse husband, I agreed. Before one could say ‘Gurunath Meiyappan’, the furniture parts were lying in our backyard, waiting to be assembled. After spending the next 5 hours, trying to interpret the complex instructions, yelling at the kids to keep as far away as possible from the tools, swearing at self for dropping the hammer on the toe and generally criticizing the writing skills of whoever wrote the instruction manual (hell has a special ditch for them in the ninth circle! Ask Dan Brown, if you don’t believe me!), we managed to put together the patio furniture and the grill.
Exhausted but satisfied, I sat down on one of the patio chairs and instantly jumped up screaming. I had just sat on a cicada! Now those of you who are not from the US East coast may not know that the belt from North Carolina to Connecticut is swarming with Cicadas currently – these beastly insects come out of the ground every 17 years and generally drink tree- sap, mate with each other and die (in other words, it is like the spring break for insects in every backyard in the region). While harmless, they are huge and look creepy – see a sample below (Courtesy: Wikipedia)!
Anyway, the cicadas and their once-in-17-year orgies reminded me about another annual swarm of organisms that are released into the corporate world around this time in summer. I am talking about the freshly minted graduates joining the corporate workforce. While we have seen advice targeted towards the graduates on ‘why they need to be nice to others’ and’ why they should follow their dreams’, I did not see a lot of material targeting the managers in companies and how they can manage this swarm of folks who are going to be part of their teams. So, here is my contribution towards filling this gap.
New graduates are people too!
Sneha was excited – this was her first day at work! She had already visited the website for her company, studied the Wikipedia entry for her industry and prepared a 20 point program for the CEO to implement to grow the company by double digits! As soon as she entered her workspace, Mohit – her manager – handed her a notepad and a pen and said “You are coming with me to the next meeting with our customer. You will be in the background taking down copious notes of all that is discussed. I don’t want you to speak, laugh, cough and if possible, breathe! In other words, you are going to be my recording machine. If anyone asks you anything, just nod and say ‘it depends’!”. Her first 3 months at her job was spent in attending meetings, taking notes, getting printout copies for her manager and helping to setup the projector for meetings!
Most of us have had a similar experience as Sneha above! Do you want the fresh hire to have a similar experience? At least as their manager, you have the opportunity to give them a more meaningful role. They may not be able to contribute much, but give them more context about the work you want them to do and treat them with respect.
Make them part of the team!
For many of the graduates joining your company, this will be their first experience in a corporate setting. Their experience of an office environment will be based on viewings of ‘The Office’, ‘Rocket Singh’ and the perennial favorite – ‘Office Space’. So, it is natural that some of them look and feel disoriented without a clear idea of how they are expected to behave. Well, as a manager – make them feel a part of your team. Introduce them to your team, make them feel at home. Ask them if they need any help, answer their questions – some of these may be quite obvious! This will also help them settle down and become productive faster!
Listen to their ideas!
Fresh hires have the advantage of being fresh! They don’t have any past baggage and can question any ‘established practices’ without sounding stupid. Take advantage of this fresh outlook and involve them in discussions and meetings. It will not be uncommon for you to hear an innovative suggestion that was in a blind spot for the rest of the team. Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college to found facebook. Similarly, David Karp dropped out of High School to setup Tumblr. Who knows? One of the new hires in your team will pretty soon be setting up the next big thing! Another reason for you to be nice to them and listen to them!
What are your thoughts? What other ways can you make a new hire more welcome in your organization?