Andrew Z. Brown on how entrepreneurs can harness the power of internal communications to grow great companies.
If you're like most successful entrepreneurs, before you arrive at a meeting where you know that you will be introduced to someone important to your business, you prepare by doing some homework. For example, you do a little research on their personal and professional lives, you reach out to people within your network to see if you have common colleagues, you dig into their industry and organization to try to understand their goals, and you think up ways that you can mutually help one another. In short, you look for ways to make a strong, positive, and outstanding first impression.
Every single member of your team needs to be firing on all cylinders. That only happens when your team members truly believe in you, your vision, and your company's values.
So, honestly, why wouldn't you devote the same care, thought, and attention to someone who is going to be more important to your business than 99% of your clients, i.e., the next member of your company's team?
Let's face it, your company, particularly if it's small (i.e., fewer than 30 people), can't risk hiring someone who isn't going to fit with your company's unique culture. Simply put, you don't have the slack that larger companies often have. Every single member of your team needs to be firing on all cylinders. That only happens when your team members truly believe in you, your vision, and your company's values.
To make sure that your new team members get on board – or to determine if you need to jettison them quickly – here are five steps that you should include as part of your new employee "on-boarding process.” Taking these straightforward actions ensures that you make a powerful first impression that will in turn inspire, engage, and align every team member:
Spend time with your new team member. On the first day, greet them as enthusiastically as if they were prospective new clients. Carve out time to learn what they hope to achieve within the first few weeks on the job. This tells you how much thought and planning they've devoted to your company even before beginning the job. Within the first week, take them out to lunch and share poignant stories about the company, its history, its grand successes, and its painful losses. Ask them what they think the lessons are from these critical milestones in your company's history. Ask them to share some of the meaningful stories from their professional lives and the lessons they took away. Devoting this time and effort sends several strong messages; among them, your company's culture/history is important and unique and you recognize that they will play a vital role in your company's success.
Walk your new team member around the office (virtual or physical) and introduce them to everyone within your company. At that time, share with your current team members why your new team member has been hired, what role they will play, what's special about them, and how fortunate the company is to have them join. At the same time, identify how each person they are meeting helps make the company successful. This demonstrates that absolutely everyone in the company plays an important role and is valued. Now, who wouldn't want to work for a leader like this in such a company? This step sets the stage for a supportive culture where people look to help one another while reinforcing common goals.
Allocate a "buddy" for your new team member. This on-boarding buddy doesn't have to have a similar title or expertise as the new team member. In fact, it's better if the buddy is from a completely different department or function. The purpose of the buddy is to help your new team member have a sounding board and a resource to ask questions about the company's procedures and more importantly, its values. Questions like: "How do things really get done around here?" The buddy should know the culture and be able to share stories about what kinds of behaviours are rewarded and what behaviours are unacceptable.
Conduct a first week check-in with your new team member. At the end of the first week, ask them: "What did you learn about our company?", "What do you think our company's values are?", "How do we talk about our competitors and our customers/clients?" and "What would you say is really important to us?" These questions reveal the degree to which they've started to get your company's unique culture. You can also gauge the degree to which they are excited about what they've learned. This step also is valuable because they are still a fish out of water, which means they can provide insights about how the company is seen by an outsider.
Check in with a handful of people in your company within the first two weeks to determine how your newest team member is fitting in. Are they enthusiastically taking on projects/tasks? Are they making progress? Are people enjoying their company and their contributions? You and your team members need to know the answers to these questions sooner rather than later.
While these five steps are only a small slice of a well-honed on-boarding process, they set a strong foundation for companies with fewer than 30 employees. Taking these steps dramatically increases the likelihood that your new team member will become a great asset to your company, a loyal team member, and a positive advocate for your brand.
Finally, let's not forget another key business issue that weighs heavily on your mind when you bring someone new on board: Do you really want to spend more time and effort having to re-hire for the same position? Probably, no, strike that . . . definitely not! A well-implemented on-boarding process ensures that the time and resources you spend on recruiting, evaluating, hiring, and training a new team member has not been wasted.