How to Communicate With Your First Employee
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Congratulations! Your business has grown to the point that you need to hire someone. Your role as an entrepreneur is evolving. You are no longer solely focused on business operations. You are now a manager.
How you communicate with your new team member will determine if your time together will be smooth sailing or rough waters ahead. Here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind so you can be the best manager to your growing team:
1. Do the prep work.
Chances are that up to this point you have been doing the company's work of marketing director, director of operations, chief customer-experience officer and CEO. Probably you have been handling tasks that will be assigned to the first person you will hire.
Before you make your first hire, have an operations manual prepared: What specific steps does the company follow for marketing? Are there procedures for dealing with clients?
Having clear processes and procedures outlined ahead of time can help streamline many of the upcoming conversations between you and the new employee. The newcomer won’t be flying blind and both of you will have something to refer to when issues arise.
Don’t be afraid to let your procedures manual evolve. Your new team member might bring new perspectives, insights and tactics that could improve the operation.
2. Communicate expectations.
The new person's first day on the job might be nerve-racking for both of you. The employee will want you to like him or her and will want to perform well so as to keep the job.
You also want to be liked and might feel some anxiety about the fact that a new person is working for what used to be your solo venture. And now you’re no longer just an entrepreneur. Now you’re a leader.
The first few days and weeks of working together should be about setting expectations and reinforcing them. Be clear about any expectations that can be quantified. What are your expectations for the work environment? Do you like a quiet work environment or a lively bustling one? How should the employee approach you with a problem? Should he or she approach you right away? Or do you value someone taking the initiative and first independently trying to solve a problem?
Let the new employee share his or her expectations. How much hand-holding and encouragement does the person expect to need? When something goes wrong, what does this staffer anticipate your reaction will be?
Remember, this isn’t just work. It’s a new relationship. It will take time for both of you to find your footing.
3. Keep the communication consistent.
One hour of every week should be devoted to talking with your new employee. This weekly ritual will give both of you the opportunity to provide status updates as well as work on your relationship. During this meeting, provide your team member the same respect that you would grant a client: Avoid phone calls, email and texts at this time.
4. Attend to growth considerations.
As your company continues to grow, more workplace issues will need tending with every new employee that you bring on board.
“You are no longer just hiring for the position,” says Bret Hirst, the director of talent acquisition at Disney. “You have to not only look at skill set, but also personality types," he told me. "Will they work well with the other people on your team? Will they fit in with your company culture? As your company grows, there are more sides to each puzzle piece that will determine if [the hire] fits in the puzzle as a whole.”
5. Be true to yourself.
If weeks and months go by, and a new hire isn't working out, then trust your gut. Maybe the individual isn't the right fit and perhaps it’s time to let the staffer go.
If you do decide to go that route, don’t jump straight into making your next hire. Look back and ask yourself, What could I have done better?
“Use diligence, not desperation,” says David Jensen, a hiring expert and author of The Naked Interview: Hiring Without Regret. “Make sure that your interview process includes a phone call, a face-to-face interview," he told me. "Test their skill set however you can." Personality assessments, like the DiSC method, developed from William Moulton Marston's DiSC theories, can provide valuable insights, he says.
Hiring is like dating. It takes time to find the right person for you, so don’t rush into anything. Then after you do decide to “go steady,” put in the time and effort to work on your relationship. The right employee will help you and your business continue on an upward trajectory.