Getting On

Here’s the scenario: you’ve been at your job for about a week now. Maybe you just completed training and have spent a day or so working on your own. You’ve had some questions, there have been a few hiccups, but so far everything is going the way a new job should. You’re getting used to things and beginning to find your rhythm. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see someone headed your way. Maybe it’s the HR person, maybe a supervisor, or maybe just a senior co-worker. Regardless, they’re headed for you and, since it’s about break time, you know exactly why. They’re about to ask that gorram stupid question.

“How are you getting on?”

Change the words if need be. Maybe they ask how you’re getting along, fitting in, liking it, or even a simple “how’s it going so far?”. They’re asking you the question that inevitably comes your way at every new job, the one that appears to be concerned about your thoughts regarding the position, but is really intended to find out if the company just wasted time and money on you. They know that’s why they ask, and so do you, so the answer is inevitable, “It’s going well so far. I’m really starting to get the hang of it.” It will then be followed by an exchange of smiles, as well as the response, “Well, my name is Dan, and my cubicle is over yonder if you need anything.” What a wasted exchange and opportunity.

These precious moments spent in cliché conversation could be better used. Asking the right questions in this moment could offer the company some great insight into the training program, as well as the trainer. Why not ask some more relevant, less ominous questions instead? Try these on for size:

  • Was the training pretty simple for you? If they’re honest, you’ll find out lots about both your training program, and the new employee.
  • How did you like working with your trainer, Sam? What if Sam shouldn’t be a trainer because she’s terrible with people? What if she’s training as a substitute, and is fantastic at it? These are things you need to know to make your training program the best it can be.
  • Did all of your questions get answered, or was there something I could answer for you now? There are two bits of great information here. The first is that you’re finding out if your training program is missing important information, which allows you to improve it. The second is for the new employee. You’ve just let them know that it’s OK to ask questions and that you’re here to help.
  • How similar was this training to that of your last position/schooling? This should tell you how you compare to your competition and the industry, and whether or not you’ve found a better approach.
  • Are you totally comfortable with the training materials? If your program is hard to understand, outdated, incorrect, or even offensive, this answer should let you know.

Asking good questions instead of the lazy, cliché questions we’re used to asking can offer us a greater quality of feedback from our new employees, as well as let them know that we aren’t looking at them as an expense. Jeff Hadden of INC Magazine has some other lazy clichés we need to ditch in order to get better at our jobs. Have a read, and work smarter, not harder.

Images of Sgt. Matthew Kurtz (then PVT) and Elizabeth Kurtz (by Reader’s Digest)

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About the author:

Michael McNew
Web developer, marketing innovator, technology enthusiast, and founder of Visceral Concepts, Michael McNew has developed a passion for delivering value to small business, turning his creativity towards image and reputation building for small business owners.