Lauralee Hites Kayaking Ohiopyle, PA

I never thought my recent trip would have anything to do with ways to improve your new hire’s experience but, I was wrong. Here’s about my recent new hire experience that became life or death!

I wish I could say my life flashed before my eyes when I almost died on the river, but it didn’t. 

There was no enlightenment. ?‍♀️

I’m taking it as a sign I was not close enough to death’s door – I’m okay with that. 
There’s a more interesting story than how I almost drown. 

What was I doing on the river and how on earth does this topic relate to ways to improve your new hire’s experience? 
I’m glad you asked!

It’s funny how life works out.  I decided to pursue having ‘more fun’.  I’m well-known for working way too much.  Consulting and working with clients is my passion and it is fun to me.  However, it’s healthy to be involved in non-work related activities.  So, I’m trying. 

I joined the Hoosier Canoe and Kayak Club and bought an overly expensive Whitewater Kayak.  I had hoped I would meet an experienced stranger to navigate the rapids with me. After upgrading my boat for whitewater and I was determined to test its capabilities with or without a companion.  Within 3 days I found myself in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania with new people, a new kayak, and a new river.  

When my kayak flipped over and I was locked into the spray skirt, my first thought was to panic. 

My 2nd thought was to calm down and remember my wet exit training. 

After escaping the kayak upside down, only to rise into the current where the water rushed in my nose at the speed of a freight train, my 3rd thought was…… 
“I’m going to drown.”

Spoiler alert!  I’m OK and I’m writing this email to you now to share a few things we can all learn from this experience. 

It was a big decision for me to join a group I was not familiar with and go to a place I never been to before and use equipment I had never used before. 

When new employees start at your company, they are feeling a lot like I was when I arrived in Ohiopyle.   They are excited but, yet unsure of you, the company, the process, and the tools available to them. 

Here are the lessons I learned from almost drowning and how it applies to your organization.

5 Ways To Improve Your New Hire’s Experience

Photo Credit: Canva Pro
Roll Out The Welcome Mat

Welcome the new employee with excitement – I was very nervous going to meet the Hoosier Canoe and Kayak Club members at the campground.  I had only exchanged a few Facebook comments before my arrival. However, they welcomed me happily and ensured I felt “part of the team”.  There I met Mark who joined me on the river the next day.

Training Before Action

Ensure new employees receive the appropriate training BEFORE they go into action – I cannot express enough how critical receiving the wet exit training was for me.  Had I not taken the course by the club in January of this year, I would have likely drowned or been seriously hurt. I was able to practice in a pool over and over again before it actually happened in the river. 

This is a great reminder, online training would not have prepared me for the actual river.  We are moving virtual very fast…… but, with 15 years of L&D experience, I can tell you, virtually does not replace real face to face scenario training.  You likely are not in a life or death business, like whitewater kayaking.  However, often your lowest paid employee receives the least amount of training and investment, yet they likely work with customers the most.  Your company’s reputation is on the line and for an organization – that can be life or death.  I wrote more about that a few months ago, you can read it on our blog

Experienced Mentors Make Learning Easier

Mentors matter – The wet exit training was part of the reason I survived. However, the other reason was that a highly experienced whitewater kayaker joined me on the river.  Mark knew I didn’t have the experience to paddle a Class II alone.  He recognized it and immediately approached me about going with me.  No one told him to go with me.  He knew it was dangerous and stepped up. 

New employees often don’t know what they don’t know.  They need a guide to navigate the rough waters of your organization.   No, it’s likely not life or death at your company BUT – my commitment to the Club is much stronger because of his act.  I now know, as part of being in this club, I too need to help those less experienced than me.  He set the tone of the club.  You and your employees set the tone of the organization too. 

Have Tools and Know How To Use Them

Right tools –  New employees need the right tools and taught how to use them.  The Club provided a list of safety tools and equipment I needed before I arrived.  Mark took it upon himself to walk me through all the equipment and how to use it properly.  I packed my PFD and helmet with me.  I can assure you – I would have NEVER brought a helmet with me had the club not listed it and had Mark not insisted on me wearing it.  Well, when my kayaked rolled, had I been 20 feet further down the river my head would have hit the rocks under the water.  Ensure your employees have the right tools and know how and why to use them. 

Work Matches Experience

Know what new team members can handle – I was overconfident in my skills. New employees often feel they have it figured out too.  Mark knew I was not ready for that river alone.  Therefore, he joined me and taught me how to read the river.  I wish my daughter had experienced this at her restaurant job a few months ago.  No one asked if she was ready for the fryers.  No one asked if she had ever used the equipment or had completed the training.  The result?  Burned hands and a trip to the hospital.  

Why Having A Plan For New Hires Matters

In conclusion, I’m happy to have ended my trip on the right side of the kayak.  However, too many new hires don’t end their first 30 days right side up at work. Instead, it’s a bad experience and they quit. Changing this can be as simple as having a new hire plan. Having a plan can reduce turn over, increase new hire satisfaction and create a more engaged employee.

In summary, the ways to improve your new hire’s experience are simple; ensure they feel welcomed, receive training, have a mentor, get the right tools and only take on what they can handle. 

We love helping clients build out and improve their on boarding experience!

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About the Author, Lauralee Hites

After nearly 20 years in corporate America, I decided to serve the world in a new way. Today, I operate a boutique consulting firm that specializes in Strategy and Management Consulting. In my spare time, I enjoy travel writing, kayaking and mountain biking. Connect with me on LinkedIn.