Scary stuff last week.
This lady managed to sneak onto a Delta flight from Orlando to Atlanta. She plops down in a seat and, when confronted by the passenger who actually had a ticket for that seat, wouldn’t budge.
My favorite part: When the flight attendant asked to see her ID, she pulled up a photo of herself on her phone, and said, “Here I am.”
Where’s TSA when you need them?
If people can sneak onto a plane that easily, I bet you a bag of peanuts they can sneak into your company.
And then what?
If you don’t onboard new hires properly, you’re missing a huge opportunity… and you’re also taking a huge risk.
Because those new hires will soon be meeting with your prospective customers. Or talking with your most important clients. Or writing code for your upcoming new product.
If your company is like most, new hires show up Monday at 8am. Show them the restroom, have them fill our some HR forms, and throw them into the pool by the end of the day.
That’s far scarier than a stowaway passenger, because new hires can do untold and immense damage. Just because they interviewed well and passed your background check, doesn’t mean they’re ready for takeoff.
So, what needs to be covered during onboarding?
Think of it as a pre-flight safety check (the one you normally snooze through).
Whether formally or informally, there are a bunch of vital areas. The more forethought, documentation, and rehearsal you can put into these, the better they scale and can be re-used with new hires.
The Role Itself
Be sure that your new Rockstar is clear on the role they’ve accepted. Go over the role (yes, again), the responsibilities, and the priorities. Point by point. Invest the time to ensure they are crystal clear. Flesh out all the things you discussed during the recruiting process. If one of the responsibilities is to build a process that ensures fewer bugs in the software, talk about what that means and what the goal is. Provide a target and time-frame.
Also, talk about constraints. Does the employee have a budget? Can they make hires—whether employees or consultants? Who will approve those hires, and how?
If you fail to prioritize for your new Rockstar, they’ll use their best judgment. But that isn’t yet informed by the realities of your business situation. Tell them the things you want them to focus on during the first week, first month, and first quarter. Equally importantly, tell them why. Get their buy-in to the plan of attack.
How are you going to communicate? Each company—and each manager—has a rhythm. The new hire needs to know how to communicate up, down, and sideways. They also need to be aware of expectations about attending standing meetings, providing weekly reports, give you a heads-up on bad news, and the like. Whatever your communication preferences are, set them now. The onus is on you, and the best hiring managers start good habits from day one.
It’s also important to ask the new hire how they prefer to communicate. Some people are better in person, others on the phone, or in writing. Some prefer groups, others individual conversations. If you know their preferences, you can adjust accordingly.
Make sure they understand the company’s mission, vision, history, priorities, and the main initiatives the business is focused on. Educate every single employee—regardless of role or level—on the financials. How much money the business makes, your margins, variable costs, fixed costs, how you make a profit, cash in the bank, etc. There’s no reason anyone in the company, from CEO to receptionist, shouldn’t understand the basic financials of the business.
Company meetings are a great time to make sure everyone has this information. Done properly, it shouldn’t take more than an hour. You’d be shocked by how few employers help their people know the numbers.
Who does what? What are the key functions? Who are the leaders of those functions? What’s important to them? What are the key responsibilities?
What’s expected of the new hire, in terms of values and DNA? What is not tolerated? How do we function as a company? What does bad behavior look like? Provide recent examples—no names necessary—of Rockstars who were shown the door for violating the culture, regardless of their outstanding performance.
Who is your competition? How many others are there? What’s the market share? On what basis do they compete? Who tries to be the low-cost provider? Who tries to be a high-service company? How do we differentiate ourselves?
Sales and Marketing
What are our key messages? Who are our target customers? How do we acquire customer leads and convert those leads? Advertising? Email? Referrals? How do we keep customers? What are the customers’ concerns, objections, and fears? Everyone in the company is a salesperson. They can’t sell if they don’t understand the key messages.
Teach your new Rockstar about the products you sell. Pricing, features, benefits, functionality. I was fortunate years ago to serve as the first Vice President of Marketing for Dyson, the large consumer products maker. One of our culture rites of passage was that, during their first week, every new employee was required to take apart a Dyson vacuum and reassemble it—to understand how it works from the inside out. If your product is software, provide hands-on demos. If it’s an intangible service, teach them how the experience works. Reinforce this knowledge constantly, particularly around new-product launches.
In addition to training on matters relating to the business, the onboarding period is also the time to understand your new hires’ aspirations. I tell my employees they’ve hopped on our company train and that my job as their manager is to keep them on our train for as long as possible. That said, I’ll acknowledge that it’s probably not going to be the last train they ride and that’s okay.
Tell them that whether they stay two years, five years, or 10 years, you want to maximize that time and make sure they learn and grow and see it as beneficial to their career. To do that, you need to understand their career aspirations. Find out where they want to grow. Do they want to improve at leading people? Do they want to work internationally? Start their own company one day? You can’t own their career, but you can help them by providing opportunities consistent with what they want to do long term.
I know it can seem overwhelming.
But when you invest all the time and money and effort to recruit a Rockstar, why would you just throw them into the pilot’s seat?
Invest the first 30 days getting them ready for takeoff.
And you’ll avoid the crash landing.
p.s. Chapter 8 of my free book Recruit Rockstars walks you step-by-step through how to Onboard a new hire.
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