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10 Tips for Successfully Onboarding Your New Hire Smoothing the way from solopreneur to entrepreneur

By Morag Barrett Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Much has been written about the perils and costs that come with making a bad hire. The impact can be huge -- for the company, the team and the hiring manager, not to mention the new hire him- or herself. The costs are not just financial, but can actually do damage to the reputations of those involved.

Related: 4 Tips on How to Bring Out the Best in Your New Hires

This is especially true for small businesses, and even more so when an owner makes those first hires. The havoc that mismatched style, or approach or expectations may wreak is huge. I know, because I have made those mistakes in the past eight years of growing SkyeTeam. Thankfully, my "mistakes" were minor and quickly corrected. However, I've kissed many frogs to find the princes (and princesses) whom I currently work with.

I've spent many nights tossing and turning, worrying as I considered my ability to cover monthly payroll. Have I made the right decision? I've wondered. Should I have stayed a solopreneur? After all, first hires, or your own personal promotion or move to a new team or company can be a time of great vulnerability:

  • The average cost of a bad hiring decision can be several times the individual's first-year potential earnings.
  • Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh once estimated that his own bad hires had cost the company well over $100 million.

Still, while "bad hires"do occur, in my experience it's the lack of an effective on-boarding process that can truly make or break the sucess of an individual joining a team. Too often, the approach is, "There's your desk; get on with it," together with the tendency to throw the new employee in at the deep end.

Related: When Is it Time to Cut the Cord With New Hires?

We then wonder why this person sinks, or struggles to stay afloat and excel in the new role. So, given those realities, here are my tips for welcoming that new hire:

  1. Announcement: You've just hired this wonderful talented person for your team -- don't keep it quiet! Announce it to the world (or at least the rest of your team)! Include a little information about who he/she is, the reason this person was hired and the role being undertaken. Help this person's new colleagues understand how they can connect. Don't leave it all on your new hire to make new friends at work. Throw a happy hour or lunchtime gathering to bring people together.
  2. Prior to Day 1: Keep in regular contact with your new hire. Send any paperwork that can be completed in advance so as to not slow down that first day. Include the new hire in communications to let him or her get familiar with what's happening before Day 1. Send a quick email or message that says "Enjoy the weekend!" and build the sense of community and belonging before you begin working side-by-side.
  3. Critical stakeholders: In many companies the organization chart provides a picture of who reports to whom. It's a useful tool to learn formal hierarchies. Help your new hire understand who the critical stakeholders are. Prioritize the list, and share why these people are important. Make introductions. And don't just send the new hire out to go and find "Sarah."
  4. Informal stakeholders: If the organizational chart is about formal hierarchy, then this is about "how things really get done around here." Spend some time explaining the informal network, the go-to people, the gatekeepers, the people who know what's happening before it happens. And don't forget the connectors and potentially the rivals/adversaries who may not think highly of you and your team, and may transfer that attitude to your innocent new hire.
  5. Jargon busting: I've yet to find a company that doesn't have its own language and jargon. Whether it's those pesky acronyms that people use (but can't always explain!) or in-jokes and phrases, create a translation dictionary and share some context for your in-jokes so that your new hire can join in the laughter (and not worry about it's being directed at him or her!).
  6. Myths and legends: These are the stories that help articulate the culture of the company (both the hero and villain stories). Share them, and help the new hire understand which stories are merely myths that otherwise might negatively impact his or her confidence or approach.
  7. Rules of engagement: Whether this is the new hire's first job or he or she has worked in the industry a long time, you must spend time explaining the rules of engagement, otherwise known as the corporate and team etiquette that ensures success. Don't assume that your listener knows or will work it out individually. This may eventually happen, but there's usually a cost. Better to articulate "how business gets done" from the outset. Topics may include the cadence of meetings, the etiquette of dialing into a meeting, decision-making, and difficult topics or issues, etc.
  8. Sweating the small stuff: Don't underestimate the impact of not addressing the small stuff. Which number is needed to dial an outside line? How do you use the photocopier? Where are the restrooms? The coffee machine? When are lunch breaks taken? It's the little things that can be the most frustrating when we are new to a team and trying to be at our best.
  9. Understanding the characters on the team: In a nutshell, this is about spending time sharing your style and expectations, your hot buttons, strengths and blind spots. Provide your new team member with the information needed to successfully work with you and not have to guess (or misunderstand) your style and approach.
  10. Fun: Three of the five corporate values at our company involve having fun. Bringing on new team members means letting them know how we have fun at work, and how they can get involved in life outside of the office. It's never too early to start cultivating a winning relationship that will make for a winning team.

What have you experienced that makes for a great new hire experience?

Related: 7 Ways to Make the First Day Perfect for New Hires

Morag Barrett

Founder and CEO of SkyeTeam, author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships

Founder and CEO of SkyeTeam, Morag Barrett is a sought-after speaker and trainer, and the author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships

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