Smart moves: Start the job on the right foot and the rest will fall into place

With proper preparation, starting a new job needn't be a nightmare, writes Philip Schofield
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The Independent Online
IT IS your first day with a new employer. With a mix of enthusiasm and apprehension you arrive early. But nobody in reception expects you or knows who you are. You are asked to wait until "somebody can get around to you". After waiting long past your due time for reporting in, your bladder is full and your nervousness has made you thirsty.

Later, probably still unrelieved and unrefreshed, you are given hurried introductions to several people, although their roles and their relationship to your new post are left unclear. You are loaded down with incomprehensible policy and procedure manuals. You are talked at and given no chance to ask questions. By lunchtime your initial motivation has gone. Will it ever return?

Few things are more stressful than starting with a new employer. You are reasonably confident that you can do the new job well. But you are likely to be anxious about how you will be received by your new colleagues and whether or not you will fit into the new culture. What are the unwritten rules? Is the administration chaotic or over-bureaucratic? Will you get on with your boss?

Unless your new employer takes pains in introducing you to your new workplace colleagues, and "the way we do things here", you can soon become demotivated. It is not surprising that job turnover is highest in the first few months of employment. According to an Institute of Personnel and Development survey, one in five recruits leave their employer within a year.

Others recent joiners, not wishing to mar their CV by leaving too soon, "quit on the job". That is they perform only at the minimum standard needed to avoid disciplinary action. The importance of sound induction training cannot be over-emphasised. Much avoidable staff turnover is rooted in poor induction.

The Government recognises the problem and stresses sound induction in its "Investors in People (IiP)" initiative. This is a set of standards to help employers improve employee performance against their business objectives and so improve the performance of their enterprise. Those who meet the standards are accredited as IiP and can use the symbol in their literature.

Employers are assessed against 23 "indicators", six relating to induction and subsequent training. The first requires that "all new employees are introduced effectively to the organisation and all employees new to a job are given the training and development they need to do that job".

An important part of induction is to help new employees understand what the business is trying to achieve and so give them a clear sense of direction. The link between training and business objectives is a key part of IiP. Employees who lack a sense of direction are often dissatisfied.

A survey of more than 1,000 employees carried out for IiP showed that three-quarters experience boredom or frustration and half say this results in stress. Moreover, employees believe that boredom and demotivation are major factors in their companies' staff turnover. Replacing leavers for example costs between pounds 800 and pounds 15,000.

The total cost of employing someone is at least double their basic salary excluding the space, furniture and equipment they use. Even someone starting on only pounds 18,500, and who gets a modest annual rise for the six years they typically stay with an employer, represents an investment of about pounds 250,000. A firm investing as much in a new machine will ensure it is installed properly and given the environment it needs to provide optimum performance. Employers should recognise this applies to people too.

You will probably get a good impression if before joining you get a friendly letter enclosing a map of how to get there and where to park, the name of the person to report to, a contract of employment, job description and, if available, an employee handbook, information on the firm and a house journal.

Reception should be welcoming, know who you are and who you have to report to. Whether you then meet a personnel or a line manager, they should be informed about your role and have the time to make your introduction to the job as welcoming as possible. They should complete administrative procedures, give you a tour, show you your workplace, and introduce you to colleagues.

In the next week or two, you should combine work with a structured programme of induction sessions. You will probably suffer from information overload - learning about the job, the department and organisation, company policies and systems, the people with whom you have reporting relationships. Because nobody can recall all they learn at the start of a new job, it is helpful if an understanding person at peer level is assigned to answer your questions.

Welcomed and given an induction programme, you can feel confident your employer will invest in your development and career. Knowing this, you are far more likely to make a contribution to your organisation's success.