When a new employee joins your business, they might seem excited on the outside. However, they might be anxious about the people they’ll interact with and the work that lies ahead.
As a human resource professional, part of your job is to welcome new employees and prepare them for what lies ahead. This facet of the job includes identifying common sources of fear and helping new hires get through them. Your job starts the moment they sign the offer letter – you have to build a strong relationship with the new employee, so they’ll feel comfortable enough to ask questions.
Before we look at the six common new employee fears, let’s understand why these fears arise in the first place.
Understanding the basis of fear in new employees
The fear of change and the unknown are potent motivators for maintaining the status quo. Whether you’re starting an online business or reporting for your first day of work in a new organization, your primary goal would probably be to be liked by everyone.
Uncertainty is part of the human experience. We all face it from time to time, and while some thrive in the face of uncertainty, it spells a period of high stress and anxiety for others. The human brain prefers dealing with situations with a predictable outcome rather than one where the outcome is uncertain. It’s why some people stay in bad situations.
While most people can move through change independently, a significant number need hand-holding to walk them through this phase.
Good HR professionals recognize this fact and actively reach out to the new hires to identify and address their new employee fears.
Employee fears and how you can help
Now that you know where these fears come from, let’s look at what these employee fears are in the first place. Below are six new employee fears and ways you can help the new hires deal with them:
1. Does the work culture encourage new ideas?
Every company has its unique work culture. Some places are, to put it mildly, set in their ways, while others encourage the open sharing of ideas at every opportunity. A hire coming from a company with a strong culture of collaboration might be concerned that they’re joining a workplace where new ideas are not welcome. To avoid this situation, you need to create an open culture at your company.
HR managers play a significant part in developing and maintaining a work culture that rewards self-expression while promoting new ideas. They can achieve this by conducting cross-functional training programs that create an open environment. Managers in the cross-functional teams need to be sensitized to the benefits of creating an open environment.
For instance, if a new employee expresses apprehension or displeasure at an existing company policy, the managers should avoid shutting down the comment. Instead, the focus should be on thanking the new hire for expressing their views while explaining the reason behind the policy.
As part of the cross-functional training, HR managers should stress the benefits of an open-work culture. If the new employee's idea has merit, it should be taken up for internal discussion. That is how open cultures work. Reassuring the new employee that their ideas are valued will give them a sense of empowerment and go a long way towards alleviating their fears by removing the element of uncertainty.
Actively soliciting employee input at all stages works towards instilling a sense of security in the new employee, and making them feel secure is the first step in retaining them.
2. Am I making the right career move?
Another common new employee fear is the insecurity of changing jobs, especially if they have been in their current role for a significant number of years. The first question they ask themselves is, “Am I making the right decision?” The fear of leaving a known environment for an unknown one can quickly drive one down the panic spiral.
HR managers can help dispel these fears by ensuring the employee has a positive experience from day one. In addition, they should convince the fresh hire that the new environment will help them in learning new skills and help them in advancing their careers. They can do this by highlighting the training and skill development sessions the new hire will go through.
That would then segue into a robust onboarding system that introduces the new employee to all the relevant people while making them feel welcomed. If you have a group of new employees joining at more or less the same time, create a group training or workshop that helps them be a part of a group with shared experiences as they acclimatize to the new company.
Mentoring is another successful onboarding strategy. In this approach, you connect the new employee to an experienced employee who acts as a mentor for the first couple of weeks. If the new employee has any issues or questions, the mentor finds a way to address them.
It is critical to ensure that your new employee is made aware of their role and responsibilities within the company structure and where they fit within it. That helps in allaying new employee fears when it comes to recalling why the person made the career move in the first place.
3. Can I reach out to management if I have a problem?
Another common new employee fear revolves around the anxiety of not being able to reach out to management when faced with a personal crisis. Hence, it’s important not to over-emphasize the role of hierarchy in your workplace when onboarding a new employee.
