Hiring great new employees into your group is essential, but it’s not sufficient. Some of my biggest regrets as a supervisor are when I didn’t do enough to help new employees start well and succeed. Let’s talk about what you can do to make sure your new employee, even if they are only new to your group but from the same company, gets a great launch!
First, assemble a comprehensive plan in advance. If you want this person to hit the ground running – and you do – then start assembling the plan at least 2-3 weeks in advance.
Second, you need to schedule in time with them. You should be meeting with them personally each day for a few minutes in the first week, and then at least weekly thereafter. I recommend a special meeting at the 6 week and 3 month marks. You can give them feedback on how they’re doing against the tasks and project work underway, and assess what new areas they need to learn about, or people they should meet.
Here are the elements of the plan:
- Basic logistics
- Meeting people
- Initial tasks and projects
Security access to the building(s). ID Badge. Office space. Computer system. Phone. It’s nice to start someone off with a few basic office supplies. They need security access to computer systems; this request may take a few days to fulfill. Check with your administrative assistant for suggestions and details. Consider having your work group sign a welcome card. Provide some small welcome-to-the-group gifts. Make sure your new person has email addresses and phone numbers of people who can help them quickly if they run into issues. They should have phone numbers for Security and IT help at the start of day one. Make sure they know the drill about building security, parking, work hours, safety and health, where the restrooms are, the locations of office supplies, cafeteria, etc.
Write up an email to your group and key stakeholders to be sent out on day one announcing the new person’s name, role, and with some background or get-to-know-them-better information, along with their contact details.
Look over your calendar and make sure your new person is added to already-scheduled meetings (e.g., monthly and quarterly meetings, weekly project reviews, the year-end celebration, etc.). Write out a list of email distribution lists they should be on, so they are starting to get the correct emails and will be invited to future events. This is one of the most commonly overlooked startup steps.
Start a folder or new item in your tracking system to capture information related to this new person and their work.
Help your new employee develop an interlocking web of relationships that will be helpful and productive for their long-term success in your organization.
Team work means working with others, so take the responsibility in the startup plan of scheduling introduction meetings with key partners and stakeholders. You choose the format. Usually 1:1 to small groups are best, rather than a single one:many conversation. Space them out over a few days. It doesn’t have to be in the first week, but find a time to meet with the senior leader of your group or department in the first month.
It’s also a nice touch if in the first few days someone can take your new person out to lunch.
Line up some key people on your team with an expectation of checking in with the new person a few times, and letting you know if they surface any needs. It is very helpful for your new person to meet with someone who was new 6-12 months ago. They will have a lot of empathy for the new person’s situation, and can help explain how they have come up the learning curve.
Every organization and sub-group has a particular culture, and it’s largely unwritten. You should consciously share stories over the next few months that illustrate things about your culture. Make time to explain the WHY-we-exist and WHY-we-do-things-this-way information that helps guide their decisions. There are common expectations about scheduling meetings, how you answer the phone, unspoken hierarchies of communication, working hours, how time is tracked, working over lunch, how project updates are made, how problems are discussed and solved, etc.
Initial tasks and projects
Here’s the goal: give them some early wins to build confidence, help them integrate with the work and the group, and provide momentum to move forward in more and larger tasks and projects.
Let me say this again, a different way: Do what you can to line up early wins. Almost everyone succeeds more readily in an organization with early wins in their “credibility” account, and you as the boss have a lot of influence over their early work.
What might be appropriate for an early win? Imagine that you’re writing your boss an email after your new person has been working for 2 months in your group. What would you like to be able to write? What are some deliverables and accomplishments that could be reasonable in 8 weeks?
I say “tasks and projects” because not everything is a project. There are some reasonable items which are straightforward tasks that support the larger effort, and help people learn about data, computer systems, business processes, etc., and meet new colleagues along the way. Think about blocks of work which could be completed in 2 hours or 2 chronological days. There may be repeating tasks that are appropriate (e.g., analyze X data and submit report every Tuesday morning).
You will need to decide, depending on the nature of this position, if there are small projects that this person should own, and what the deliverables are. Don’t overlook the options of assigning responsibility for sub-projects of a larger project. For projects, think in blocks of work which could be completed in 2 chronological days, 2 weeks, and 6 weeks.
Review the list of tasks and projects you have identified, and ask yourself if they cover enough ground or too much in the first few weeks. You don’t want to discourage people by overloading them too quickly, but you should have a challenging set of work that demands good engagement on their part. There is no formula to follow; expect to have to adjust your plans and expectations after 2-3 months. [Observation: quality people with a great startup plan like we are discussing here usually surprise you and are ready for new challenges soon. This is a good state!]
Once you’ve identified the initial tasks and projects, then you need to circle back and line up the resources for them. They may need software and coaching on how to get raw data to analyze. They could benefit from introductions to key people involved in a process. Perhaps they need someone to check their work before it’s finalized and passed on. Whatever you can forecast in advance, put into your plan.
This work helps you sketch out the key elements of their performance plan – which you should develop in one of your 1:1 meetings in the first 2-3 weeks.
Execute the plan
Assemble the plan, and then start scheduling, making requests, and getting things lined up for the new employee. Consider this a time & effort investment in the future success of your group. My experience has been that managers who invest well in new employee startup get paid significant dividends later, and are much less likely to be dealing with performance gaps down the road.
You will want to share the plan with your new employee, at least in some format.
Once you have done a plan, then it becomes a process of editing the plan for future employees, because much of this should be re-usable.
There is another, more subtle challenge with lining up this plan and executing it: ensure you aren’t creating an employee who is overly dependent on you to line everything up in advance. My recommended approach to avoiding this problem is to frankly explain what you have done in lining up help for them, your thought process behind the work, and your expectation that they gradually do more of this work themselves as they gain experience and build relationships. Mom has no problem holding the hands of the toddler learning to walk, but gradually children do more and more on their own.
You might be thinking, “I don’t hire people to make extra work for myself!” I assure you, this startup plan is well worth the effort you will put into it. Proactive effort is an excellent use of your time, far better than troubleshooting startup gaps and delays because of lack of planning.
What other suggestions do you have, or experiences to share?