When an employee fails – or even just performs poorly – managers typically do not blame themselves. The employee doesn’t understand the work, a manager might contend. Or the employee isn’t driven to succeed, can’t set priorities, or won’t take direction. Whatever the reason, the problem is assumed to be the employees’ fault – and even the employees responsibility. – Francois Manzoni & Jean-Louis Barson (HBR).
I watched and listened hard to Michael Skok teach on StartUp Secrets at the Harvard Innovation Laboratory, and many statements caught my attention but one stayed prominent in my thoughts: “After hiring, set them up for success.” I pondered deeply on it.
How do you set your people up for success after they have been hired? Within the elaborate HR Process is the very key process of Onboarding, a major subset of the rigorous and tedious Recruitment Process. Onboarding is the most opportuned time to orient your new hires and convert them to become one with your firm. This acculturation process is a rigorous one that must be handled very professionally so that new hires see that they are not only welcome, but that the firm is indeed interested in their total well-being.
A recent experience I had with an old acquaintance I had lost contact with since college may suffice here. He runs a firm that’s about 2 decades old and always complained about his staff whom he blamed for non-performance. Curiously too, he also had perfected, in his head, different modes of discipline for each error committed and after he exhausted those means, he fired them. And that cycle continued.
Such like scenario play out in organisations day in day out and as I pondered the situation in my search for solutions, Michael .J. Skok’s words made tremendous sense to me. Now, you cannot blame your staff if you don’t set them up for success. If you don’t train them, you can’t hold them responsible for whatever failures you accuse them of. Question to ask yourself is: “What is your investment on your staff for which you seek huge ROI? Can you sincerely answer this question and justify yourself? It’s better you begin to position yourself for total process reengineering if you must be relevant in the value chain. It’s very difficult achieving easy.
Each staff you hire has specific experiences, knowledge and skills-set that you have to work on and adapt to your company culture. It requires a lot of investment in terms of time, energy, money and more. Specifically, I want to look at it from these 7 angles:
1. Run an Effective Induction and Orientation Programme
What makes for an effective induction and orientation? It’s not as simple as may be imagined if stakeholders merely see it as “part of our welcome package for our new hires.” The motive, more than anything else, is paramount. Why are we doing this? What do we hope to achieve with this? What are the benefits to all concerned? Who are all concerned? The answers to these questions would convict and extract commitment.
The idea is that if you bring in people from a different background from yours, you have to, as a matter of compulsion, convert them to your Way. Yes, you heard me – Conversion. There is no better word. Everything about them: their thinking, their imagination, manner, experiences and all, must be thoroughly aligned with yours. They are no longer theirs but yours. That’s why some companies are built to last and others are not. You cannot leave them to chance elements and expect that they will automatically align with your processes, learn on the job and deliver on your expectations unless of course you are given to very terrible assumptions.
Can a visionary family permit a baby they expected for 9 months to grow on the assumption that growth is a constant? Realise that the arrival of a new born baby changes the entire tempo and routine of the recipient home. Everything is affected: sleeping arrangement, the smell in the home occasioned by the peculiar purchases, special food by the mother, wardrobe change, a dedicated nursery full of specific furniture and toys, new financial plan and lots more. The baby is welcome.
It’s the same with your new hires. These people are new in your space and must be treated as such – new born babies in your business family. All attention must be focused on them to ensure that they are nurtured and ingrained into your system. The idea is that they will bear your company name and live entirely as your property. Can you imagine such an ownership mentality?
2. Teach them the ABC, 123 and More of your Firm
i. Ideological Beliefs: Young hires must begin their induction and orientation learning about the basics of your firm. These are your ideological beliefs: vision, mission, core values, purpose and culture. You must teach and align them with these beliefs step-by-step.
They are to internalise, imbibe and live them daily till everyone who knows your firm sees your signature on them (new hires). They speak and act the firm. They bear company fruit. They defend the company and owe their very being to its precepts.
ii. Who does your Firm Serve? It would be wrong to assume that your new hires would figure out on their own who your firm’s customers (internal & external) are. New hires also must earn their professional and otherwise respect from colleagues and external customers alike, for which reason your firm is in business.
It must be impressed upon the psyche of new hires to whom they owe duty and allegiance. It is instructive to add that it is the customer, not the employer that pays the salaries; though it’s the value that the totality of the firm adds that earns this income and everyone, including the new employees, is involved in this income generating cycle.
All hands must be on deck to see that company beliefs are upheld for what they are but again, unless these are focused strictly on customer satisfaction, everything the company is doing to promote the internal, will only be tantamount to your firm shooting itself in the foot.
There must be thorough synergy and alignment in ensuring that the needs of every aspect of the business are attended and given preference according to priority and new employees must be taken through this rigorous system and their roles clearly spelt out as well as being guided to painstakingly inculcate personal with organisational goals.
iii. Teach them the Business Side of the Organisation: As you try to convert your new employees to your company ideals and culture, you also do not want them to lose sight of the business side and what value your firm is set up to add and daily adds in the market space. You don’t want employees who know so much about company history, theories and code of conduct, but who are not aligned with business objectives. A balance must be struck between both.
