Practice What You Preach: Connecting with Employees

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After more than two decades of working in various positions at my CUSO, I recently accepted a promotion to the executive leadership team. About a week later, I attended an event that we hold quarterly, called the New Employee Meet & Greet. Although I had been peripherally aware of this event, I was surprised at how it turned out to be an absolute highlight of the first few weeks in my new role.

The Meet & Greet is a luncheon that we hold quarterly, at a nearby country club/conference facility. Any employee that started work within that previous quarter is invited, along with their immediate supervisor. It’s a diverse group from many teams and includes everyone from entry-level newbies to seasoned veterans coming in at a management level. A catered lunch is served, then our 6-person executive leadership team introduces themselves to the group.

For the next hour or two, one by one each new employee is asked to stand up, introduce themselves and what their new job is and ask one question of the executive team. Questions can be on any personal or professional topic and can be directed to a single individual or to the group.

The atmosphere is casual, and everyone’s encouraged to have fun with it. In fact, over the years the supervisors who regularly attend these luncheons have learned to coach new team members to be very creative. One of my favorites: “What Hogwarts house would the Sorting Hat put you in?”

In addition to giving everyone a delicious lunch and a break for a couple of hours, this exercise offers obvious benefits to both the participants and the organization as a whole.

Bridging the gap

It’s easy to say you have an open-door policy, but in practice, it’s a lot harder until people get comfortable with you as a person, not just as their boss. A fun, informal event like this can go a long way toward bridging the gap between someone just getting started and the organization’s CEO and other leaders.

Other than a brief introduction on their first day, most new employees never have a chance to interact with levels of the leadership team beyond their immediate supervisor. And a group setting like this is a lot less intimidating than a one-on-one with the Big Boss.

There are now several new people from teams I don’t normally interact with that always say hello and stop to chat or ask questions if we meet in the halls. That never happened back when people were introduced to me only on their first-day building tour.

Showing the culture

It’s easy to talk about the culture you want (or think you have), but the proof of the pudding is in the eating—or in other words, you have to show it. The open and relaxed conversations that happen at the Meet & Greet let new employees see how the organization’s leaders interact with employees at every level. They also get a sense of how the leaders interact with each other.

My hope is that people see a hint of our personalities and get a peek at the wide diversity of our backgrounds and points of view, all while gaining confidence that we are a cohesive group, on the same page when it comes to what kind of organization we represent.

Connecting with an eye toward the future

You have heard the old saying don’t judge a book by its cover. It is also true that you can’t always judge a person’s abilities by the job title they happen to have at the moment. Like me, managers are always on the lookout for up-and-coming talent. The Meet & Greet gives us a peek into new employee personalities, backgrounds, and areas of interest that might point to future potential. And we are paying attention!

Surprise, surprise

For me personally, the most surprising thing was what a boost I got from the interactions. All of these fresh-faced people were excited and enthusiastic, rarin’ to go, and that energized and inspired me in a way I was not expecting. I look forward to each quarterly event and hope to have many more interactions with these new team members for years to come.

While a team of 20 employees might not need something as formal as our team of 300, I believe making the effort to build a personal connection with every new employee can benefit every organization. And like me, you might just be surprised at what it does for you, too!

(If you’re wondering, it’d be Ravenclaw. Definitely.)

Author

  • Dawn Moore

    VP Writing Team/Product Design, CU*Answers

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