Bringing a new employee on board with your organization can be both exciting and challenging. It is critical that you have a plan in place to help facilitate a smooth transition for the new hire by making her feel a part of the team from the first day. Failure to welcome a new employee into the fold can be disastrous and could result in a resignation only days, weeks, or months after accepting an offer of employment. In this situation, the most obvious question is whether there was anything that either the department managing this employee or the recruiter who placed the legal support professional could have done differently to prevent the resignation.
Generally, the placing recruiter will stay in contact with both the newly placed employee and the employer for several weeks, if not months, after the employee has joined the new organization. The recruiter endeavors to ensure a smooth transition for the employee into the firm by communicating any concerns between the parties. Additionally, after polling numerous placed candidates, we have developed a series of guidelines for employers to consider in helping to facilitate a seamless transition for new hires joining their organizations. The goal is to create an environment in which the new hires are pleased to make your organization their “home” for the foreseeable future.
How to On Board a Legal Support Professional Successfully
Prepare for the First Day
While this piece of advice may appear trivial, being prepared for your new hire’s first day can go a long way in starting the employment relationship off on a positive note. Not having a work space complete with a functional computer or other office necessities only leaves the impression that the office is either disorganized or that the new employee’s arrival is not a priority for the firm. Have an agenda and an action plan for the employee’s first day and be actively involved in your new hire’s first day. Arrange for several peers to take the new employee to lunch and provide a tour of the office. An office tour is useful to assist the new hire in getting acquainted with key areas of the firm including the supply room, IT area, designated kitchens or break rooms, bathroom facilities and management offices. Making the new hire’s first day a welcoming experience will ease her transition and send the impression that her decision to join the firm is valued.
Provide New Hire Orientation
While the content of new hire orientation will vary, there are certain basic areas that should be covered either during the first day or the new hire’s first week. In addition to an office tour, arrange brief “meet and greets” with the office staff to help ensure that, at the very least, the new hire is recognized by others in the office and that colleagues understand the new hire’s role in the department and firm. Assign a mentor to the new employee to help guide her on both office policies and procedures and substantive assignments. A mentor will provide the new employee with a confidante to whom she can turn with questions and concerns.
Set Realistic Expectations
Set expectations for the candidate during the screening and interview process so that the new hire can anticipate what she will encounter upon joining your organization. From time to time, we have heard such phrases as, “The job just wasn’t what I thought it would be” from candidates who have been dissatisfied with their new positions. These scenarios are completely preventable. As an example, at the outset of joining a firm, a new lateral attorney may feel overwhelmed by the volume of document review projects and her inability to take on more interesting substantive assignments. If it is your general policy to assign new hires to this type of work upon starting with your firm, advise the new hire as such. If the new hire knows what to expect day one, but can anticipate the type of substantive assignments that will come in the future, you won’t run the risk of a high dissatisfaction level. Another example might be a disheartened paralegal who feels underutilized if she is relegated solely to administrative tasks such as standing at the copy machine for hours on end. While all employees have to endure administrative, less interesting tasks, keep in mind the balance of substantive verses administrative work to which your new hires are assigned. Outline the expectations and challenges of the position and what the employee can anticipate down the line. Be cognizant of the fact that dissatisfied new hires may begin accepting interview invitations from competing firms.
Additionally, recognizing the challenges of a new job, make sure that your new hire is set up for success. Guide your new employee as to how supervisors prefer assignments completed. Outline expectations and provide helpful hints on how to best impress managers and colleagues. Warn the candidate about the styles, personalities and idiosyncrasies within the department and the firm as a whole. Your goal is to prepare the new employee for any challenges she might encounter and how to overcome them. You do not want to risk the candidate feeling as though she has failed the firm.
Provide Frequent Feedback
While the ability to work with limited supervision is highly desirable, a new hire may need extra guidance during the first few weeks on the job. It is important to provide both positive and constructive feedback. Commend the new hire on jobs well done, but be understanding if the new employee is not following policies and procedures as quickly as expected. It may take some time for a new hire to become accustomed to new systems if the procedures differ greatly from those of previous employers. Provide a clear understanding of how her performance and adherence to firm policies will affect others in the firm. Clear communication is essential to ensure a successful transition into the firm. Most unfortunate is the situation where a new employee is released without ever understanding exactly what had gone wrong or, in the alternative, a new employee leaves on her own volition due to a miscommunication of expectations.
Provide Harassment Training
Although rare, on occasion, placed candidates have come to us after abruptly leaving a position because they felt uncomfortable or unsafe in the workplace. Diversity and Sexual Harassment Training should be provided to all of your employees along with clear procedures for reporting violations. Do remember that your new hires, with limited social support or awareness of office policies, may be the most vulnerable to these infractions. A neutral contact outside of a new hire’s department should be designated in the event that either a supervisor or a tenured employee is responsible for the harassment. Management should also be aware of the personalities of their team and put an end to inappropriate conversations, jokes, and verbiage that can be found demoralizing and demeaning to others.
It is always disheartening to lose staff who you have worked so hard to hire. Therefore, ensure that you provide your new employees with the right degree of support, information and challenge at the outset of joining your firm. Dedicate the appropriate resources to make your new hires comfortable and bring them into the firm’s culture as quickly as possible. Simply take care of your new employees and help them develop loyalties and relationships within the firm. While there are times when a new employee just is not the right fit for a position for which they were hired, careful screening, training and preparedness can help minimize the risk of your new hire leaving during the pivotal transition period.
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