Your company’s competitive advantage and solutions it is providing, must be well-articulated to the new employee. It doesn’t end there. The roles they are to play in that solutions chain must be thoroughly and clearly spelt out to them. Recall that the question: “What are you bringing to table” was asked during the selection process? Here, a further step is taken in line with that question to marry their solution/problem solving skills with that of the company. Their business/financial targets are woven around this.
These steps are very crucial in the Onboarding Process because they affect the bottomline of your organisation. We must not be figurative at this point but rather to spell it out in black and white what the deal is. Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility, you are in business to provide solutions in seamlessly uncommon ways for which you want to in turn be handsomely rewarded. You can only run an effective CSR campaign if you have the resources anyway.
Let your new employees be made aware of this, get them to commit to it, and together with them, channel ways in which they will play effectively in this value chain.
Now, this alignment stage does not come easy. It requires sacrifices of persistence, consistency, patience and focus as of child rearing and upbringing. Do not assume that new hires know and will find out things. This is great though but not before you take them through the rudiments of your organisation.
iv. Equip New Hires with Proper Tools: Your new employees must also receive an Onboarding Welcome Pack. This is a document that presents small but important details of your firm, where key ideals about the firm: history, departments, ideological thrusts, company achievements, expectations from both parties, capability charge and more consist. They also receive Staff Handbook, which is the Bible that will guide their entire life in the firm. They are oriented into your system such that they gradually and seeming easily align with the firm.
3. Assign them Mentors
A logical next step to keep the induction momentum charged is to assign new hires to mentors – tried, tested and over time proven staff of your firm, whose loyalty and allegiance is not in any doubt whatsoever.
Some of the roles of the mentors would be to ascertain what the new hires have learnt, train them on specific projects and different job roles, watch out and evaluate their team and other project skills, and how they’re growing and gradually being converted to the family. Mentors also seek to ascertain how much of company culture new hires have began to both speak and exude.
During these sessions too they learn that in the firm mistake is, for example, only a learning curve, not a negative word. It is positive because people learn from doing under the guidance and watchful eyes of mentors who express genuine interest in their growth, support and initiate friendship with them. Brotherhood and uncommon fraternal love is shown each step of the way.
Here too, they’re watched for how they carry themselves as part of the family. Attention is paid to the words and terms they use, and how they say what they say. Thankfully too, they get instant feedback at every stage of this process so that they’re not left in doubts as to how they’re being oriented into the firm where they will spend a significant part of every functional day.
4. Evoke an Acute Sensory Mechanism of why they were Hired
Run an Evaluation Check on the subject ” Real Reason you are here” with the focus of finding out from your staff, albeit in an almost informal way, why they were hired and see what curious responses you might get.
It’s very important you impress upon your people from Day 1 why they were chosen and preferred to many others who applied for the same roles they were considered fit for. The issue is not about whether those denied were not qualified or not? A lot of factors are put into consideration before the decision to settle for those eventually hired was taken: passion, experience, emotional quotient, knowledge, energy, personal goals/vision and the like.
Make it a celebrated process to let your people know how important they are in the value chain. Always remind them that they are solution providers and that they were hired to ensure that the customer is happy always, clients are closer to their vision with each encounter they have with them and clients’ mission are daily achieved with them, your hires, on board.
You would not know how far this simple process will go in aligning your people to the common though audacious vision and mission of your firm. Humans can be forgetful and having this on the front burner always proves most effective in letting new hires live daily for the client. That’s real purpose.
5. Set Goals for them to Achieve
At the close of business, make sure that your new hires are tasked. What this means is that they go home with a question that they would have to practically think about and brainstorm. With this they instantly feel being a part of the equation.
The supervisors they’re assigned to gets a feedback from them either individually or as a group. The latter is better so that they learn from the responses of one another. Here too, they’re corrected for errors and encouraged. This is made interactive and learner-centred with fellow colleagues given the opportunity to say what they feel about answers given by their fellows.
Another spark to this is that while they’re getting feedbacks, they’re equally getting trained and coached. These tasks are not very huge, long drawn tasks. They’re small tasks that require short but quick witted responses but their aims are to align them with the firm and daily extract ownership and commitment from them.
In essence, running a successful organisation is different from running an organisation. Living your ideological beliefs is a key requirement because it’s the foundation your firm is built on. If this runs in the blood of all staff, the newly hired staff would only have role models to emulate via their exemplary work style of living the ideals of the organisation.
The success of any organisation is based on the degree of culture simulation and indoctrination that everyone who works there goes through. It’s a uniform process that’s meant to drive a rare regimentation and build a fraternal oneness that’s unusual in corporate environments and practised only by Built to Last firms [Ask Jim Collins and Jerry Porras].
Setting your new hires up for success does not just happen. It is a calculated process that everyone in the organisation is religiously committed to. Importantly, what Success means to your organisation must be well-defined in dedicated company documents and same internalised and acted by all stakeholders regardless of age, rank or position.