Is this person in a new sales role? Maybe a distance education course on selling would be of much value. Are there any professional licenses, or certifications, the new employee will need? Clearly, you should be thinking about and planning for such needs upfront. Get these included in your onboarding plan.
However, you need to also get beyond these more obvious factors. How will you help your new employee understand the culture of your feed and grain business? What was the culture of the organization this new employee came from and how does it differ from yours? How will you integrate this employee into the social/informal network that exists in your organization? Maybe even more important, are there any pressing issues that this individual will need to address quickly to earn the trust of customers and other employees?
For example, perhaps the previous sales manager was a popular guy, just “one of the boys.” Customers loved him. You had to let him go for reasons that were not completely obvious, but his departure was not popular with his direct reports or customers. How will you help your new employee establish her credibility in this situation? Addressing such barriers to success head-on will likely be far more productive than the “go get ‘em tiger” strategy.
As you think about what she needs to know, don’t forget about your current employees and what they may need to know about the new hire? Are there any changes in reporting relationships/responsibilities that need to be communicated by you?
Clarity here is a big deal. We have seen new hires run into real trouble early on simply because existing employees were told things like, “this won’t affect you,” when in fact, the new hire did affect their role.
Again, working to think through the land mines here is important, and only fair, to your new employee before they are blindsided with an unexpected problem that could have been dealt with up front.
Your onboarding strategy
OK, you have your carefully crafted list of “what they need to know” — one good, well-focused day of training should do it! Hardly. Think back to those times when you have started a new job. We bet that you can think of times months later when you ran into something, thinking it was brand new — only to find out it was covered during the “one day data dump” training program you went through.
We are all only human, and when everything is new, there is just so much anyone can absorb at one time. And, for an employee coming to you from outside, it is all new. So, things as simple as where to park, how to dress, names of employees, customers, community leaders, mandatory paperwork — getting on top of all this chews up significant mental energy. The vivid metaphor “drinking from a firehose” comes to mind!
So, take your list of what they need to know and start breaking it down. What does the new employee really need to know day 1? What can wait at least a little while?
Such a schedule should incorporate the appropriate timing of any training courses they employee might need. Then, start thinking about who should be involved in sharing this information with the employee and what the best way is to share the information.
Maybe it is a one-on-one meeting, or a series of one on one meeting. Maybe something less formal over lunch would be preferred. Usually showing is better than telling, so perhaps a tour or tours would be most productive. Perhaps you should set up a shadowing program, and let this person work side by side with employees whom she should model their performance after. Or, maybe you need to rotate this person through all eight of your branches over a two month period. Keep in mind the need to balance “getting them up to speed quickly” with the human capacity to absorb information.
One tip here: No matter how much we encourage new hires to ask questions when they don’t know, it isn’t easy for a new hire to say “I don’t know” when they are trying to make a good impression. Building in the time for such questions, and formally encouraging him or her is good practice. Telling the employee — keep track of key questions during the week and we will address them Friday at noon — sends the message that such questions are just part of the getting up- to-speed process, and are certainly not a sign of poor performance.