Eight Ways to Make New Employees Productive From the Start

As you ramp up for the 2019 busy season, follow these tips to get crew members following your mission and selling your services.

Eight Ways to Make New Employees Productive From the Start

Cordell Riley is a speaker on business training and owner and president of Tortal Training. For more information, visit www.tortal.net.

The days and weeks after employees start at your company represent a time of unique opportunity. Can you teach them new systems and skills? Of course you can. But have you also stopped to consider all the other important goals you can reach during the onboarding period? To name just a few, you can:

  • Grow and encourage adoption of your culture
  • Get new hires to understand, promote and believe in your brand
  • Sow the seeds for outstanding customer service
  • Cultivate the kind of spirit and energy that customers will value and love
  • Hear creative ideas from new employees who have a fresh perspective
  • Build retention by proving that your company is a great place to work
  • Set up communication channels with new hires that will improve operations throughout your company.

Those are only a few of the opportunities you have during employees’ first weeks at your company. But how can you take advantage of them? Here are eight approaches that work:

1. Have a well-defined onboarding system.

Many companies just wing it, with negative results. Still other companies see onboarding as little more than filling out forms and showing new employees around the shop. Because new hires start their jobs without a deeper understanding of what is expected of them, they make mistakes that quickly become costly habits that must be corrected later on.

Many problems can be avoided if you set up a structured onboarding system that functions as high-level training. On their start days, new hires can meet individually with the owner or their manager to fill out forms, for example, and learn about your company, its brand and its values. After lunch, they can be trained in the basic skills their jobs demand; watching training videos, engaging in work simulations and working alongside current employees can work well to reach those goals. And after day one, they should attend regular follow-ups to address problems and reinforce basic concepts and skills.

The strategy is to clearly define the skills and behaviors you need and to create a concise minicurriculum that tracks to them.

2. Set up genuine mentoring relationships between new hires and successful current employees.

Remember, mentors’ goals should not be to get new hires to imitate what they do, or even to adhere to company systems. Their purpose is to discover what new employees would like to accomplish at your company and to help them reach those goals. In short, mentoring is not about the mentors or strictly about your company, but about the employees who are being coached.

3. Find ways to de-layer and free up communications.

Invite new employees to brainstorming sessions where their new ideas are collected, posted, discussed — and put into action when appropriate. Also consider setting up systems so employees can present suggestions directly to the owner or top decision-makers. Without the ability for their suggestions to be heard, you have created a communication structure that carries a risk of demotivating front-line and entry-level personnel; just one supervisor who stifles new ideas can do great damage to your company.

4. Don’t do training on the cheap.

If you are only handing out employee handbooks and having new employees fill out withholding forms, you are missing out on some great opportunities. For example, if you train new crew members to think about ways to sell your company’s services, that could build untold new revenue. Or if you set up mobile training that sends out pings to remind employees to use specific skills they learned in training, you could increase your training ROI dramatically. The lesson? Spending a little more to deliver great training is a moneymaker, not an expense.

5. Within your budget, customize training for each employee.

Even “standardized” training can be enriched by creating individualized training elements for each new employee. You can evaluate the skills of your new hires during training and address them directly, for example, or help employees overcome anxiety about performing certain parts of their new jobs. Investing just a little time to give training extra value can go a long way toward getting new employees up to speed faster.

6. Stress and reinforce your mission statement, vision statement and strategic company plan.

The onboarding period is a time to share the big picture about your company and to get employees to buy into your most important goals and priorities. Instead of waiting for employees to discover these critical priorities, start talking about them soon after new hires come on board.

7. Consider creating a career plan for new employees.

You won’t want to do this for seasonal or short-term employees. For employees who you would like to stay with you for the long term, consider creating individual career-development plans that spell out what they need to do to be promoted within your organization. You could say, for example, that your company will provide technical training to help them move up into more challenging duties. Millennials, especially, are more likely to stay with your company for the long term if they know the ropes and understand what it takes to build a long-term relationship with your organization.

8. Evaluate whether you are acting like a great employer.

This is something you should always do, not only when you are training a new class of employees. Take the time to benchmark your company climate, benefits, quality of work/life balance and other factors against other companies. Unless you have the best of everything, you cannot expect your employees to commit their hearts and minds to working with you for the long term.


You see, retention starts with you, not with your employees. Unless you commit your efforts to becoming an “employer of choice” — a company people talk about and would love to work for — you are damaging your profits, operations and, ultimately, your success. 


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