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Dare (not) to compare.

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

And other tips to help manage your new hire towards success.

In a recent discussion, a friend was expressing some concerns with the performance of a new hire. During the course of the conversation, they compared this new hire’s performance to the output of another recent hire. My advice? Don’t compare. Though, practically speaking, that isn’t so easy. When two people are hired for the same job, at almost the same time, it’s only natural to compare their capabilities. The issue, however, is that when you compare the two against each other you aren’t really giving either of them an opportunity to “be”. Meaning, you aren’t really managing to their own strengths and development areas, you are managing against what they aren’t compared to someone else.

Another caution is comparing the performance of someone new to that of a company veteran. In some cases, the comparison is overly generous for the new hire. I have personally both been, and have been compared to “the shiny new penny”, the person who comes in with new ideas, fresh perspectives and wows the boss with their injection of energy. I have also witnessed new hires who are unfairly compared to top performers and expected to offer decades of know-how that could only be gained through on the job experience.

By treating each new hire as an individual, and objectively assessing their contributions, you give them the chance to learn through their own experiences. Here are some tips on how to effectively manage your new hire to success:

1. Set Expectations

It’s critical to clearly communicate all expectations right at the start of a person’s employment. This includes the obvious, such as what time you want them to arrive, how long they have for lunch, what the dress code is, and anything else that will set the person up for success in your eyes and in the eyes of others. Sometimes, these office norms are overlooked in the orientation process, but they are essential to ensuring the new person understands how to “fit in”. Setting expectations also includes communicating the on-the-job requirements. Ensuring someone know what’s expected will ensure they integrate easily.

2. Ask Questions

Following an on-boarding plan can be highly effective for on-the-job training, though, sticking solely to the plan doesn’t always encourage openness and transparency from the new hire. A great way to find out how someone is settling into their new job is to periodically ask a few simple, open-ended questions. For example:

  • What is the most beneficial relationship you have made so far?

  • What tasks are you finding the most difficult in your new role?

  • What part of the job are you most confident in?

  • What additional support (if any) would help you to expedite your learning?

By engaging this way, you are demonstrating openness and genuine care.

3. Provide Feedback

People crave feedback. This is especially important for individuals who are learning new tasks, navigating new relationships and in general, feeling slightly less confident. Your feedback should be timely, constructive and encouraging. It’s important to honestly assess the work performance and provide input on how to correct mistakes; it’s equally important to reinforce a job well done. When giving feedback, consider the specific task that you want to recognize, the impact of the task on others and why it is important to the job or company. Providing feedback at this fundamental stage will elevate confidence and encourage performance.

4. Stay Involved

Even if you have an open-door policy, it’s useful to set up regular check-ins. In fact, this is beneficial throughout on-boarding and beyond. We’ve all been in a position where we don’t want to “bother” the boss. These one-to-one meetings allow for questions that might otherwise go unanswered. They also provide a safe place to bring up new ideas or share observations. This simple structure can save you from on-going interruptions, yet it allows you to meet frequently with your new hire.

As a leader, it’s your job to encourage your team member’s individual strengths and to strengthen their weaknesses. New hires are particularly influenced. Investing additional time in the beginning will lead to stronger skills, faster productivity, and a relationship that is built on trust and respect.


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