Onboarding New Employees: Simple Tips for Adding New Construction Employees to Your Team
For many companies, the start of summer is also the start of the busy season. Kicking off projects, keeping a fast clip on tight schedules, and welcoming new members to the team are all hallmarks of an industrious summer season. Sometimes in all the action one important task can get pushed to the side, though — properly onboarding new employees.
In the construction industry and around heavy equipment, the onboarding process is about more than filling out some paperwork. In fact, a good onboarding process doesn’t end with HR, instead the human resources process is just the start of a longer system that ensures employees are properly trained and fully understand their role. Unlike in some other industries, the danger of not ensuring an employee is properly onboarded on a construction team can have a much bigger impact than discovering their TPS reports don’t have the proper cover sheets.
To ensure your onboarding process is ready for your busy summer, we’ve put together a few quick and simple tips to help.
Safety First — and Frequently
For a new employee, an onboarding process can seem like a gigantic checklist of items to remember, tasks to do, and issues to avoid. If safety is simply mixed in with no emphasis, an employee can end up prioritizing small company policies and neglecting larger protective practices. A solid onboarding policy should help an employee clearly understand the gravity of safety policies and the consequences of neglecting them. To make sure an employee understands a policy is in place to keep them safe, communicating that clearly can be of additional benefit.
In an ideal world, only the boots of well-trained, experienced workers would touch the ground of a worksite, but labor shortages and increased demand often translate to employees on a site that are a tad wetter behind the ears than one would prefer. To compensate, experienced workers should pay closer attention to new workers and never take for granted that basic safety practices have been developed in the new workers. An experienced worker often intuitively knows things like the safe distance to stand from equipment, while someone new to the job might not yet have developed that judgment.
Know Your Employee and Ensure They Know the Job
Until we all live in some kind of weird internet video game world where the skills, stats, experience levels, strengths, and weaknesses of new employees magically float in a box above their heads, it takes a little extra work to determine that information. Luckily, we’ve developed something for our current world: questions and conversation. Getting to know your employee is a good way of bonding and welcoming them to the team while also developing a better understanding of how they’ll fit into that team. As you build up knowledge of a new employee, you can also help plan their development and assign them tasks that would be good for them to learn or even discover they already know things that can add new, unexpected skills to your team.
A new employee should also have a clear idea of what their work will entail and what is expected of them. This increased clarity can reduce anxiety, help new employees focus on their defined tasks, and prevent new employees from attempting to take on tasks that are outside of the scope of their duties. A new employee might be eager to show their skills, but easing them into new tasks can help make sure they’re always ready for those tasks.
Monitor New Employees More Frequently
The onboarding process for new employees can seem like a balance between constantly hovering over someone’s back and leaving them free to roam the wilderness. Finding the perfect balance for new employees can come down to a number of factors, including the work being performed, the skill level of new employees, and the technical or knowledge requirements of the job.
For construction sites or working around large equipment though, it's generally better to lean too heavily on cautious monitoring over a hands-off approach. While at some time in a worker’s history a sink or swim approach might be beneficial, in industries where that approach can lead to destructive or dangerous conditions, a safety net of vigilance is often best.
Often a little extra monitoring of new employees will also provide opportunities to check how employees are adapting or even prevent bad habits from forming before they become routine.
Make Training Unique to Your Business
Regardless of where an employee previously worked or how experienced they are, it's very likely there are a number of aspects of the work you do that are unique to your business. Everyone is prone to fall into past routines, even if they don’t always apply to a current task. Understanding, identifying, and clearly communicating the unique aspects of your operation can help an employee understand why something that was done at their previous job won’t work for the current one.
If you’ve been in your own role for a significant amount of time, even your own practices and routines might seem clear and standard. Asking other employees about what tasks are performed uniquely to your team, what knowledge is specific to your industry, or what practices are unique on your worksites can help you develop a checklist of items to cover with a new employee.
Create a Mentorship System
The tried and true buddy system might seem a little elementary for your operation, but ensuring new employees have one designated person to go to with questions and concerns can help ease their transition into the team and onto the worksite. Ideally, after a while a new employee will understand the roles of everyone on their team, but, depending on the team’s size, remembering everyone and their roles can seem like a daunting task initially.
If you know your team, identifying good mentors is often fairly simple and straightforward — who will be open to providing helpful and friendly guidance — but be sure to also realize the mentorship might take away some amount of their working time and plan accordingly. Using a mentorship program can also be a way of reminding knowledgeable employees that they’ve developed special skills and let them take pride in imparting some of that knowledge to new employees.
Explain Company Structure and Hierarchy
Picking up on the flow and structure of their own team can be a difficult task for a new employee. Intuiting how an entire business works, who does what, and who reports to who can be overwhelming. By providing insight beyond their own role, you can help a new employee better understand the entire business. That understanding can help them build loyalty with the company as they see themselves as part of a larger operation and better understand how their role works to benefit the entire company.
While you’d probably prefer everyone acts, talks, and works as though the president of the company were standing next to them all the time this probably isn’t the case on every worksite. Helping employees understand the hierarchy of the company can also reduce the likelihood of awkward interactions.
It might seem overly transactional — hopefully a new coworker will become a friendly addition to your team — but a new employee is also an investment by your company. Increasingly, replacement members of your team can be difficult to recruit and time-consuming and expensive to find. And, as always, during your search you’ll be forced to work at a reduced productivity until you fill the role. Taking care to ensure a new employee is supported and fully brought into your team through a robust onboarding program can increase the chances the employee will be a long-term and helpful member of your team.
Hopefully, you found these onboarding tips helpful and they’ll be a benefit as you grow your team. At H&R, our processes for salvage, rebuilding and reconditioning, sales, shipping, sourcing, and more require a wide swath of individuals working together to meet the demands of our customers and every member of those teams is critical to ensuring those processes flow smoothly. We work hard to make sure the members of our teams are supported and knowledgeable about their work because we know that shows in the finished product we deliver to our customers. We hope it's evident to you, too.