You’ve hired someone! It is an exciting time. Hopefully, you are about to get the support your business needs. The actions you take next will influence the entire relationship that you have with this person. If onboarding and training are done well, you can cement your relationship and build a great future together. Done poorly, and you not only damage the fragile new relationship, but you may lose the new hire altogether.
The first three months should be a trial period for you and your new employee. During this time, your new employee is looking for clues that either say “This is a good place for me” or “I need to look for something else” – just like you are looking for clues that support your belief that you made a good choice when you hired this person.
Remember, it may not be you doing the training and managing the new person, but you are the one responsible for making sure all of these things happen.
The more organized and clear your organization is during this period, the better your success will be.
Most people think of onboarding as little more than completing HR paperwork. While this is part of onboarding, it only covers about half of what makes the best impression.
Walk the employee through your facility and share tidbits that will help them know what to expect. Talk about how things are put in the fridge, where personal items can be stored, where employees are allowed to park, and all the other little things that everyone else just knows.
Share information about why you are proud to work for your company. Tell stories that demonstrate why it is a great place to work and how customers are served. Help your new person feel proud of the place they now work.
Recent studies have shown that the number one factor in retaining an employee is whether or not the employee feels they have a friend at work. You can help this process by consciously introducing your new person to other people at work. Having an existing teammate be a mentor is another great technique for helping the newbie feel like they’re part of the team.
Before hiring someone, it is helpful to be very clear about the tasks you want that person to do. These should be organized into goals for each 30-day segment. This provides clarity for your new hire about what is expected. This helps them self-evaluate if they are on target or missing the mark.
When you are clear about what you expect someone to know at the end of each 30 days, you now have a framework for training. It is your job to Tell them what they need to know, to Show them what you want them to do, and then to have them Do it, receiving feedback from you so they know what they did well. People need to repeat tasks so they have enough practice to remember what to do. This means introducing one or two tasks at a time and having the new hire practice is more effective than going over everything in the first couple of days and then expecting them to remember it all.
I find that employers who struggle with training fall into two categories. Those who try to give the new person too much, too soon and those who swing the other way and keep the person in a training loop of watching for too long. There is a balance!!
As your new employee adds additional tasks, it is normal to feel a bit jumbled at first. When they return to a task that they have successfully completed before, but it has been a while, it is normal for them to need some refreshing. It is easy to plan for this by having your processes documented.
One form of documentation is step-by-step written directions that are available in a centrally accessible location (I like Google Drive). If it is well organized, the employee can easily find the directions and remind themselves of what they are supposed to do.
Another method that works well is a series of short videos that walk through how to do a process. I emphasize the short aspect of this. It is better to have six 3-minute videos than to have one 18-minute video. The longer video means they have to go through the entire process, even if they only need one piece of information.
It is easy to create these videos. You or someone else can log into a free Zoom account, open a meeting by yourself, share your screen, and talk about what you’re doing while you record the process. It will feel awkward the first time, but soon you’ll be creating these sorts of training tools easily while you are doing something that you needed to do anyway.
It is easy to think that if you aren’t telling someone they are screwing up, they will figure out that they are doing a good job. I find the opposite to be true. People who don’t get feedback feel anxious about their place in your organization. They may assume they aren’t meeting expectations, and a great employee may start looking for another job. I know you’re busy, so it is easy to overlook this. The only way to ensure it is done is to schedule time to do this task.
In the first 30 days, schedule at least 15 minutes per week to touch base. If you are adding a lot of information and complex work, you may need to meet for 15 minutes daily. This is an opportunity to answer questions, listen to how the employee is doing, provide feedback, and connect. In the next 30 days, you may find that you don’t need to meet as often. Remember, enough is how much it takes to get the employee off to a great start. If you are adding a lot of new information in the next 30 days, you may need to keep your meeting schedule the same. Evaluate what is needed and adjust accordingly.
Research shows that employees who don’t receive formal evaluations do not feel their employer is invested in their growth. Hopefully, you already have a formal performance review process in your organization that is completed at least annually (twice a year is even better). Your new employee should receive a shortened version of this at the end of each 30-day period. They should evaluate themselves, and you should evaluate them too. Then you should have a discussion so the employee knows both what to keep doing and what to do differently. If there are areas that need to be improved, there should be very specific, measurable goals created as part of the review process.
While it is lovely if your new person is doing 100% of all the things on your 30-day plan, that is probably not the reality. You need to look at the trends. Are they on target and moving forward in a good direction? Is their pace appropriate? Are they doing well on all but one or two tasks? These are signs that it is a good fit, and it is likely they will come all the way up to speed with a little more time and practice.
If they are not on target to meet your expectations, the 30-day evaluation point is the time to determine if you are going to keep going forward. If they are performing at less than 70% of your expectations, it may be time to start over with a new candidate. At minimum, a very specific discussion needs to occur that explains exactly what needs to change for the person to continue on the team.
You may be tempted to gloss over problem areas. It is unkind. When people do not know where they are falling short, they cannot work to fix the problem(s). It is equally damaging to keep someone on staff who isn’t a good fit. Not only does it keep them from finding a place where they can excel, but it also sends a message to your staff that you’ll accept a less than ideal candidate, which can damage the performance of other team members. If the right answer is to part ways, do so as cleanly and kindly as you can without letting the situation drag on. It is better for everyone concerned.
The successful integration of a new hire into your team is a crucial milestone in your business’s growth journey. The first three months represent a pivotal phase, during which both you and your new employee evaluate whether this professional relationship is a suitable fit. Your role as the employer is paramount in ensuring a positive onboarding experience.