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Starting Strong: Successful On-boarding for Your Small Business

Congratulations, you’ve finally done it! You decided that it was time to grow your staff and hire a new team member. You identified what you really needed in your small business, and you posted your job description online. Thanks to your thoroughness and preparation, you received excellent feedback and brought in winners to interview. Interviewing was a breeze because you kept it simple and asked questions that matter to your small business.

 All in all, you are to be commended. You stayed focused, decided who and what you wanted, and now your new team member starts next week.

But wait: this is where the real work begins. Don’t throw your leadership skills under the bus – not after all that great work you just did! Do more than manage your new employee – LEAD them from day one by starting strong. Clarify what you expect from them and that they understand those expectations. Be sure to cover:

1.         Their hours. It sounds simple enough, but a miscommunication about hours becomes kindling for further frustrations. Be clear: does 9 to 5 mean show up at 9 or show up at 8:50 and be ready to go at 9? Let them know what to do if they haven’t finished their tasks at the end of the day; do they stay past their stated hours, ask for guidance, or leave? It comes down to your priorities – completion of tasks, overtime, work-life balance, effective use of time – and they are all part of the simple question about employee hours.

2.         Communication.

  • Amongst staff. If becoming “like family” is part of who you are, let new employees know that. Conversely, if you prefer to keep work and personal separate, letting new employees know that can prevent all kinds of undesirable feelings that go to the root of human needs and personal values. Be fair and let them know where the personal/work boundaries are.
  • With clients and customers. Boundaries between staff and clients should also be clearly defined. If you prefer that patients stay at an arms’ length distance, be clear up front with new  employees. While you won’t prohibit staff from becoming friends with clients or customers outside of the work environment, you can certainly let staff know what your preference is and why.

3.         Presentation. Our employees are not mind readers, so while it seems to you that employees should just “know” what your expectations are about dress and office conduct, prevent any misunderstandings by defining your expectations. Dress, behavior, even eating habits at work – if applicable, should be defined.

4.         Tasks. Clarity, for yourself as well as for your employees, is critical in every aspect, especially in task completion. Consider:

  • What you want employees to do if they don’t complete a task?
  • What you want employees to do if they don’t understand a task or their responsibilities. Basically, when do you want them to ask for help? From whom do they ask for help?

When in doubt, clarify and simplify. Make it so that the only thing your new hire has to do is their job. Remove the guesswork, and watch them wow you!

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Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.