Tech Manager—Onboarding

Well, you must have hired someone. Now it is time to welcome them to the firm. Most of what I would tell you about onboarding, you probably already know. People have been onboarding new employees for a long time and most companies or managers have a method or checklist or whatever. You can find so many ideas on the web if you look. Standard stuff such as: locations of bathrooms, break room, exit paths, etc. Running them past HR to make sure all paperwork is complete. Introduce them to the staff, explain the company culture, core values, expectations… Review job duties. You get it. Lots to do. And if you short change the effort, the new hire may not flourish as hoped.

BUT… The hard part is not knowing what to do… it is having time to actually do it. Since you just hired someone on, you likely have been swapped with more things to do than can get done. The last thing you want to do is add another chore of getting someone up to speed. And, you don’t have the time to do it. You have a backlog of projects, problems to fix, fires to put out. That is why you hired someone to help. Now it means more work for you. It is short term, but it is more work.

What happens is, and it happens to me, you don’t do it. You start off with good intentions, but fail to follow through on all of it. The first week might go as planned, but then things derail, you get pulled in other directions and the person is on their own to figure it all out. You are just too busy to make it all come about.

I am not going to give you the list of tasks for onboarding. What I am going to give you a list of concepts that your new hire needs to keep in mind. These can help them and you at the same time. They can improve your support efforts, get the new person connected, clarify areas that confuse them and make them part of the solutions that you are eager to have them put in place. Here is my list of how you want to frame their interactions as they are onboarded. You have a fresh set of eyes seeing everything for the first time. Don’t let that perspective be wasted.

Please Ask Questions

You know I always encourage questions. Make sure the new hire knows that you want them to ask as many questions as they want. You cannot remember to tell them everything or even know what might be on their mind, so they should speak up. Tell them to ask questions about anything and everything. Ask them if they have any questions at the end of all conversations. And get them to ask the best question of all… ‘Why?’ They need to know why things are done the way they are, or why someone is doing this or that. We tend to pass on the what and how, but include the why (if they forget to ask).

Tell us when something looks funny

They should be made comfortable telling you when something doesn’t look right, sound funny, or does not make sense. A lot of times, things are done in a way that may not make sense unless the full story is known. And sometimes we think things make sense when they actually do not. When a new hire flags something that does not sound right, listen to why they think it is unique before you tell them why it is the way it is. And be willing to have another look if you can’t really stand behind your reasons for the current situation.

Don’t think that the way things are is because we want it that way

I actually say that to new hires. You don’t want them to think something is weird and keep it to themselves. Just because something is done one way, does not make it right or best. It’s just the way it’s done now. Then ask them if they have an alternate way. Notice I did not say “better way”. The way you do things may be best for your firm, and not others. Don’t qualify the question expecting them to have a proven “better way”. Just get their ideas out of their head and think it through. The areas to discuss may include team structure (who does what), configurations, tools used, timing of processes, steps in a process, or things that are not done (“we don’t do that here”). If they have an improvement, let them offer it.

Encourage them to Share their Ideas

You hired them because they were solid candidates with a good head on their shoulders, so get them to tell you what is in that head. Everyone comes with prior experiences that worked for them or their firm. You need to find out what they did. It might improve your processes. Encourage them to share before they are asked. Most new hires are eager to share a good practice or two.

History Lessons are not Reasons

When new hires ask questions about something, I give them a history lesson. I fill them in on why it is like this. What happened in the past that got us here and maybe who was involved in the decisions made. All of this is just a framework for discussion. I never say, “Because we have always done it that way,” even if it is true – lol. The history lessons are not reasons to continue if the decisions of the past not longer apply. Even good decisions change over time. The current situation may have been a short-term fix that outlived its usefulness. It may be a patchwork of several employees attempts to make it work. It may a migration that was not fully completed as other fires came up. All of these are history lessons and not reasons to stay the course.

Tell us what You did at Other Firms

I always ask, “How was it done at your last job?” Wording it like this allows them to tell you without it becoming a judgement of good or bad. They may add that to the reply, which helps you gain their perspective. There is a wealth of untapped information in the experiences of your new hire and you want to mine the depths when you can. The new hire has seen the decision, implementation and outcome of the efforts of a tech team and can bring their successes and lessons learned to your initiatives.

And Be Thankful

When you bring on a new hire, make sure you express thanks to everyone as far up the ladder as you can. Your boss is first, then others. If you see the CEO in the hallway, tell them thanks. It is important to let people know that you appreciate them letting you hire someone into the firm.

Report Back on Progress

Report back to your boss on the progress that has been made since the new hire was in place. Give it a month or two and mention to them the projects that have been completed or started and how the new staffer has helped. Report on the first success the new hire made within weeks. If they finished up a long-standing task that needed completion, tell the boss they got it done.

When it is all said and done, new hires strengthen your firm and bring new vitality to your company. The process is long and challenging, but the reward will be worth it.

Appears in these Categories