Reassure the new employee that the management is always at hand to help in resolving the employee’s issues. Create an open environment where employees feel empowered to raise work-related or personal issues with their superiors.
This open-door policy ensures that the organization develops a culture that promotes team building and working. If the new employee witnesses regular interactions between employees across different levels, they will find it easier to settle in and follow suit when required. We’re talking about interactions that are not confined to structured meetings alone.
An easy way for HR professionals to achieve this is to organize informal meet-and-greets or team-building exercises. These activities enable employees across levels to get to know each other as coworkers and human beings.
Hallway, for instance, organizes virtual break rooms for its remote workers with video scheduled chats:
Developing an open culture is not a one-off exercise. It needs follow-up and monitoring. The HR professionals should schedule these sessions regularly and seek feedback from the line and vertical managers. One way to do this is to ask each manager to highlight one or two instances where they promoted an open culture.
4. Will I be ridiculed if I ask questions?
New employees often think twice before asking questions. The fear here is being judged, or worse, coming across as ill-informed and incompetent. The “Really? You should know the answer” look or attitude.
However, everyone has tons of questions when they begin a new job. To help the new employee overcome this fear, encourage them to ask questions when they’re unsure about anything. Remind them that there are no silly questions. That should be a part of your onboarding checklist for all the HR resources.
It is also essential to sensitize the internal employees to never make fun of new employees by reminding them that they were once new employees. An effective and efficient workplace culture embraces questions from existing and new employees. Asking questions is a gateway to learning and a way of developing high morale.
Empower employees to ask questions; chances are it will better equip them to seek out information when they need it.
5. Will I be accepted or rejected by my peers?
The fear of rejection is a primal fear among all social animals. That often arises when people find themselves in a new environment and among strangers. While this often gets allayed over time, it is essential to make the new employee feel welcomed and a part of the team. The management at an organization should help build an environment that fosters a collaborative and inclusive culture from the start.
What is a collaborative culture? In the simplest terms, it’s a work environment where everyone’s input is equally valued. Avoid shooting down ideas and suggestions without discussing and evaluating them. By doing this, you encourage employees to participate actively and make suggestions in the future.
Again, HR professionals can ensure a collaborative culture by conducting internal workshops to build teamwork and familiarity with each employee’s skill set. When new employees observe this culture, they will feel comfortable settling in. A culture of collaboration makes employees feel like they are part of the decision-making process.
That, in turn, helps build trust in the workplace while showing new employees that the management values everyone. The result is the reduction of initial employee fear and more confidence that the employee can get things done well.
6. Will I get fired if I underperform?
Everyone makes it a point to put their best foot forward during the interview process. However, once they’ve gotten the job, new employees often fear if they will be able to live up to the expectations at the new organization. To help them overcome this, ensure that the expectations are clearly defined. Equally important is to ensure that you empower them with all the necessary tools to meet these expectations.
For instance, you can create and use an online schedule to assign tasks and monitor their work with other tools for the first three months. Providing regular and insightful feedback during this period is critical in helping them achieve the defined expectations. The feedback can be in the form of informal one on one discussions with the person the employee is reporting to. It’s best to avoid structured and formal performance appraisals in the first three months.
Feedback should be constructive and outline what the new employee is doing right (compliment them here) and areas to focus on. Tracking performance informally is an excellent way to let new employees know how they’re doing.
It’s normal to feel fear when placed in a new environment and among strangers. We spend 40+ hours of our week at work, and every hour can feel like a high-stakes and high-stress experience when starting a new job.
The new company's HR team and the line managers play a big role in making a new employee join and settle into the company as a motivated and productive team member. All good managers stay focused on supporting the employees at every stage of their journey with the company.
The quality of support you extend to your new employees defines how quickly they overcome their fears of joining a new company. Use the six tips given above to help your new hires adjust to your workplace and equip them with the tools and support they need to succeed in their jobs!