Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to Hire Hourly Team Members part 14… The Initial On Boarding, or Better Yet, Indoctrinating

Congratulations!  We’re sitting here with our apprentice(s) and our applicant, or rather our new hire, and… now what?

Now is make or break time.  Even when a person has answered our questions to our satisfaction there is no guarantee they will be great team members.  It just means that they have necessary qualities to enable them to be great.  It’s up to us as Leaders to bring out the greatness within them.  Our first step, before we leave the table, is to give our new team member their first indoctrination.  I use the word ‘indoctrination’ on purpose, because it doesn’t just mean introduction, or welcome.  Synonyms include to train, brainwash, and programming… “to cause to believe something”.

Let me go back a few steps here and ask some questions of you.  Are you perfectly happy with the performance of your present team?  Do you have only one or two people on your team who are not up to your standards?  Or is it the other way around?  Do you sometimes hire great people only to see them leave before very long?  Do you want to change the culture of your team?  Are you ready and willing to do whatever it takes to have a high performing team, where new leaders are trained?  Then we’ve got some work to do. 

IT ALL STARTS WITH YOU!!  And you must change the way you run the team.  Starting right now!

Every negative thing that happens from this point forward is your fault.  You will accept the blame for everything that goes wrong.

Every positive thing that happens from this point forward happened because of the actions of a team member, or the team as a whole.  You will give away the credit for everything that goes right.

There are three things that can happen to this new hire sitting in front of you. 

You will allow the current team to train and indoctrinate them, and I guarantee that the person you just spent so much time and effort hiring will join the crowd and be another mediocre team member for you to manage.

You will allow the current team to train and indoctrinate them, and once they see what your mediocre team is like they will leave at the first opportunity.

OR… YOU will indoctrinate them.  You will train them (or at least dictate how they will be trained, and then follow up very closely on their training.  This will be different from your normal training routine).  And you will check in with them daily at first, then several times a week.  Why you ask?  Whether you like it or not, your team has a culture.  Either you spent a lot of time and energy building and cultivating that culture, not settling for anything other than what you wanted, or the culture developed while no one was looking.  If you put any new hire, no matter how good, into a culture of mediocrity, you will end up just adding another mediocre person to your team.  If you are not happy with your team, you have a culture that needs to be changed. It’s a long and arduous process, and one that pays incredible dividends if you only see it through.

So… back to our new hire.  We are going to sit here for another 30 to 60 minutes talking to them… Indoctrinating them.  You AND your apprentices have to speak as one voice from this moment on.  If there is a change in expectations from one shift to another (perhaps because a different person is in charge that day or shift) the job of changing your culture and rebuilding your team will be twice as hard.  I would even go so far as to say if you have an assistant/associate/supervisor that is not on board with the everything you want to do and the new direction you want to go, you are better off getting that person off your team as soon as possible, and before expending a ton of time and energy in trying to change the culture of your team.  My experience is they will minimally hold you back, by giving inconsistent expectations and rewards, and at worst they will undermine your efforts at every turn. 

Do yourself a favor and make sure that everyone who will be setting the example, holding people accountable, setting expectations, and driving the team towards your goals is fully committed. 

Crap… we’re off on a tangent, and it’s a necessary one, so I’ll carry on.

If you have read this far, and are really committed to hiring the best people, keeping them, and developing a high functioning team, then you need to not only make a commitment to yourself, but also include the high performing and trusted people you will be taking with you.

In order to get a real commitment from your apprentices (I think from now on I’ll just use “apprentices” to cover the people who will be leading shifts when you are not there, like shift leaders, associates, and assistants), you will need to involve them in the process of deciding what you are going to change, as well as how you are going to achieve said change.  I would even suggest including your very best team members (only one or two), in particular if you use these great team members to train your new hires.  People need to be part of a process like this in order to really buy into it.  Their feelings, fears, ideas, and goals need to be heard.  And perhaps most importantly, they need to really feel like they were heard (that’s your job.).  Make sure that everyone contributes something, and has their opinions listened to.  Otherwise your efforts will fail.  This is a key to being a Leader.

Ok, so we’ll have what will most likely be more than one meeting with our apprentices, and first agree on our reality.  If we don’t agree on what is actually happening we will never agree on what needs to change.  You, as the Leader will probably want to make sure that everyone agrees with much of what you think is happening, and… just because you are the Leader DOES NOT mean you are the smartest, the best anything, or even the natural leader in the group.  It just means you are in charge.  Listen and you just might learn a thing or two…

Agreeing on our reality is akin to knowing where we are standing right now, while making our way through the woods with only a map and compass.  If we don’t know exactly where we are right now it doesn’t matter whether or not we can use a map and compass to head in a certain direction.  We’ll be heading somewhere… and will it be where we wanted to go?

So everyone on our staff needs to agree how things are.  Are we at the needed level of quality with what we are producing?  What level of customer service do we provide?  Do we have workers we simply must get off the team (bad workers can infect those around them and keep you from making positive changes)?  Are there processes or practices that are not working for us?  What normal workplace standards like absenteeism, and tardiness are we expecting and allowing our workers to follow?  Are the standards consistent from shift to shift?  If you live in the same world in which I live, I would bet not.  We must know where we are in order to move forward together.  Again, it may take more than one meeting.  This is neither the time nor place to blame, or call anyone out.  In order to have an accurate picture of what is actually happening you need honest answers from your team.  If you attach a negative consequence to ANY answer you get during this process you will guarantee that you will not get the true, whole story, and therefore will not have an accurate picture of what is happening.

In my experience I found that I had supervisors and assistants who were not following my instructions or holding the team to my expectations.  The blame for this however, did not lay with them… the fault was mine.  After thinking about it and being honest with myself, I let them both down (the whole team in the long run).  I did not follow up with them enough.  I didn’t work with them enough. I was asking them to have difficult conversations, and I failed to realize how scary and difficult these could be at first.  I did not give them the tools they needed, nor did I train them correctly to use those tools.  So… I had to take a step back and work with these apprentices to give them the means to accomplish our goals.  I can only imagine that you will face the same reality.  We’ve made assumptions about the skill set and qualities of our apprentices, and now we need to reassess those assumptions, and get it right from now on.

And… this is a key…If we believe we have the right people working with us, if we believe they are doing the best they can, and they are still not able to achieve our goals or meet our expectations, then either our expectations are too high, or something is getting in the way.  Either they don’t have the skills or tools we thought they had, or something else in keeping them from meeting our goals.  To fix it we need to get to root of the problem, and to do that we need our team to be honest with us.  An overbearing, angry, emotional, threatening, or in any way scary boss persona will not get us the honest answers we need.

If you are not developing the kind of relationships at work that build trust, respect, and loyalty, then you should stop reading right now and make a plan to do some personal work.  Get a recommendation for a therapist, a job/life/leadership coach… do something to discover the reality of where you are personally, and then you can start moving in a positive direction with the people around you. 

Oh… and if you like the blog please like my facebook page.  Thank you!

Before I go I also wanted to link to this article about conflict at work.  I've found that team members challenging each other, including the leadership team, makes for a much more creative and successful team.  Enjoy!

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