Thursday, 15 July 2010

New starters: What a Waste...?

It never ceases to amaze me how poor organisations are at taking on new staff. I don't mean the recruitment process per se (don't get me started on that one), but the set of physical activities that need to take place in order to get a new employee (whether full or part time, permanent or contractor) up and running and being able to contribute to the organisation in as profitable manner as possible. I'm sure everyone has experienced the frustration of getting to work on the first morning of a new job, and finding a set of obstacles in your path.

Examples include :-
  • finding that the people supposed to meet and greet you aren't available
  • there's nowhere for you sit
  • no computer is available
  • security passes and building access are not set-up
  • network access is not configured
  • you weren't expected for another week…
Even if most of these elements are in place, very often the first few weeks are spent sitting around reading piles of mind numbing documents, meeting huge numbers of complete strangers who you'll probably never deal with again (and whose names you instantly forget), figuring out how to get an outside line on your phone, having lunch on your own, and generally waiting for something to happen so that you can start to feel useful.

In my experience IT companies or departments are usually the worst places to start working in, generally for most of the technical issues listed above. It also seems to the case that the bigger the organisation, the longer it takes. Here, the problem is often exasperated by the fact that the HR, facilities management and corporate purchasing departments have been outsourced, increasing both the timelines, number of  communication lines and the number of issues needing resolution.

Given that the recruitment process often takes several weeks - if not months, even for critical hires, there is really very little excuse for not having everything ready for the new starter on day one, or at worst day two. Sometimes signatures are required on contractual, legal and security documents and photographs need to be taken for ID cards, but at least time could be allocated on day one for these activities to take place.

If an employee is to be productive he or she generally needs somewhere to work and some tools to work with. Computers can be pre-ordered if not already available. These machines can be pre-configured according to the new starter's role. Network access can be pre-arranged and appropriate shares to project data repositories and corporate tools allocated in advance of the start date.

But for some reason, organisations seem to be quite content to have their new, sometimes very costly, resources hanging around twiddling their thumbs, pretending to look busy, and trying not to feel guilty for something completely out of their control. In these days of cost cutting and the insurgence of "lean management" it is a complete mystery to me why organisations are quite happy to waste tens of thousands of pounds, dollars or Euros by having keen and eager employees loitering with intent to become productive.

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  1. One company I started at, had me waiting a full two weeks for a computer.

  2. I agree and it does matter only as much as you as an individual make it matter.

    Programmers can pairprogram with a team and learn a lot. Even in other positions it is possible to pair up and learn about the organisation.