Americans woke up to a re-elected President Obama after a tight election.  Half of our country is smiling and the other half is not, though I think we can all smile about the end of the campaigning.

As I watched the electoral votes come in last night I was aware of how much I loathe uncertainty.  In full disclosure, my guy did not win yesterday, but I felt worse not knowing what would happen than I feel now that I know what to expect.  Of course, I am still left with some uncertainty about the future since that never really disappears completely, but I have a good idea of what is in store for our country over the next four years.  So, in a strange sense, even though I don’t like the result, I know what I am in for.

Uncertainty kills enthusiasm, possibility and focus.  When you don’t know what to do you can’t get going.  When companies onboard new employees it is obvious that nothing gets done when uncertainty is present.

New hires walk in on day one with sky high levels of uncertainty.  There is uncertainty about whether they made the right choice to work for the new company, uncertainty about the people, their role, their boss.  Even seemingly small uncertainties lead to big stress, such as uncertainty about the office dress code or what to do about lunch on the first day.

One of the most productive things you can do for those starting a new job with your company, in any capacity, is to dial down any uncertainty they may bring into the office, especially on day one.

There are three important things you can do to minimize uncertainty:

  1. Call ahead. Communication is key.  Letting a new hire know that you have a game plan is important to putting people at ease.  Even a phone call a few days before they start to discuss lunch plans and dress code for day one is important in making people feel comfortable when they arrive.
  2. Share your plan. If Sally knows her new boss has a solid, structured plan for her on day one (if not before) then she can relax.  How anxious would she feel if her new boss greeted her on day one with, “Glad to have you onboard.  Here is a stack of papers to read while I get some things done.  Hopefully we’ll be able to spend some time together this afternoon.”?  It’s best to document the plan in some way in advance to minimize stress.
  3. Set expectations. People want to know they are doing well or at least on track to do well.  Without clear expectations people never feel good about the work they are doing and when that happens they quickly get discouraged and stop doing all they can to succeed.  Your best defense is a strong offense.  Not only do you want to share your expectations for them in their role, you also want to ask them about the expectations they have for themselves and for you, their new boss.

It’s unrealistic to think that you will wipe out uncertainty completely, but by taking some simple action before your new hire shows up for work, you can eliminate enough uncertainty and put people on the fast track to success.

I hope that President Obama does something soon to minimize the uncertainty that half of the country is dealing with as he begins his second term, but more importantly, I hope these tips help you ramp up your new hires fast so they produce more and stay for the long term.

Merit Gest is President and Founder of Merit-Based Development, a Denver based firm specializing in Onboarding top talent.  For information about Merit’s virtual course designed to guide executives through the process of creating an effective Onboarding program, call or email Merit at 720-980-1286 or

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