Welcome new hires aboard with gusto

When Capt. D. Michael Abrashoff first took the helm of the USS Benfold, the 310-person crew was so demoralized, they couldn't wait to get off the ship.

One of Abrashoff's first acts as captain: Setting up a "Welcome aboard!" program that turned nervous recruits into enthusiastic sailors.

Here's how you can use Abrashoff's strategy to help new hires adjust:

1. Offer newbies a "running mate." On the Benfold, Abrashoff assigned top performers to lead new recruits around. Learning the ropes from a peer makes a new arrival feel more at home. Your part: Help new hires acclimate by taking them out to lunch and sharing knowledge informally, creating a "networking" chart for them that shows who can answer questions about what, or setting up an intranet page of frequently asked questions and their answers.

2. Schedule one-on-one time with top brass. USS Benfold "swabbies" met with the commander within days. The first thing Abrashoff said: "Welcome. I appreciate having you on our ship." Your part: Find room on the boss's schedule for a get-acquainted talk with a new hire within the first two days.

3. Stand ready when they walk in the door. When they arrived on the Benfold, swabbies' beds were made and their names were on their lockers. Your part: Outfit a new hire's space with the information and supplies you know he'll need. That way, he can swim right away ... instead of sinking.

— Adapted from It's Your Ship, Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, Warner Books.