The first few weeks in a new role can be challenging and full of confusion, particularly when navigating onboarding and probation. From meeting new colleagues and learning new tasks, to dealing with information overload and fitting in with a new team, these early days are often critical to the long term success on the job, so it’s important to start on the right foot.
With a bit of preparation and a clear plan of action, surviving your probationary period doesn’t need to be difficult.
Why is onboarding and probation important for new employees?
Onboarding is usually one of the first appointments scheduled at the beginning of the job. For the business, this is the process of integrating new staff into the company, and it’s where we as new hires begin to create a connection with the company. The benefits for employees are numerous:
- We are introduced to the company culture
- We receive clarification around our role, and establish our performance goals
- We are introduced to the people and the tools we will need to succeed on the job
- We are informed of our obligations of our job, both legal and professional, as well as the benefits we are entitled to
This is also when we are informed of the length of our probationary period, and what we need to accomplish in order to complete it successfully. When new to a job, or during the early stages of a career, probation can sound intimidating. But just like onboarding, it can also be beneficial to employees.
Probation is usually accompanied with a number of meetings to clarify and review performance. These meetings are a good opportunity to learn more about what is expected, and discuss any skill gaps that need to be addressed.
Making a good first impression
One of the most common fears people have when beginning a new job is making a good first impression. We know from research that there are two main traits people evaluate when meeting someone new: trustworthiness, and competence. This seems to be something we all do, no matter the culture in which we work.
There are several ways we can build a positive first impression:
- Don’t be late to appointments. In fact, if possible, arrive a few minutes early.
- Follow the hierarchy, and allow the most senior person to speak first and make introductions.
- Remember, most workplaces are formal. If unsure, it’s better to err on the side of too formal than too casual. Refer to colleagues based on company’s culture: In multinational companies. first names are preferred ; while in local companies, they usually use surnames and titles. This also applies to business attire: suits are best, for both men and women.
- If you move to a new city, it’s important to learn about local customs and business etiquette. For example, diet habit, traditional culture, customs, festival, dialect etc. It helps you get closer to your local colleagues.
Fitting in with a new team
Fitting in is another common concern for new staff members. The most important strategy to fit in with a new team is to listen and observe, and to make an effort to participate in team or company activities.
In reality, some business is conducted outside of the work office. Participating in these activities, usually lunches or dinners, not only has the benefit of getting to know your new teammates better, as well as any clients your team will be working with, but it also expands your own network, an invaluable resource that you will come to rely on over your career.
Feeling overwhelmed with all new information
Of course, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed from all the new people and information that these first few weeks bring. Psychologists call this Information Fatigue Syndrome or information overload, and it is very common in new employees. It usually results in poor concentration, a decreased capacity to make good decisions, as well as the inability to prioritise relevant information.
Feeling overwhelmed and confused at the beginning of a job is normal. It’s a challenging time in anyone’s career, and we’ve all been through it. The most important thing to do in these cases is to recognise that it’s a normal response to an excess of information. The good news is, this feeling is temporary. If possible, take a break and step away from the situation in order to calm the mind. If not, prioritise the tasks that need to be accomplished, and tackle each step one at a time. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice; it’s better to learn to do things the right way than to make mistakes during the early days of a new job. With time comes clarity, and as long as we prioritise tasks, get to know our new team, and build strong relationships, we are sure to see success on the job.