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Guest Commentary: All Aboard!

When an employee starts a new job, that is the time to capture their heart and mind.

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John Passante is a broad-based senior executive with over 30 years of extensive organizational development and senior human resource experience with progressive corporations involved in multiple locations, both domestic and international.

Do your employees feel they belong and are accepted? As human beings, we all have the need to fit in and enjoy the comfortable sense of security that gives us a strong feeling of belonging. Most of us in our careers have changed jobs and experienced the feeling of being “the new person.” Stressful? Yes! Remember the quote from Kermit the Frog: “It’s not easy being green!”

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Remember the first day of school, when you were the new kid? The point is, we have all experienced that nervous feeling and uncertainty. When an employee starts a new job, that is the time to capture their heart and mind. It is an exciting and magical moment. It is a window of opportunity to make an impression that stays with the new employee.

Belonging gives us a sense of security and peace of mind. Have you ever wondered why some employees resign after a few weeks on a new job? Sometimes long-serving employees forget what it is like to be “new!” New employees are unsure if it’s okay to ask questions or to ask for help. Given the virus situation, with more employees working from home, it is more important than ever to make sure that new employees feel welcome and wanted.

Work to make your organization feel like a community and foster a team culture. Be patient with new hires. Allow mistakes to be made. Nurture a sense of belonging, which is a key component of inclusion. Care, and show that you care. If possible, provide flexible work scheduling. Tell employees, “Be yourself – everybody else is taken!”

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Practice candor and support. Provide employees the opportunity to share their opinions. Work to reduce the fear factor and demonstrate that you can indeed handle the truth. In life and in business, it is important to accept people for who they are. 

Belonging appears to be a new factor in developing a positive company culture. It is in fact a developing concept. Here are the four main factors that make employees feel they belong:

  • Recognition for their unique contributions and accomplishments;
  • Acknowledgement and appreciation of employee contribution in meetings. We all seek to be heard;
  • Providing the opportunity for employees to share their ideas and professional opinions. The ability to challenge the status quo improves employee motivation; and
  • Encouraging employees to being their whole selves to work. Self-expression leads to employee retention and workforce diversity. The Millennial generation tends to be individualistic.

When employees feel empowered, they have a greater sense of belonging. The need to belong is universal! Belongingness, as it is often called, refers to a human emotional need to affiliate with and be accepted by members of a group. This includes being accept by peers at school or by co-workers.

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Given the challenges we are all facing, now is the perfect time to re-recruit all your employees. Remember, your employees are your brand! Take a leap of faith and ask your employees if they feel a strong sense of belonging! Gain insights from their responses and take the proactive steps to increase the sense of belonging. 

The keys to belonging are:

  • Memorable experiences
  • Personalized interactions
  • Relevant and timely information
  • Tailored motivations
  • Immediate feedback

Remember­: silence is not feedback! First impressions count. Companies should treat the new employee with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm. Companies with strong onboarding processes improve new employee retention by 82 percent, according to the Brandon Hall Group.

Welcoming a new employee to your organization involves elevating the pure transactional process to an interactive experience that engages the new associate. It is the sharing of information and inviting of the new associate to become an active participant and key contributor to the organization. It is making them a part of the company family and culture.

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