A good HR Director knows that talent recruitment is only half the battle. In a reasonably active workplace, there are challenges for new employees of any calibre. And first impressions usually stick, so it’s vital to support new hires from day one. Fortunately, our weekly employee check-in makes for the perfect onboarding tool.

As with the other installments in this series, we’ll be breaking down the moving parts of an employee check-in. Then we’ll go through the different challenges for new employees HR should look out for. And then we’ll bring everything together by showing you how checking in with new hires can help them to get situated.

What is an employee check-in?

An employee check-in is a virtual tool designed for periodic sentiment and performance updates. They’re conducted between line managers and individual employees on their team. The idea is to generate continuous, two-way feedback. Check-ins even include progress reports in the form of goal-tracking.

Managers have control over the frequency of their team’s check-ins. But we say HR should be encouraging managers to run them every week. Any less, and it could be argued you’re not getting a truly regular cadence for continuous feedback.

An employee check-in is…

  • Completely asynchronous.
  • Designed to take mere minutes.
  • Customisable on the employee level.
  • Can be adjusted week-to-week.
  • Its own form of documentation.

An employee check-in is not…

Above is a description of the sort of employee check-in tool we provide. But, given that “checking in” with someone could mean a lot of things, we wanted to clarify a couple of things. After all, even just walking up to someone at their desk and asking about their day could be described as “a check-in.”

But that’s not what we mean. An employee check-in is not an informal conversation. It’s not even a scheduled 1:1 meeting. In fact, our employee check-in is actually a support tool to make sure the 1:1s that you do have run smoothly. Especially when those meetings are for major performance reviews.And, while their goals are similar, you can’t replace a check-in with a generic engagement survey and expect the same results. While they’re both survey tools, check-ins are not the same as bulk surveys. That’s because of their customizability, agile design, and small, focused question sets.

What are the biggest challenges for new employees?

No matter how good at your job you are, getting dropped into a bustling, unfamiliar work environment can be a real head-spin. You don’t know where anything is. Everyone’s a stranger. Plus, on top of everything else, you can’t figure out the coffee machine in the break room to save your life.

And it may actually come to that. Here are some of the major challenges for new employees at work.

The adjustment period is often tricky for new starters

There are all kinds of metaphors for a functional workplace. You might compare it to a ship, or an engine. But people aren’t like parts of a machine. You can’t just slot a new one into place and expect it to immediately hit top performance at the press of a button.

The adjustment period is one of the most immediate challenges for new employees. According to Gallup, new hires “…typically take around 12 months to reach peak performance potential.”

New employees see the disparity between the results they’re producing and what they know they’re capable of. And this just adds to their job stress, because they’re in a mad dash to catch up. The support these employees get from HR and management may well determine whether they have a future with your business.

Information overload hits hard

Being a new addition to a busy workplace means getting subjected to torrent of information. There’s so much to commit to memory. Names and faces. New logins and passwords. Meeting schedules, or how to book time off. And that’s not even getting into the immediate job training and responsibilities.

A welcoming packet can only cover so much. And giving out giant new-starter manuals isn’t the way to go, either. Giving someone too much info at once is a good way to have none of it sink in whatsoever.

When you overload people, they switch off. That means they’re continuing in a state of total disengagement. And not everyone benefits equally from the same teaching methods. It’s important to tailor job training and orientation to both the role and the individual.

Confidence at work can be low in new employees

Between the information overload and the adjustment period, it’s easy for new hires to have their confidence rattled. It’s one of the more difficult challenges for new employees to deal with. They want to make a good impression, and that can make it difficult to speak out when they’re unsure.

This can also make it more challenging for them to connect socially with colleagues. And poor social wellbeing makes it hard to thrive at work. Making mistakes is a natural part of the adjustment process. But it’s easy for new employees to worry that those errors make others see them as incompetent.

But, what’s more, those concerns might not be unfounded. Attribution bias is the difference in how we interpret the actions of others compared to our own. When we make a mistake or behave poorly, we’re more likely to attribute it to situational factors. You’re not alert because you didn’t sleep well last night. You were rude because job stress is getting to you. That sort of thing.

But, when someone else does something wrong, we’re more prone to think it’s their disposition to blame. So, where we see an employee adjusting to a new role, someone else might see a useless airhead. And it can be hard for new employees to escape these cycles of negative perception.

How a weekly check-in reduces challenges for new employees

Alright, we’ve laid out the main challenges for new employees. Now, let’s go back through each one to look at how a regular check-in can make a difference.

Timely feedback helps employees to adjust

Adjusting to a new role or employer is one of the more common challenges for new employees. But check-ins are the ideal communication tool, due to how they enable timely two-way feedback.

By giving managers a weekly employee check-in, you give them an easy way to make inquiries. Open-ended questions give employees a way of explaining the challenges they face in detail. They can even ask questions of their own. And, of course, managers then have the power to respond to employee answers as needed.

So, rather than waiting six months to a year to tell someone how they can improve, just tell them. Then maybe Gallup won’t be reporting year-long turnaround times on new hires.

Check-ins identify how best to support individuals

HR face a difficult balancing act when informing new employees, and setting up training for them. On the one hand, you want them to have all the information they need. On the other, you want to avoid drowning them in it.

But a regular employee check-in means you can learn how best to support people straight from the source. Some might benefit from a committed workplace mentor. Others might be happy just shadowing someone for a while.

And the confidentiality of a check-in makes it easier for people to speak up when they’re unsure. It’s easier to ask a question you’re worried is dumb when nobody else will hear or read it.

Recognition and pass-ups boost new hire visibility

When a new employee is unsure of themselves, positive reinforcement and strengths-based management are the way to go. And a regular employee check-in gives you the perfect way to do those things.

Managers and other employees can tag new hires in recognition-based questions to acknowledge their hard work. And they can respond in kind to show appreciation for their colleagues who are showing them the ropes. Managers can even pass employee updates up the line. So, they can show off when new hires excel in hitting all their goals.

As well as helping new hires build confidence, recognition-based questions can also help them build bridges with colleagues. The thing about recognition is that it snowballs. When someone recognizes your contribution, it makes you want to pay it forward.