Most companies are frankly poor at onboarding, yet it sets the tone for the new employee’s entire tenure with you. This is where a system really shines because every employee will have a lot of needs in common. Create a template for onboarding that includes all of the common needs, and then challenge your managers to fill in the gaps for the specific new hire. Common needs can include:

  • The employee must read the employee handbook and review it with his/her manager; the employee must confirm in writing that he/she has read and understood it.
  • Review the organization chart and who is responsible for doing what within the company
  • Introduction to anyone they are likely to interact with
  • Get them the tools they will need (physical, tech H/W and S/W, access controls, etc) and show them how to get support when they encounter problems
  • Ensure HR-related onboarding (pay, perks, policies, etc.) are completed, including how to get support when needed
  • Explain how performance management is done at the company

Performance management

This is where the system/personalization paradox is most apparent. The system part:

  • Every manager needs to agree with their reports on 
    • What they are responsible to deliver, by when, how often, to what quality level, and with what tools and resources
      • The best practice is to set SMART goals and stretch goals
      • Agree on how delivery will be measured and the consequences of over- or under-delivery
    • Who they will have to support and from whom they can get support
    • How they are expected to work, including cultural expectations and processes
      • When and in what ways can they deviate from company processes
      • How do they submit suggestions for process improvements?
    • It is critical that this is a 2-way conversation, not delivery of an edict from on high; the end result is a contract between the employee and the manager for quarterly and annual results.
      • The contract can be changed, but only by mutual agreement.
  • Next, the manager should provide regular feedback to employees on how well they are performing. This is also a 2-way conversation and has to happen more than once a year.
    • Monthly feedback works very well but takes up a lot of time; quarterly feedback is a good compromise
    • If annual goals have not been set, the quarterly feedback session is the time to set goals for the foreseeable future. This is also a good time to update the performance “contract” if needed.
    • A good manager will ask for feedback about themselves; a great manager will require honest feedback and act on it
    • One of many good structures is “more of, less of, the same”
      • What does the manager want to see the employee do more of?
      • What does the manager want to see the employee do less of?
      • What does the manager want the employee to continue doing the same of?

The “adapt to the employee” part:

  • Managers need to learn what makes their employees tick and how they like to be recognized & rewarded. 
  • Managers need to know what their employees’ goals and aspirations are, and mutually create a plan to reach them
    • Managers need to think about when and how to stretch their employees for their growth, even if the employee is hesitant to be stretched, and how to support them while they are being stretched
  • Establish a rhythm (weekly or bi-weekly) to check in with each employee. This is their time to discuss whatever they want with the manager.