So you got your new team member, someone fresh out of university, or with just little over one year business experience. It makes a huge difference in how you ramp them up, but on the other hand it really does not, because even an experienced person will be new to your organization.
This paper is not meant to be exhaustive, it is neither perfect nor an ultimate guideline. It offers some of my experiences from over a decade of hiring and leading people, and goes beyond what usual ramp-up plans say.
For managers in a hurry:
- The induction of personnel has priority.
- If you don’t own your team member’s ramp-up, no one will. .
- One must also first learn how companies function.
- The responsibility for induction can never be delegated.
- Everyone needs a productivity system.
- Explain the why.
- Being liked is not a factor.
1. The induction of personnel has priority.
As a people leader, your first and foremost priority has to be making your personnel a functional part of the organization and create value for the company and its customers. This responsibility trumps all other tasks and roles that you may have. Really all.
This is easier said than done, because all too often managers, especially first-level managers, are firmly integrated into the company’s operative business and have a wide range of tasks in the processing of orders, projects and development. There seems to be little time left for looking after employees.
Be aware: The members of your team, your department are entrusted to you by the company. This means that you ought to utilize an annual investment in the amount of the cumulative full costs of all your team members in the best possible way for the benefit of the company. It is not just a number of employees in a team.
You have been filled as a manager because someone thought that your skills could be scaled, that is, be of more use to the company if you are not the last instance of direct value creation, but enable a lot of people to create more value than they could without you. You may need to remind your direct supervisor of this fact from time to time.
2. If you don’t own your team member’s ramp-up, no one will.
If you don’t own your team member’s rampup, no one will. It falls back to you as the manager if a newbie does not pick up on the necessary background.
As explained in the previous section, the induction of new colleagues must be given priority. This also means that you as a manager must spend time on this. Priority is not equal to time, and a lack of time is an expression of a lack of priority.
So if you really want to give priority to induction training, you should create time for it. Be available for your team, not only once a week in a consultation hour, but if possible every day. If you fill your calendar with meetings from Monday morning to Friday evening, you are no longer available. Defend your calendar, if necessary with dummy calendar entries where your team knows that you are available. You also need regular time with the newcomer to the company, at least once a week.
3. One must also first learn how companies function.
A newbie might never worked in a company before, at least not as a full time professional, and so may not be aware of how companies work in general, how the relationship between work and business comes to play, and how the structure of organizations shape people’s behavior. It is your responsibility as manager to instruct.
A great deal of operational induction can be carried out by others who are delegated by you. But the big picture of what your company actually does and how it relates to the department, the team and the new colleague is not necessarily self-evident. Some people recognize the connections themselves. Of course, experienced professionals often know very well how everything works, but young professionals don’t necessarily.
It is partly about your company in particular, but also about companies in your industry in general. What knowledge would have enabled you to create value in a more targeted manner? What were you wondering about back then? Tell a colleague.
4. The responsibility for induction can never be delegated.
You cannot delegate the ultimate responsibility for ramp up success to a buddy or anyone else. The responsibility for the newbie’s ramp-up stays with their direct manager. You better take ownership on this responsibility.
Sure, good orientation plans distribute tasks, maybe there is a role called godparent/buddy/anything else that should, can and may take over many individual aspects of the orientation. The new employee herself of course plays a very important role in the familiarization process, and has a considerable influence on how well and how quickly and how successfully this can be done by showing initiative and “getting” information, contacts and knowledge.
However, the responsibility for the initial training remains with the manager. If you notice in the company that a newcomer is not sparkling, you don’t ask the buddy, but your direct superior. And rightly so, for this the superior is the superior, and the salary of a superior is not for free.
5. Everyone needs a productivity system.
Ensure the newbie makes use of some sort of productivity system, i.e. an action item or task list. Many people do not learn this at university. When unsure what to recommend, you may refer to some implementation of Getting Things Done.
People come from very different contexts. Maybe they never needed a productive system during their studies, maybe it just worked out for them. The more school-like the university, the less self-reliant the newcomer needed to set tasks. Now, in the company, this is changing. And you as a manager don’t always want to have to remind your new colleague of everything. So teach him or her how to organize themselves. Fine, provided you can do it yourself.
As a manager, I don’t care which self-organization system someone uses, the main thing is that they use one at all. And if I just find out that someone doesn’t have one, then I very clearly recommend Getting Things Done.
6. Explain the why.
Explain the why, and then explain the why once more. It starts to get traction once you are already sounding like a broken record to yourself, because only then people will usually acknowledge: “Oh yes, you’ve told us that before, and here is how I applied it recently.”
People are very creative and motivated to work, even if some of the tasks may not be super exciting at times, if I can explain why this is good. If I can then explain why this is structured the way it is, then it will be even easier for everyone.
In the military this is called Commander’s Intent. What do you want to achieve, what does the department or the team want to achieve, what is the process for, what is the strategy and what does it have to do with the daily work?
7. Being liked is not a factor.
Your job is not to be liked by the newbie, your job is to make the newbie successful. This usually goes better with a certain level of mutual respect, but being liked is not a factor in that.
I differentiate between being liked, respected, appreciated. Being respected and appreciated help me to get my job done: to provide a thriving, professional workplace environment, which is what supports people get to feel they use their time wisely plus create results.
So, while a leader may be liked of course, what I am saying that the behavior of a leader shall not focus on this as a goal or job contents.
Whether you call yourself a manager, a supervisor, or a leader: You have the ultimate responsibility for the successful ramp-up of people on your team. In rare cases a team member may not be able to become successful at all, showing some glitches in your procedure and assessment of hiring them. If someone does not hold up to the standards, you failed them, too, either by hiring them in the first place, or by not properly ramping them up.
Did I figure all this out by myself? Of course not, I was very fortunate to be led by a dedicated and experienced manager who promoted me to this position.
So make your people as successful as possible by actively leading.
- Willink, Jocko. Extreme Ownership. NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
- Grove, Andrew S. High output management. 2nd Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage, 1995.
- „Conway’s Law“. In Wikipedia, 7. September 2019.
- Allen, David. Getting things done: the art of stress-free productivity. Revised edition. New York City: Penguin Books, 2015.
- Drucker, Peter F. The essential Drucker: the best of sixty years of Peter Drucker’s essential writings on management. 1st Collins Business Essentials pbk. ed. New York: Collins Business Essentials, 2008.