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Getting colleagues up to speed helps your company and yourself

Your co-worker is new on the job and isn’t productive. That lack of productivity will undermine your work. Your objective, stabilizing the workflow, will require some effort. Consider a range of tactics to create impact as quickly as possible.

Attorney Paul Genato uses “shadowing,” bringing the new co-worker along, at Archer &Greiner PC in Princeton, N.J. He views it as productive for both the newbie and the veteran without draining either’s time.

“Shadowing, attending meetings with me and sitting in on conference calls is very helpful,” he says. “The person sees and experiences firsthand the nuances of the work without interrupting my work.”

Genato briefs the co-worker on a case’s status before a meeting or call, introduces the person to conference-call or meeting attendees and reviews the case with the co-worker afterward.

Like Genato, Laurie Battaglia endorses shadowing, among other tactics. She’s co-owner and career coach at Living the Dream Coaches LLC in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Think like a newbie,” she says. “When you walked into your role, what tripped you up or was difficult to find or understand? Focus on those things.”

She further advocates functioning as “a buddy to follow around or sit with to learn the new role.” Have the co-worker take notes, which you’ll both have for the next new hire.

At Seattle’s 9Slides Inc., marketing manager Alonso Chehade says he’d go to the supervisor for help in this scenario, if the supervisor is open to such discussions. Otherwise, he’d help the co-worker directly as a friend or mentor, first by establishing a connection.

“I’d find out their process for getting the job done,” Chehade says, “and come up with a different process or give the person a tool to do it without criticizing. Be sure that everything you say is constructive.”

Listen for personal problems that might be getting in the way, Chehade says.

“Keep in mind that the new person may be feeling vulnerable,” he says.

Chehade also recommends you bring an outline of topics to discuss so you cover everything and pace your delivery to avoid overwhelming the person. Creating anxiety, he says, will reduce productivity.

He recommends avoiding negative communication, such as, “By the way, make sure you don’t push this button, or you could delete all the accounts, when the task doesn’t even involve pushing that button in the first place.”

Peppering the conversation with comments about how you appreciate the new colleague and are happy to be working together will promote bonding, Chehade says. He adds that mentioning the person’s strength relevant to the task will provide a boost. You could say, for example, “You’re an amazing writer. I can’t wait to see the new campaign!”

Establish completion dates to establish accountability, Chehade says, and recap the training before then to alleviate misunderstanding.

If, in this process, “you’re trying unsuccessfully to help,” Battaglia says, “ask yourself first if your teaching style might be clashing with the person’s learning style. Generational differences can also come into play.”

Is the co-worker just not qualified for the job? Battaglia says this occurs frequently, because interviewing is one thing, but the lack of hands-on experience is another. Notify the boss only when you’re certain this is the case and work to see whether skills training will solve the problem.

“Many places have a short period of time during training where they can let someone go without a lot of drama,” she says.

Try several tactics to see what builds productivity rapidly. Then do more.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp of WorkWise® welcomes your questions at © 2013 Passage Media.