All Onboard!

You have hired a new employee and they are starting.  This is the time to onboard them.  Depending on the company and the position, this can take an extended period.  When I worked in High Technology, we thought it took between 6 and 12 months for a new Engineer to reach their maximum productivity.  New Engineers needed to learn all the in-house lingo and processes to make them completely self-sufficient.  So bringing someone onboard is more than letting them know where the restrooms are.

 I want to talk about this topic with the three biggest issues at the start of work:  Rules, Context, and Authority.

Rules are the starting point and are best covered in an Employee Handbook.  I know most small businesses do not have them, but issues like holidays, pay periods, and time off can be easily documented.  On top of that, the employer can cover those things that will lead to termination.  One of my early clients was a General Contractor.  The first issue that we worked on was that he found that some employees were giving his customers business cards for their side business.  This type of solicitation is really bad form but needed to be a clear rule for him.  By having clear rules about this in an Employee Handbook (that each employee signs), it simplifies any disciplinary action that will be taken.  

Context is more an issue for the hiring manager.  Every company works differently.  I have worked at companies where they used the exact same phrase to describe something entirely different.  When a new employee starts, they will have issues with the language and the way things are done.  For example, when I joined AFC, I found that hardware went to pilot production multiple times before the product went into production.  The reasons for this were historical, but what it meant was that Manufacturing no longer believes Engineering when something went to Pilot Production status.  No activity to turn the product into full production was done because of that change.  This was very different than my expectation of what Pilot status meant.  It took me some time to get my head around why things were the way they were and how they needed to change to be more effective.

Finally, we have Authority.  This means the ability to make decisions.  Employees need to have two things at the start of employment.  The first is how to weight factors in making decisions.  If there is a choice between A and B, how would you want to make that decision?  Mission, Vision, and Values are great general guidelines to this.  There may be more required in specific circumstances, but this is a place where alignment between you and your employees is demonstrated.  Secondly, employees need to understand what decisions they can and can’t make.  For those decisions that are outside of their authority, their escalation path needs to be clear.  An example of this is signing authority in larger companies.  Directors might be able to sign $5,000 purchases.  Any amount above that needs to be escalated.  This is important to ensure employees know how to do their jobs effectively.  This area is the most malleable over time.  Employees that have built trust should have more leeway in making decisions.  How you deal with that falls into delegation.

Have a great day! 

Jim Sackman

Focal Point Business Coaching

Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

 

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

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Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Now that you have selected your preferred candidate it is time to make them an offer. The offer is an important element for the future of the employee. You need to consider it carefully.

Your offer sits somewhere at an intersection between what is normal in your industry, what your business plan allows, and what is viable locally. An offer is the point at which the business transaction between employee and employer happens. It is generally best and final. I have occasionally asked for clarifications and minor changes, but most of us are not like athletes where many employers compete at the same time for offered services.

What is normal in your business can be found out through research. For C level positions, Board of Directors is supposed to check with services that get companies of your size, industry, and location. Then the Board has justification for the pay that they are going to offer. Such services are available at other positions. Additionally, the perks and benefits of the position should be in line with other employers.

Locality is very important as part of this. Different areas of the country have different cost of living. People living in Silicon Valley need more to live than those living in Casper, Wyoming (one site I looked at pegged that change at 127%). If you are offering less than a living wage (what would be required to live alone in a 1-bedroom apartment), then you are likely looking at rapid employee turnover. Less than a living wage is often offered for entry-level jobs by young people. They are expected to live with their parents or have a roommate. But over time they will want to be on their own and the only way for them to do so is to work 2 or more jobs or find a better job.

You need to look at your business plan and how much you will make by employing this person (remember my question about how you know that they are succeeding?). Henry Ford paid more money to his workers because they made him more money through this assembly line. By understanding this answer, you will see if you can afford to pay this position what is needed locally and what is at least normal for the position. If you can, then you are likely to fill this position. If not, then you need to think seriously about why you are opening this position.

Once the person has accepted your offer, you need to onboard them. This is the topic of my next blog post.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Interviewing Best Practices

Now that you have decided on a small number of candidates to bring in for face-to-face interviews, we need to explore the best way to select the best of the candidates.

Much of the time I see the process of interviewing being a repetition of what has been done on the phone. That is not the best use of time in this round of interviewing. So, what do we want to accomplish here? Theoretically, you have already screened for the technical background to do the work. You can do more on this front, but we need to focus more broadly. The primary issues that meeting the person face-to-face is that you gain that extra measure of body language as part of the conversation. This allows you to judge more about them as a person and a fit in the organization.

So, how to implement this? First, it is always best to have more than one person interview the candidate if possible. Each person should have a specific focus for the time that they spend. That does not mean that they should not ask any general questions. Without providing some context to each interviewer, they may end up all covering the same ground. The idea is to get a broader view of the candidate in the time available. At the end of the day the interviewing group gets together to give feedback before time causes impressions to fade. If you are a Sole Proprietor hiring an initial employee, you may wish to have a consultant or your spouse talk to them as well.

The questions that you will ask should primarily be open ended. You want explanations and learn how the person makes decisions. It allows you to ask “Why?” One technique that is popular today is the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result). There are lots of online resources that can help you with this. But again, the idea is to allow the potential employee to give you a view into how they work. You are looking for their maturity as an employee. This will help you understand if they will fit with you. One question that I recommend is to ask how they made their last large financial decision (purchase a car or home would be examples). This provides a non-work context on decision making.

Finally, you should get references and check them. Their past employers will be highly restricted on what they can say. So, you are looking for former colleagues that can talk to you. You would be surprised by what you get from them. I just did one of these for a friend with an employer that I knew. That prospective employer got to learn what happened while the two of us worked together.

I hope that helps you understand how to use the face-to-face interview as part of your selection process.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman

Focal Point Business Coaching

Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!