The ongoing Great Resignation has consumed workplace narratives in recent months, but it only paints half of the picture. The effects of the pandemic spurred professionals to leave their jobs and go on to find new ones, with a recent PwC survey showing that one in five workers expect to switch employers in the next year. While starting a new position can be exhilarating, it’s also normal to feel unease and uncertainty.
That’s especially true now, as signals point to a potential economic downturn and concerns over job security have become top of mind for employees. Although there are many resources to help individuals manage new job anxiety, there is little discussion on how employers can help alleviate stress for new hires. Especially in a tight labor market, leaders need new ways to better engage, support, and empower employees—and that starts on day 1.
One critical element in bringing new employees into the fold is fostering clear and open communication to create a welcoming space. However, leaders and employees alike have found effective communication is lacking in the workplace. A recent study by Grammarly and The Harris Poll found that poor communication costs U.S. businesses up to $1.2 trillion every year, impacting everything from employee morale to productivity to growth. Not only are employees “concerned about effective communication with remote or hybrid working models in the future,” but they also cite “increased stress” as the top impact of poor communication.
Improving communication in the workplace is essential to effectively engaging new employees and setting them up for success. So how can employers enhance communication to ease new employee anxiety?
As the head of people for a company that has rapidly grown our team over the past 2 years, my priority is to ensure we cultivate a supportive environment from employees’ very first day. Here are four methods to nurture effective communication and engagement that any leader can employ to quell new job anxiety.
Set Clear Communication Expectations and Guidelines
With the shift to hybrid work, employees are interacting across an ever-growing number of channels, systems, and contexts, making it challenging to know how to best connect and collaborate with colleagues. Especially in remote environments without the benefits of in-person communication cues, it’s no longer about just what you say but also how you say it, focusing on elements like the right tone, format, and frequency.
Whether it’s setting time parameters on Slack pings or aligning employees on a similar tone and style, clarifying these expectations through clear guidelines—and building them directly into the onboarding process—will ensure employees can quickly fold into your culture.
Focus on Personal Connections and Communication Styles
In addition to aligning employees on your company’s communication preferences, a key to developing strong working relationships is understanding individual needs and communication styles. Managers should discuss communication styles during initial onboarding meetings, asking questions like “Do you prefer to chat over Slack or talk things through on the phone?” to help ease them into a new working environment.
Many people may not even be aware of their communication style or preferences when first asked. As you progress over the first several weeks, check back in on how well they’re interacting with teammates and whether messages are resonating, and use that feedback to inform your own communications approach.
Create Forums for Casual Communication
Casual communication is critical to building and maintaining connections that foster a sense of belonging and confidence. Research from Grammarly found most professionals (57%) agree that informal, casual workplace communications are appropriate and necessary. This is especially important amid the stress of an uncertain business landscape; research consistently shows that humor and laughter at work have significant benefits on mental wellness.
Especially for new hires, designing forums specifically for informal, light-hearted chats or to ask “dumb” questions like “How do I connect to the printer?” can do wonders for lessening new job anxiety and creating a safe and supportive space.
Foster a Culture of Empathetic Communication
In many ways, the move to hybrid work has changed the nature of the employee/employer relationship. Employees now expect greater flexibility and engagement from their employers and want their needs met as individuals, not only as professionals. Empathy can no longer be an afterthought in this landscape—it’s now imperative to drive employee engagement and productivity.
Setting and reinforcing a culture of empathy will ensure new employees are engaged from the outset and drive greater retention in the long term. This means going beyond just providing flexibility for employee needs; part of empathy is also helping employees cultivate better connections and empowering them with the tools and resources to be successful in a more dispersed, diverse landscape.
With these considerations in mind, employers can help quell some of the natural anxiety of starting a new job and empower new employees to quickly begin driving impact. People leaders and managers need to remember that the way their companies operate, collaborate, and communicate may not be intuitive, especially amid an evolving work environment. By prioritizing effective and empathetic communication across the board and revisiting guidelines and processes, they can ensure a welcoming and productive workplace.
Erica Galos Alioto is Global Head of People at Grammarly.