The last time you started a new job, how was the knowledge critical to that role provided to you? Who decided what you needed to know to be successful? If truth be told, did you get what you need to jump into your role quickly and hit the ground running?
Usually, we are given information such as an org chart, a job description, a benefits package, and directions to the restroom, cafeteria and coffee pot. We might be provided the paper files and computer (with an empty hard drive) of the person who previously held the job.
New employees are left to find their own way through the organizational maze, to develop an understanding of how things really get done (usually after stepping in one potentially painful pothole) and the underlying expectations for their role.
Must that be the experience of new hires? The attitude expressed quite often by the tenured employees: "No one did that for me, why should I provide that depth of information for anyone else?" Why indeed.
Who benefits from frustrated, non-productive new employees? Probably your competition. Certainly not your organization.
Therefore provide your new workers with the knowledge they need to get up and running immediately. Do not feed them with a fire hose, but rather in a well considered, planned manner.
Provide the basics needed the first week. Do not introduce them to everyone they will work with, but to those they will work with most often. Help them decipher their job description-- what is really expected of them? Provide the organizational history and knowledge that makes the org chart come alive, and helps them know how things are truly done. What are the basics they need for their computer: passwords, systems, help desk? Where is the basic technical or scientfic information they will need on a day to day basis?
By week two you can begin a more in-depth sharing of knowledge. With whom will they work within and outside of the organization, and how might they best work with them? What are the real expectations of the job, and what learning can you share to help them meet those expectations (or change them)? What business or industry knowledge is critical for them to understand the trends and patterns that will effect their role or the organization?
As the demand for workers increases and the number of workers decreases, being the employer of choice is a strategic imperative for most companies. If your new workers begin their careers frustrated, and their productivity in the first weeks is diminished, no one wins.
A planned approach will help new workers quickly have impact in their role and feel connected to the organization.