Employees are the heartbeat of your micro-business but being an employer does not come without complications. In the last couple of weeks, I've had several clients bring the same issue into our sessions: problems with getting new employees up to speed. Cases varied from the work not getting done at all, not being done correctly, and/or issues with meeting deadlines. These scenarios were presented by three different clients in distinctly different industries, yet I saw a common thread.
All of these employees were hired within the last six months and hold jobs that are very detailed. The problem lies in the fact that these workers were either too uncomfortable or too stubborn to ask for help. In some instances, by the time an employee realized they did not have enough information or knowledge to complete certain tasks, they were too embarrassed to ask for help. The consequences can be costly. In one case, thousands of dollars' worth of billing did not get tracked or invoiced.
In all of these situations, clients were ignored or misinformed, unnecessary mistakes were made, and poor habits developed. In every scenario, my clients got pulled away from their own work to step in to put out fires.
When these employers spoke to the new team member about this problem, they received feedback that included points like these:
- I don't want to bother you.
- I feel stupid or embarrassed.
- I'll figure it out eventually.
- I didn't know I was doing it wrong.
- I want to impress you by doing it myself (but the work didn't get done).
Sounding at all familiar? Thankfully, this all-too-common problem can be minimized or prevented altogether.
1. Give them a detailed job description.
Many employers fail at effective onboarding right off the bat. Your new recruits won't get off to a good start without absolute clarity about their responsibilities. Give them an overview in writing, as well as a bullet-pointed list of their primary duties. I find it helpful to rank the importance of these tasks to assist them in their prioritization process.
2. Document everything.
If you run a micro-business, you know the pain of hiring and training new team members, because much of it falls on you. When someone leaves your employ, everything is upended--but less so if you have a training process in place.
Instruct your current employee(s) to document the processes by which they complete their tasks. If this person is you, which it frequently is for a micro business, be sure to make the time to do this now. Otherwise, you'll be forced to work much harder when the time comes to hand off the work. Whether it's in list form, a well-structured document, and/or screen recording, most everything should have protocols in place with training materials that outline them. If there is no documentation, it's good practice to have your new employee record their screen and take copious notes while they are in training. These notes and screen recordings can be organized and added to your procedure manual at a later date.
3. Designate specific training and check in times.
When an employee doesn't want to bother you with questions it causes more complications than necessary. However, you do not want to be interrupted throughout the day since it wreaks havoc with your own productivity. Put your employees at ease by creating structure. Avoid saying things like, "Just ask me if you have any questions at all." That typically invites one of two undesirable results: they'll interrupt you throughout the day, or they won't ask many questions because they can see how busy you are. There is no winning in this scenario. Suggest that they keep an ongoing list of questions and set up several times to meet briefly throughout the day.
4. Offer feedback.
It's time-consuming to train a newcomer, but it's also an investment. In the first weeks, you may have to perform daily reviews of the work. Here's where I see entrepreneurs make the poor decision to jump in when they're not happy with the results and do it themselves. Not a concern about deadlines, but because they feel it's easier to just get it done than it is to teach someone else. Instead, offer feedback and further training. In the weeks and months ahead having those tasks off of your plate will leave you more time to make money.
5. Don't count on common sense.
Some of what you consider common sense comes from your experience and knowledge of the industry. Without the whole backstory, as well as familiarity with your culture, employees will make incorrect assumptions. Rather than re-do something yourself or simply correcting them, explain your reasoning when you can. When people understand the big picture, they are more likely to retain the information.
6. Help them adapt to the culture.
Smart leaders hire for good fit, not just skill and experience. Don't forget to exercise the values that are important to you. Make sure your new people are familiar with your policies, expectations, and perks or unusual offerings. Arrange a time for other employees to get to know the new person on a casual basis. And, let the new guy or gal shine. Balance your work reviews and feedback with positive details. Recognize them for their good qualities and the progress they are making. Help them to feel welcome.
When you surround yourself with successful people, you are more likely to get there yourself. This includes great employees. Give them every chance to support you in the future by giving them the support they need today.