New Starters

I wrote an article recently about business growth. A number of people liked this and went on to ask me for a bit more detail about taking on new staff. They wanted to know what they could do to maintain and build upon the key values that made the start up business successful but seemed tricky to keep in sight as they grew. Here goes:

I began with customer and purpose – being clear with new starters means not just putting into a manual who the customer is and how important we regard them but going a bit further. Try to make it ‘real’ for your staff by taking them onto the shop floor or the sales counter or the first line telephone centre or wherever customers contact the business. Let them experience the interactions and talk about how you define good service and what matters to customers. Explain how you measure this and how this feeds back into the business. Let existing people explain about what they do and why they do it.

Follow up on this with the values of the organization and explore with new starters what matters to them. Understanding a bit more about people shows that we care and this creates trust. Realising that one person has to leave on time for child care commitments, another has elderly relative obligations and yet another attends a sport club competition one evening a week are simple but powerful ways of working for win-win relationships. Recognize that there is more to staff than work. Work-life balance is more about the whole person, part of their world comprising employment, part other stuff but only together do they create a whole person. If we want people to turn up to work as whole people then it helps if we treat them that way.

Most new starters are subject to a probationary period. Once the work has been explained, shown, described etc. put a bit more detail on the bare facts:

  • What the business is about and what matters (values)
  • What are the long term goals and short term priorities
  • How the new starters role contributes to the larger purpose of the organization in terms of function and activity and customer
  • How ‘good work’ is defined, measured and improved
  • Who defines this
  • What is expected of you
  • How the business gives you feedback

Continue this with a more personal conversation along the following lines:

  • What do you want to achieve here and how will you know when you have achieved it? Ask short, medium and long term.
  • What do you think are your key skills that will help you to do this?
  • What stands in your way?
  • What do you need from the business to help you achieve success?
  • Can we agree permissions to be honest with each other about what helps and what gets in the way, organizationally and personally?
  • What sort of things trip you up or have caused you difficulty in the past? Are there any danger signs we can both look out for so we can talk and resolve sooner rather than later?

Once the induction or introductions are complete agree clear review periods. These will likely depend on many factors but might be daily for week one, weekly for weeks 2-4, monthly thereafter but, whatever interval, it needs to be regular. It needs to be consistent with the day one messages. It needs to be open, honest and supportive.   If the organization really wants to help its staff to achieve the best, it needs to take action that helps. This might be specific job based training or it might be people skills but will vary person to person and can only be identified by maintaining dialogue. One of the cruelest things managers can do is allow staff to keep on failing below the radar.

Of all the people we interview for a role we usually short list down to a few who seem suitable candidates. Final decisions are often made from a small number of people who all meet the job requirements and we settle on those that we believe are trustworthy and we want to work with. We select people who are capable and fit in with the organization’s values and ethos. It is disingenuous of organisations not to maintain their side of the bargain by working to build on the relationship once new people start in employment. By continually engaging, supporting and working with staff we create a successful business based on successful people. Failure to do so courts disaster.

Thanks for reading