How to Motivate a New Hire

Career consultant Diana Henderson shows the way to play your cards.

From Diana:
Bringing someone new onboard? Workplace experts would tell you to grab your dice and give them a roll because you’ve got a 50-50 chance of making them successful, even after the due diligence in the recruiting process. Simply stated, 50% of new hires just don’t work out. So how do you protect the investment you’ve made in recruiting and courting this newbie once they join the team?


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I think the success of your new hire greatly lies in the strategy of your onboarding. And, like with the stock market, if you invest wisely, you’ll see a return.

1. Set the table

Clear expectations are table stakes in successful workplace environments. As leaders, it’s our job to ensure the table is set with the objectives we expect from our employees. Taking that one step further, it’s critical to share anticipated time tables. If a new hire can set their sights on a target (for example, “six months before you’ll be fully productive” or whatever is reasonable in your organization) the likelihood of them achieving the expectation is much greater.

2. Show them the way

To quote my six-year-old son, “show me how.” You’ll get quicker, more accurate results by modeling expectancies, particularly by showing how vs. simply articulating them. In fact, I find that people are more likely to adopt behavior that is modeled and not spoken at all. It puts the choice to adopt the behavior in the hands of the imitator, and they’ll be more inclined to act when they feel they’ve made that decision on their own. Millennials, in particular, respond well to this approach.

3. Point out that there’s strength in numbers

In leadership, you’ve likely found that there’s only so much of you to go around. The larger your team, the less individual time you have to offer your team. New hires, especially, need a lot of time. The 2015 Golden State Warriors developed the “Strength in Numbers” slogan to highlight the individual stats of its players but, more notably, the stats of the team as a whole. This mantra is also successful in the workplace when deployed to encourage inter-team collaboration. Team members, each with their individual expertise, contribute value to their teammates. In this approach, your new hire has a lineup of knowledge from which to benefit.

4. Build their confidence

New hires often arrive with either an ego (false confidence), or a lack of confidence. Take the opportunity to help them build their confidence the right way. Words are powerful and exhortation produces results. By way of encouragement, you can draw out the best in someone. It doesn’t mean you have to walk around stroking your employees with praise— encouragement is both complimentary and constructive in nature, but it’s intentional. Be thoughtful and encourage your new hires to bring their best.

5. Discover their skills

People default to what they’re good at because that’s where they feel successful. Instead of struggling to force a round peg into a square hole, learn the strengths of your new hire and help put them to work. If they give you resistance to take on a task outside of their comfort zone or additional responsibility, tip your hand. Let them know the potential you see in them so they see the vision and have something to strive towards. This is where stretch yields growth.

6. Speak their language

There’s a great book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, that equips you to speak the language of your employees—new or tenured. It recognizes that individuals give and receive appreciation uniquely. Oftentimes, the way one demonstrates appreciation of others is how they prefer to receive it. Some thrive on spoken praise; others on a tangible reward. Observe your new hire in action (or administer the assessment online) to learn their primary and secondary appreciation languages. Speaking from experience, you don’t want to publicly praise an individual just to learn they are terribly averse to public accolades!

For more from Diana, read her recent columns on our site or visit her online at DianaHendersonConsult.com

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