There’s no doubt that starting a new role can be stressful. After the excitement of landing the job subsides, we are faced with many challenges. In addition to establishing new relationships and adjusting to the culture, we can feel pressured to quickly deliver on the image we created of ourselves at interview.
Sometimes it’s our own expectations for our new workplace which fall flat. According to a recent article by HR Dive, 28% of employees today quit during the first 90 days on the job. The most cited factor in new role disappointment is a poor onboarding process. However, even if the onboarding process is lacking, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t thrive there.
We explain how to set yourself up for success, whatever reception you receive.
Our 90 day plan helps you to focus on what’s important at each stage. With advice on forming a network and picking up the right information, you’ll be delivering results before the end of your first quarter.
The activities in your first 30 days help you get to grips with the company culture, create a strong network, and ensure you understand what is expected of you. This provides the groundwork to prepare you for future challenges and projects.
Build Your Network
Ideally, you should be introduced to key stakeholders and colleagues in your first week. Being presented with an organizational chart is also ideal, but if this doesn’t happen then create your own.
Download a stakeholder map template such as this one. Remembering new contacts can be challenging but these diagrams allow you to add names and roles as you go. Use them also to map out the interdependencies between teams and key decision makers. This will give you a clear idea of which people are important and how your team fits into the organisation.
When gathering this information, ask your manager for a list of key people you should know. If your new role is a management position, ask for each team member’s job description so you’re clear on everyone’s responsibilities.
Aim to have formed good relationships with key players by the end of month one. Forbes advises not only focusing ‘“vertically” on managers above you’ but also creating ‘“horizontal” alliances with colleagues. You want to have support at all levels.’
Get to know a team member who can answer your questions. This will help you get up to speed fast and provide you social support as you’re settling in. If you weren’t given a tour, ask if they’d help you get your bearings in a spare moment. Taking them out for coffee in return will give you the chance to learn more about company culture.
Embrace the company culture
When discussing your new company culture try not to compare it to your old employer. The idea is to show you’re ready to embrace a new way of doing things. Get involved with social events, formal or informal, and make the effort to get to know your colleagues. However, if office politics are raised, listen but stay neutral.
If you didn’t research the company’s mission and values whilst preparing for interview, get up to speed on that now. Read about the company’s aims and strategy and think about how their values align with your own.
Research the products and services the company offers, including which are most profitable. Find out who the company’s customers and main competitors are. Try reading reviews, if possible, to see how they match up against competitors’ offerings. Although it may be too early to present ideas, this research will prepare you for meetings and show you care enough to have done your homework.
Get Clear on Expectations
Identifying what your manager expects of you early on is essential to side-stepping future problems. Don’t assume you have the information based on your interview. Asking directly in a one-to-one helps clarify things right from the start.
Arrange to discuss expectations as soon as possible, preferably within the first week, along with any key goals or metrics that will be used to monitor your progress. Ask how much independence or supervision you’ll be given if it’s relevant. This helps you gauge whether you are comfortable with the amount of support you’ll be provided with.
If either your duties, the support you are offered or the performance metrics aren’t what you expected, stay calm, and try to form compromises that are workable for you both.
Understanding specific expectations removes any ambiguity and should leave you feeling clear about what success means for your role.
The next 30 days are about building positive relationships and learning more about the business. For this reason, listening and observing are key activities. These will give you a good foundation for proposing your own projects and improvements in month three.
Listen and Observe
One of your main goals in starting a new role is to create the right impression and gain the respect of your team. Listening and observing enables you to understand different team member’s perspectives and identify issues in the way the team functions.
When these arise, be sure to ask why the team approaches tasks in certain ways. This way, you will discover what has been tried to address problems in the past. When you come to form your own ideas on improvements, you’ll know what has already been done and what has failed.
The amount you have to learn may seem overwhelming, however, try identifying processes which are linked to key business objectives. This will help you target where it is most important to focus your energy.
Month two is key for creating the impression that you are dependable and in control. One of the most important criteria for building trust is to keep your promises.
Under-estimating the time it takes to complete tasks is a common stumbling block when it comes to being seen as reliable. It is far better to over-estimate how much time you need initially than to ask for an extension or fail. When agreeing deadlines, give yourself more time than you need. In a recent article Forbes explained:
‘That way if you run into challenges, you have a buffer. If you deliver ahead of schedule, you look awesome. People who get promoted and get selected to work on mission critical projects surprise on the upside.’
If you do run into a problem, make sure you communicate this early on. However, be ready to suggest some ideas on how it may be solved. This will reassure your boss that you’re reliable and can use your initiative.
Manage new projects effectively by breaking them down into small tasks. There is a wealth of great project management software today to help you to do this. If your company has one, then learn how to use it. This will help you keep on-track.
Being able to give your boss status updates when asked makes you look super-organised. Learning to use new tools also shows you are keen to learn and adapt.
Take the opportunity to change and grow
Adapting to new ways of working and being willing to learn enables you to grow professionally. Although it can be tempting to devote time to things we are already competent in, take the opportunity to improve on your weaker areas.
Relying on the competences you developed in your previous job won’t necessarily lead to success in a new company. Instead, prioritise those skills which are most essential to your new role.
If you feel you would benefit from support or training, speak to your HR department. They may be able to offer training internally or give discounts for online learning. This will help you get up to speed faster and boost your confidence.
You have gained some understanding of how the business operates. Now, it’s time to look for opportunities to prove yourself and make an impact.
Identify, Prioritise, and Implement
Choose your first projects and changes to implement carefully. Start by identifying the most important business objectives to be accomplished in the first year. Use notes from your research, discussions with superiors and your performance goals.
Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days, explains which ideas will result in successful projects in your new company. He advises choosing to change an area or process which will enable the company to make some progress towards their major goals. The key here is to look for ‘early wins’ - areas where success is likely to come quickly, enabling you to make your mark early on.
Once you have evaluated your ideas and found a potential ‘early-win’ then you can draw up implementation plans. Ensure SMART goals are set which outline what success looks like. Include any resources needed and methodologies you will use. This will make your proposal seem well-planned and get stakeholders behind you.
The first three months in a new role are primarily about clarifying expectations, learning about the business, and making a good first impression. This time should also enable you to build trust with your team and good relationships with stakeholders.
Being able to make an ‘early win’ as your transition period ends should boost your confidence. Along with picking up new skills, these show you are aligned with the company’s vision. At the end of these 90 days, you will have established a positive reputation which will support your career progress into the future.