Recruitment: how to bring a new team player on board

A new person joining your business is a time of great opportunity. This is the honeymoon period, so you want to build a relationship of mutual trust. If you leave them hanging in the dark and uninformed about people and processes, they're unlikely to perform.

The number one reason for putting time and effort into integrating new people into your business is what it will actually cost if your new hire leaves after just half a year. And the job ad/recruiter cost is the least of your concerns.

Watch out for hidden costs

For example, if your new employee is to earn $50,000 a year, failure to launch can cost your business $30,000, taking into account advertising, time spent, sorting résumés, organising interviews and any training. “For a small business, that is a huge impact,” says Shaun Farrell, director of Caliper, a personality assessment business that offers a cost of turnover calculator.

Farrell says that’s just the hard costs, then there’s the hidden elements to consider, such as lost business opportunities, loss of productivity and possible damage to overall morale and the culture of your organisation.

It also lets the new person understand that you're sincere in your intentions, says David Simpson of Melbourne HR, a firm that assists small business with people management. “A professional onboarding process gives a huge signal to the employee that this is a professional organisation, we take bringing people on board seriously and we take our investment in them seriously. “


Important documents for new starters

Documentation is key and should include the letter of offer, the contract, and a copy of policies and procedures manual, which contains a Code of Conduct demonstrating the general expectations for people in the business. Simpson calls this “the eco-system of documentation” and insists small businesses should not be overwhelmed by this. “By law you need the contract, but this and the policies and procedures document and the letter of offer can be templates. All these things may take to work to set up, but they are not hard to execute.”

Documentation is critical when hiring and onboarding new employees

Employment lawyer Joseph Kelly says the contract is particularly important. “It sets the expectations of the parties right from the start. A good contract is one that clearly articulates what the role will be and the reporting process during the probationary period”.

It’s not necessary for small businesses to articulate the probation period in a contract as it’s enshrined in the Fair Work Act: those with less than 15 employees have a probationary period of a year, while those with 15 or more have six months.

However, Kelly says a good contract will articulate the number of report back periods within the probationary period, ideally three. “The contract should say what those reporting periods will cover. It may seem onerous to the employer but at the end of the six months you have an employee who is very capable and competent and is used to a system where they report to their one-up manager who has oversight over their work.”

Create a simple training program

While the introductory documents are a very powerful bedrock for the new relationship, the integration process has barely started. Key at the outset is a training program, regardless of the expertise of the new recruit. Again this doesn’t have to be onerous. “Two pages is too long,” notes Simpson. “It should be a half a page. All you are doing is writing down your expectations and how they should jump through the hoops to achieve them. The more simple it is, the more likely the employee is to successfully complete it.”

Simpson says sitting down with your new recruit and going through that training program is actually quite simple. “You say to them, ‘Imagine the next six months – here’s where I’d like you to be’.” After the initial meeting, Simpson advises checking in with the new hire as often as possible. “There’s no maximum, and the minimum is many times. After that, try and give them space, don’t be too much of a micro-manager.”

Don't forget the social aspect

The new person is joining a team so it’s wise to introduce them to the environment. Some businesses, if they're large enough, like to employ a buddy system, where they are teamed with someone who can show them the social ropes of the organisation, from the location of the toilets, to good places for lunch, and any glitches that might happen with the printer. However, if your organisation is quite small, this buddy might be you or your second in charge.

“If someone has a direct supervisor they have lots of contact with, it’s almost better to have them as the buddy because in reality they are going to have the most contact with them and be involved in the training process,” notes Simpson. “Social integration can be achieved in lots of ways. For example, once the new employee is on board you can do a morning tea or a lunch.”

Induction Checklist from the Fair Work Ombudsman

  • Have your new person sign and send back the letter or engagement or contract
  • Have them supply their tax file number and bank account and superfund and details
  • Tell them when to turn up and what to bring
  • Give them copies of your policy and procedure documents, including health and safety guidelines
  • Make them welcome and introduce them to the team.

Download the complete Fair Work Ombudsman Induction Checklist