New Year, New Hires: 6 Tips for Onboarding the New Employee at Your Next Staff Meeting

It’s the start of the year — peak hiring time for many companies.

Effective organizations invest considerable time and energy in helping new employees acclimate to their new surroundings, colleagues, and workflow. The payoff from a quality onboarding process is undeniable: confident employees contributing faster.

But even the best managers often overlook one of the best and least expensive opportunities to help new employees find their footing: the weekly staff meeting.

With just a little preparation on the manager’s part, a new hire’s first staff meeting can accelerate their ramp-up time; generate respect and goodwill between the new hire and the team; reveal opportunities for quick wins; impart the company culture; and more, all within the span of a couple of hours.

So, here are six things you can do to make the most of your new employee’s first team meeting.

1. Don’t skip the introductions. Make them meaningful. Yes, roundtable introductions can be dreadful. We’ve all suffered in agonizing silence as colleagues shamelessly inflate their titles, roles, and accomplishments in a vain attempt to impress the new guy.

But introductions don’t have to be that way; they can inform, endear, and act as a valuable primer on Who does What.

Instead of improvised intros, ask each team member in the room to take a maximum of two minutes to state their 1) name, 2) role, 3) top three accountabilities, and 4) favorite recent work memory. (Keep things moving by using a timer, and gracefully cut off the long-winded a few seconds after their allotted time lapses.)

Another tip: if your team consists of more than, say, six or seven people, help the new hire get a grasp on names by using name cards or tags.

2. Kill the corporate-speak. If you and your colleagues are prone to using acronyms, verbal shortcuts, and company buzzwords, don’t — at least not in the newbie’s first meeting.

Nothing is as isolating as a room full of people tossing around company jargon and inside jokes. And don’t assume the new hire will speak up to ask for clarification — they often won’t, for fear of interrupting the meeting’s flow or looking stupid.

So create and enforce a “no jargon” policy for the meeting. If your office vibe is on the playful side, you might even require anyone caught using an acronym or buzzword to throw a dollar into a jar….with the proceeds going to the newbie.

3. Tune up your reports. Clear, meaningful data are key to a highly effective meeting, but they take on even greater importance when a new employee arrives. The faster a new hire grasps the company’s underlying performance metrics and drivers, the sooner she can positively impact them.

So take a critical look at your routine reports.

Ruthlessly replace or enhance wordy handouts with easily digestible charts, graphs, and images. Make sure the documents can stand on their own without a bunch of backstory and explication/narrative. If they can’t, it’s a good bet they’re poorly designed.

4. Get them involved. A new employee sitting mute at their first staff meeting doesn’t help them, or your team. The goal should be to get new employees’ voices heard right away — that’s why you hired them, after all. So offer new hires a way to contribute to the staff meeting from the outset.

You might ask them to prepare a formal presentation, but I prefer this lower-key method: pepper the agenda with a few discussion topics that don’t require knowledge of company history to weigh in. Then, solicit feedback from each team member (including the newbie), round-robin style.

Doing this a few times will help the team start to gel, give a sense of the new team dynamic, and make the newbie feel immediately valuable. After the meeting, don’t forget to solicit their feedback on the meeting itself. Ask them what was most helpful, what they would improve, et cetera. You may hear some fresh insights into what is and isn’t working.

5. Make a personal gesture. Ask the newbie for his favorite quick service restaurant for breakfast or lunch, and serve it at the meeting. Nothing endears a group to a new teammate like exposing an affection for drive-thru tacos.

6. Air a little dirty laundry. Whenever a recurring conflict or tension area comes up in the meeting, discreetly offer the new employee some context around the issue in real time.

Conflicts are particularly rich instructional tools for a new hire insomuch as they reveal what matters to whom; where the dependencies lie in an organization; how the place works; where the opportunities are to have impact; and a host of other information.

Don’t let those moments pass without mining them for what their worth.

Looking for more ways to improve your team meetings? Explore more meeting management tips from The Ready.

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