You did it. You found a great candidate to fill that much-needed role. They’ve got the skills to do the job and based on their interviews seem to be a cultural fit. As their leader, you now begin the crucial process of taking an outsider and integrating them into your tribe.
We’ve all had first days on the job with the whirlwind of information thrown at you about projects you've never heard of. Meanwhile, you're just trying to remember how to get to the restroom from your new desk. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen leaders welcome their new hires by filling their plate so full that when they arrive on their first day, they're already behind on the job. For some reason, when we’re on the hiring side of first days, it’s easy to forget what they were like.
New Hire Game Basics
Instead of welcoming new hires to your company with a pile of stuff to do the moment they walk in the door, help them start their journey at your company by giving them some meaning to the work they’re going to be doing. Hand them a worksheet with spaces for fill-in-the-blank for these four questions:
1. What’s your name and what do you do here?
2. What’s your favorite memory at work?
3. What’s your favorite food?
4. Why do you come to work?
Then set the new hire onto their first project at your company—within the first week, go around to each person and have them answer those four questions. Send out a calendar invitation for a meeting about a week from their first day. That’s the deadline. Be clear about the scope and deadline.
Ideally, the new hire be able to get everyone in your company, but, depending on size, you may need to adjust that to your department or team. The new hire will meet those people and ask them the questions.
Purpose Behind the Game
There’s meaning for everything in the game. For your new hire, the game has three primary purposes:
Break the ice. The game gives you a reason to get to know people, both inside and outside of your department, right away. Don’t wait until they’re working on critical projects to get to know each other.
Start forming bonds. The questions themselves have meaning. Asking about their favorite memory and why people come to work will help your new hires see the belonging, affirmation, and meaning their new co-workers feel—something every person wants to feel at work. Sandwiched between those questions, learning about people’s favorite food will almost always turn into a list of places the new hire should try out for lunch and often a few lunch invites. Encourage these opportunities for people to get to know each other further.
Quick wins. Ask any sports fan and they’ll agree. A win is a win. Start your new hire’s career at your company with a perfect 1-0 record by helping them hit their first deadline in an easy way. That’s an important step to help bolstering confidence.
Finishing the Game
Throughout the week, it never hurts to follow-up with your new hire to make sure the game is completed. Trust, but verify. When it comes time for the all-staff meeting, have everyone gather up in the break room to grab a snack for the game’s conclusion. Grab the worksheet and ask the new hire questions.
Who said the taco shop around the corner is their favorite food? The goal here isn’t to put the new hire on the spot, but to use the questions and answers to spark deeper conversation across the team. The launch of version 2.0 of the website was whose favorite memory at work? Have that person recount their experience, then open it up to the floor to have others start adding their own stories.
The game isn’t about how many times the new hire correctly guesses who answered in what way. In fact, if the new hire isn’t sure, you can open it up to the rest of the team to see who can get it right. This final part of the game is about helping to create a shared experience with your newest team members up front. It’ll also help include them in stories about past shared experiences, so they’ll know what they have to look forward to as a part of your tribe.
Aside from the benefit of a quick start on integrating your newest team member, the New Hire Game has a purpose for you as team leader. When you throw a lot of work at someone, it’s hard to get a sense for how effective they are at their job. Are they struggling because they don’t have the skills you thought they did or because you just threw some complex projects their way on their first day?
For example, at my own company, I’ve had some people who have struggled with feeling like they were interrupting their co-workers to ask the questions. If they don’t want to ask such simple questions, will they ask for help when they really need it on a project? Or I’ve had some employees who weren’t accustomed to using a calendar system to track their meetings; booking these appointments right away got them used to doing so.
Think of the New Hire Game as a feedback loop during the crucial early days of your new hires’ time at your company. It’s a chance for you to run each of your new hires through the exact same scenario with an eye on seeing where they excel and what you might need to work on with them for their first week and beyond.