Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hospitality and Your New Staff Member, by Megan Brooks

Oh new manager, a staff member left your team and lucky you filled  that opening with someone new. New manager, you’re responsible for orienting your new staff member so they can begin doing their job as quickly as possible - moving from them knowing information to having knowledge. . And while it’s easy to forget to plan an orientation, don’t! You’ll cause your staff member unnecessary angst.

Image © gapingvoid and used after permission was secured by the author.

My philosophy for orienting new staff members revolves around the word hospitality. Blame my college education at Benedictine Catholic institutions and my exposure to the Rule of St. Benedict (particularly Chapter 53). I believe being hospitable and offering “warmth, acceptance, and joy” as I welcome new staff is the best possible way I can imagine to establish a mutually respectful working relationship. Plus, regardless how you feel about monks from the 6th century, it’s fun to be hospitable!

But hospitality takes effort. New manager, you must work hard to prepare for your new staff member. What you’ll find below is how I prepare for new staff member Taylor to join my workplace.

Make sure Taylor fills out ALL applicable paperwork at Human Resources as soon as possible, well before starting work. Why? Taylor likely won’t be able to get any computer accounts, phone accounts, or paychecks until the paperwork is complete. To be without email or access to a computer on day 1 is a particular form of preventable torture, and not hospitable at all.

Have office keys ready. Make sure their computer is wiped clean, both physically and digitally. Clean their office and desk before they show up. Cleaning desks not your job? Pshaw. Put on some gloves, grab a trash can and some disinfecting wipes, and get to work. Would you expect a houseguest to change the sheets before getting into bed at your house? This is no different.

Fully prepare an orientation schedule and email it to Taylor a couple of days before they start. Also email:
  • information about where to park or how long it will take to walk to the library from public transportation
  • what normal working hours are and when you expect them to arrive on their first day
  • food: is there a fridge to store lunch, are there places to eat nearby, or are there vending machines available?

Finally, let Taylor know that you will eat lunch with them their first day, and will invite the search committee to join you. While brown bag may be your regular routine, I recommend going out that first day solely to save Taylor the stress of having to pack a lunch.

(Note: I have forgotten to do these each of these things with different staff members in the past; learn from my embarrassment - it’s mortifying!)

The First Day
Unless you have an unforeseen emergency or a long-planned trip happening, be there for Taylor’s first day at work. Don’t expect to get anything else done at work that day - clear your schedule entirely so you can focus solely on Taylor (even though you won’t be together the entire day.)

  • Welcome them as they walk through the door.
  • Get them settled into their office, give them office keys, and make sure they can login to their computer and that email, phone, and any other accounts work.
  • As part of the tour you will give them, make sure they know where the all the bathrooms, kitchen, and emergency exits are located. Taylor may prefer to use a gender-neutral bathroom or require the use of a lactation room; ensure you know where those spaces are and show them as a matter of fact in the tour. Actions like this make an important, welcoming first impression.
  • Introduce Taylor to as many people as possible while you are on the tour. Not introducing your new staff member to people in the library is weird and makes everyone feel uncomfortable. Don’t be weird.
  • Eat lunch with the search committee and Taylor, but as the person who will see the most of Taylor, try to be quiet and let others have the chance to get to know Taylor.
  • Give Taylor  time to settle into their workspace  and to start working on the to-dos on their draft orientation schedule.

Finally, on that first day, you and Taylor should have high-level discussion about their first few weeks in your organization. Go over the orientation schedule, update it if there are changes, and let them know that you’re available to answer any questions they have at any point.

After the First Day
My rule of thumb for scheduling Taylor’s first week is (when possible) no more than 3 scheduled things per day. MPOW requires staff to work at a busy, complex service desk, so much of our initial training revolves around desk operations. Your positions may be different, but make sure that operational training starts early and continues often.

This file contains a modified version of a recent staff member’s orientation schedule. They were hired as a research and instruction librarian, had never worked at our kind of service desk before, and started a month before the academic year began. The top part lists things I expected them to complete on their own; the middle lists daily meetings for their first two weeks, and the bottom lists other useful information. Feel free to use this as a template or guide for your new staff members, or to come up with something completely different that suits your needs. But, for the happiness of your new staff member, don’t just wing it! Prepare for them, welcome them with warmth, acceptance, and joy, and above all, show them hospitality.

Megan Brooks is no longer technically a young librarian, having earned her MLS way back in the 20th century. She is currently director of research services for Wellesley College’s Library & Technology Services. She’s on Twitter as @librarygrrrl. This is the second post she's written for Letters to a Young Librarian. The first was "Job Fit Revisited: What to Do When You Are the Square Peg."

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