Managing New(ish) Employees: 7 Questions Managers Can Ask at the 6-Month Mark

Aug 16, 2023

Most companies are aware of the importance of an employee’s first six months on the job. Managers are making efforts to strengthen their hiring, onboarding, and retention strategies to ensure that new employees are happy and productive in their roles.

Make no mistake: the first six months of employment are a critical time for everyone involved, and the risk of turnover is highest during this time. However, in some ways, this is also a “honeymoon” period, where a new hire’s excitement about a new opportunity is highest. If managers only focus on employee coaching and development during those first six months, they might miss warning signs that an employee’s motivation, confidence, and excitement are waning at the six-month mark.

Here are seven questions that can help managers support employees during their second six months on the job:

  1. Would you say that our hiring/interview process accurately reflected our company and your day-to-day role within the organization?
    This question is an important place to start. It’s normal for job descriptions to evolve a bit over time, but if an employee feels that their job is completely different from what they expected, it might create issues of trust and communication. By starting from a place of self-evaluation, managers also demonstrate that the employee isn’t on trial – instead, the conversation is a place for mutual feedback and growth opportunities.
  2. How was our onboarding process compared to your past experiences? Was it a good transition? What could we improve on?
    Questions like this help continue the conversation’s tone of mutual growth and accountability. The manager can show that they want to learn, and they want this employee to feel supported, but they also want an opportunity to improve their existing processes so that future new hires have the best possible experience. It also helps managers learn more about what other companies are doing differently, giving them the chance to consider new perspectives and ideas.
  3. Do you have any questions regarding the policies that we have in place that have been confusing/unclear or difficult for you to navigate?
    The six-month check-in conversation is a great time to clarify processes and policies that the employee may be struggling with. Every company does things differently, so even highly experienced new employees may be struggling to adjust to new ways of doing familiar tasks. If there are areas where employees aren’t meeting expectations, discussing them at this time and offering additional training or focused coaching on challenging areas can help employees feel confident in their roles as they continue to learn and develop.
  4. Do you feel appropriately recognized and valued by this organization? Can you give an example of a time when you felt valued or appreciated?
    The most important key to employee retention is making sure that employees feel appreciated by the company. Recognition and value can come in many different forms, and different employees benefit from different approaches. Questions like this can help managers identify what rewards or behaviors make a particular employee feel the most appreciated and ensure that they know how much the company values them.
  5. How do you prefer to receive feedback, and how often?
    As with recognition and appreciation, different employees have different preferences for receiving feedback. Some newer employees might need more frequent and more direct feedback as they settle into their roles and learn the company’s processes and procedures, while others might prefer less frequent check-ins that allow them to troubleshoot and problem-solve on the job, learning as they go. Either way, it’s helpful for a manager to know how best to support their employee with feedback, so that everyone involved feels heard and respected.
  6. What can we do to improve teamwork and collaboration within the team?
    An employee’s coworkers are among the biggest contributors to their overall work experience with a company. Team dynamics can make or break an employee’s confidence, engagement, and productivity, and it’s important for managers to stay informed about how their teams are working together. By framing the question in this way, managers can tap into the “mutual feedback” tone from the first few questions and acknowledge that there is always room for growth and improvement.
  7. Now that you’ve been here for six months, do you feel that you have a clear path forward for advancement here? Would you like to discuss your goals and expectations in more detail?
    This question has two major benefits. First, it helps managers understand whether an employee is clear about what is expected of them and confident in their abilities to excel in their role. Second, it shows employees that they are valued and that their manager sees a future for them with the company. Managers can learn more about what short- and long-term goals and expectations the employee may have, and use that information to continue to support them as they continue their career.

In today's competitive market, retaining new employees is of utmost importance. One of the key factors in implementing effective retention strategies is actively seeking feedback from new employees. It’s important to recognize that employees need to feel safe and supported by their manager in order to answer these questions honestly and provide feedback that their manager can use. Make sure that employees know their feedback is important and that even negative feedback will be received and accepted without risk to their employment experience.

By asking these seven questions to a not-so-new employee and listening to their feedback, managers can ensure that expectations are clear, productivity and engagement are strong, and the employee is successful moving forward.

***We are grateful to Billy Doubraski, Jay Dubac, Max Gunther, and Bo Stevenson for contributing their unique perspective to this article.

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