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When Can You Trust a New Hire?

Kristen Buchanan

If you’ve ever brought a new engineer onto your technical team, you may have wondered how long it will take them to be fully independent and contributing. We call the time from a new hire’s first day to when they're flying solo “time to productivity”, and it’s an important metric to understand the effectiveness of your tech onboarding program.

But one thing that metrics and onboarding systems don’t always address is trust. Specifically, at what point can a manager trust their new hire to own their new role?

We understand where this question comes from. But in our experience, trust happens long before a new hire is expected to work independently.

So if you're wondering when you can trust a new hire, you're asking the wrong question.

When does trust happen?

The time to consider trust isn't after the new hire has bene brought on; it's actually part of the hiring process. As hiring teams and managers are interviewing new candidates, they should be looking for more than someone with technical skills or a strong resume. Yes, those factors can be a part of the decision process.

But before hiring a technical employee, ask yourself: does this person seem like a good fit for the job?

If the answer is yes, then you're already bringing some trust into the conversation.

If you hire someone, you must assume that they're capable of doing the job on their own.

Because of this, trust is an integral part of the hiring process.

How to ask the right questions about onboarding

If you've hired a technical employee, and they need more support than you expected, the question isn't whether they're trustworthy or capable. Again, that question was answered (with a resounding yes) when the new employee was hired.

Instead, managers should consider whether or not the onboarding process is working in the new engineer's favor.

The goal of any technical onboarding program is to get new engineers and technical employees contributing to their team as soon as possible. If that's not happening, it could point to a blind spot or failure in the onboarding program.

Here are a few questions to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of your onboarding program:

  • How well is the new hire understanding the process and professional expectations of their team?
  • How well are they adjusting to the culture and the norms of the company?
  • How well has all of this information been communicated to them? Has the onboarding process delivered the crucial information so the new hire can learn and grow?
  • Do our onboarding practices properly get the new hire up to speed?

Taking an honest look at these questions can clarify what problems need to be addressed, and how new hires can be supported in a more practical way.

And don't be afraid to include technical new hires in this conversation. Your new employees are your best resource for understanding what's working, and what isn't working with your onboarding program. So check in with them about the process often, and strive to understand what support they need.

If you find yourself wondering if a new hire is trustworthy or capable of handling their new role, turn that question on its head. Instead of focusing on the ability of the new hire, recognize if your onboarding program and systems are truly setting them up to do their best work.

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