Get your new small business hire off to a great start

My last post talked about things to consider during the hiring process.. In it I suggested that after the decision is made, companies put in place measures to help new hires succeed, noting a thoughtful plan – and appropriate action – can help you to avoid tension and distractions down the road. So, what elements might that plan include?

It is essential that each employee understand his or her role. While that may seem obvious, not being on the same page about expectations is at the core of many, if not most, workplace problems. Starting from a written job description that thoroughly details responsibilities, spend an hour – yes, about an hour – reviewing the document.

For example, one of the responsibilities in a customer service job description could be to “respond promptly to customers who call.” But, what exactly do your mean by that?  How could an employee demonstrate prompt response? Does that mean answering the telephone by the third ring? Greeting each customer who enters within 1 minute offering assistance. Take turns giving one another examples as you work through each responsibility. Without this discussion, you and your new hire may have very different ideas about what is meant.

Make clear your expectations about company values, such as teamwork, respect, and especially the “brand promise.” By that, I mean what each customer can expect with each interaction with your company. What is your company committed to providing? Apple wants customers to experience their products and service as “insanely great.” How does that manifest? L.L. Bean prides itself on customer satisfaction. If a customer calls with a problem, the person who answers the phone will either solve it (with a smile – I can hear that in their voices) or get your promptly to the person who can. What do you empower your employees to do? And, what are the limits?

Be sure that new hire is linked to the right company resources. If there are operational manuals, product and price lists, org charts, employee contact lists – put them into an orientation package and have them at the ready the day the new hire starts. Go over them and make sure they’re up-to-date and clear. If your environment is complex or the new hire has a steep learning curve, consider enlisting the help of a senior person to act as mentor. The ideal mentor does not supervise the new hire, but rather is there to lend a hand when needed and to check in regularly (very often at first) to make sure everything is going as planned

When you made the hire and looked at skills, did the person selected have all the needed skills? If not, what exactly is your plan to get that person up-to-speed. Relying solely on on-the-job training is risky. Make a list of needed skills and a plan for how your new employee will learn each. Also, talk about how your new hire can demonstrate competence both to you and him or herself. Are there tests, certifications, or other external measures? Does an entry-level employee stepping up to a more senior role have to show that s/he can handle more complex situations?

Don’t forget the “people” side of bringing in a newcomer. Encourage current employees to be welcoming and supportive. Introduce the new hire to everyone in his/her immediate work group. Give the new employee a tour of the workplace, including restrooms and break rooms.

Finally, monitor progress. Don’t wait until a week before the first review to figure out how the new hire is doing in the role. Daily chats for the first week or two, are not excessive. As confidence grows, so can the interval between check-ins. Set objectives and make sure that if they’re not met, there’s a plan to address that. Or, agree that more time or resource is needed.

Remember, nothing upsets the applecart like a new person without proper support. Whether the rest of the team feels they have to “carry” the new hire or the new hire feels unwelcome or frustrated, resentment builds and morale slips. Time spent ensuring your new employee is fitting in well is an investment in the success of your team.


Since 1991, Laurie Breitner has assisted organizations with operational improvement, organizational development and strategic planning. Learn more at

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