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.
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