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The 4 Stages for New Hire Success

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Managing might be one of the hardest things to do very well. Between generational differences, personalities, organizational objectives, market conditions, and personal influences, managers have to juggle a seemingly endless amount of variables to make a team operate optimally. However, there is a way to manage MORE effectively based on timing and role. This outline will attempt to simplify and systemize management based on hiring, onboarding, integration, and role. The intention is to provide a framework to consider when managing for peak performance. .

Interview Stage: Before hiring anyone, a company should clearly express its core values, role expectations, company culture/norms, meeting pulse, and performance metrics. An applicant should be able to understand exactly what they are being hired into and how to behave both on-task and off-task. Let me define that a little clearer. On-task behavior would be role expectations based on role performance. Off-task behavior refers to the cultural norms of the company. Off-task behaviors have been a growing focus for managers as the 24/7 cycle of work as well as in-office, hybrid, and work-from-home policies have blurred the lines for employee behavior. Professionalism is being redefined and the company needs to take the lead to reduce workplace ambiguity. Expressing the company’s many different norms and expectations early will attract the right people and repel the wrong ones.

Interview Stage Key Takeaways:

  • Each interview stage should include company core values

  • Define on-task and off-task norms

  • Define role expectations

Onboarding Stage: Repeat, repeat, repeat. Messages can take up to 7 times to be received/remembered. The Onboarding Stage should echo the interview process in many ways. Reviewing core values, role expectations, company culture/norms, meeting pulse, and performance metrics should be first and foremost on day one. Any deviation of language or expectations exponentially reduces the new employee’s trust in the organization which could lead to poor team assimilation and poor performance. And yes, you should have a script that is followed by all those in the organization. Pairing the new employee with a peer employee (mentor) that reflects organizational values is highly important at this stage. The goal is to avoid performance degradation by bad employee influences. This also allows your best employees to lead. It’s a win-win as your best employees will experience leadership and managers will get the chance to see how they lead others.

The Onboarding Stage is also a chance to clearly define how the new employee will advance in the organization. Setting the correct expectations so the new employee will work with the organization to accomplish shared goals while advancing their career. When an employee succeeds, the organization succeeds.

Lastly, it’s important to be considerate of cognitive load in the Onboarding Stage. In the book “The Power of Habits” Charles Duhigg estimates nearly 40% of your day is a habit. Habits reduce cognitive load to achieve peak performance. When a new employee starts, they probably have very few workplace habits. Their first few days could be exhausting as they attempt to develop new habits. A few strategies to consider in the first onboarding days: simplify and compartmentalize all learnings, shorten the workday by a few hours, reduce expectations, or lengthen deadlines in the short term.

A great organization will constantly remind themselves to think long term. If slowing down, reducing 90-day expectations, mentoring, and support will reduce employee turnover, lengthen key employee tenure, and increase productivity, then it should be a core process for the organization.

Onboarding Stage Key Takeaways:

  • Repeat yourself often

  • Keep it simple

  • Slow down

First 90-Day Stage

Regardless of the role, managerial tone and timing should be similar for all new employees. Organizations and managers are attempting to set outcome expectations clearly as well as correct potential bad habit formation early. I suggest optimizing the first 90 days around something I call Tone and Timing.

Tone: A manager’s tone in the first 90 days for all roles should be positive. New employees are entering a new workplace environment where they are most likely defensive and susceptible to negative feedback. Negative feedback in the first 90 days of employment could stunt the employee’s organizational ambition as well as reduce their role initiative. Innovative/high-performance employees are assets for organizations. If those employees are negatively managed early in their careers, their motivation to take risks that benefit the organization could be greatly diminished. I’m not suggesting you don’t reprimand egregious misbehavior. My recommendation is to reserve criticisms for post-90 days. Keep it positive and encouraging where possible and if performance is an issue, refer back to the initial expectations clearly defined during the hiring and onboarding stages. If you do have to reprimand a new employee, do so in private. Embarrassing or “making an example” of someone is a power trip and never works for the long-term health of the company.

Timing: An organization can have high accountability AND a strong culture. There is a myth that role autonomy with Millennials and Gen Z leads to job satisfaction. This cannot be further from the truth ESPECIALLY in the first 90 days of employment. In the first 90 days, there will be massive knowledge gaps for both senior and junior roles in the organization. Where timing fits into the mix is the meeting pulse. How often, how long, and when are you meeting with new employees in the first 90 days? Every organization is different, but here is an example of what a meeting pulse looks like for one of my high-performing organizations:

  • Week 1: Onboarding and Training - 2-3 hours of meetings per day. Each day ends with a recap from the direct manager

  • Week 2: Production - 15-minute morning stand-up meeting/15-minute evening stand-up recap meeting every day. Last day of the week 30-minute recap meeting.

  • Week 3-8: Performance - 10-minute morning stand-up meeting every day. Last day of the week 30-minute recap meeting

  • Week 9-12: Mastery - 30-minute first day of the week meeting. Last day of the week 30-minute recap meeting

First 90-Day Stage Key Takeaways:

  • Keep the tone positive

  • Maintain a high frequency of check-in points

  • Provide autonomy, but a high level of clear accountability

Post-90-Day Stage

If you’ve done everything outlined so far, the post-90-day stage should be much easier for management and the new employee. They will know their accountabilities, expectations, and place within the organization. Where management differs at this stage is based on role. Management must adjust their tone and treatment of employees based on their role within the organization. The goal is to be consistent with individuals, but customize feedback based on role. Here’s what that could look like:

Senior Employees: After the first 90 days, if the organization has decided to retain its new senior employee, the tone should shift where appropriate. Senior employees should be able to take performance criticism even if it’s harsh. A mature and accountable senior employee should be able to receive, understand, and apply direct feedback attributed to performance. There are a lot of variables to this recommendation (respect from the employee, blindsiding, emotions, foul language, inappropriate methods), but generally speaking, if a senior employee is “f-ing up”, they should know in the clearest possible manner. If they don’t apply the feedback, you might have the wrong person in regards to skill or they are possibly not mature enough to be in their role. Coaching and reprimanding should be done in private if possible and expectations should be clear and simple to understand.

Junior Employees: Junior employees will most likely be new to the workforce. They will require more positive feedback than negative, but past the first 90 days of employment, accountability should be the center of performance conversations. If you think of them as stocks, these employees are your IPOs. They are an investment with a larger level of risk. With that risk, you should make sure their fundamentals are good and are improving on key metrics. The key here is patience. Junior employees will take longer than senior employees to understand expectations because they are learning a new role AND learning how to be a good professional. That requires management to take time to mentor, manage, and encourage junior employees to achieve their best through positive coaching based on values and feedback based on mutually agreed upon performance metrics.

Post-90-Day Stage Key Takeaways

  • Adjust performance feedback based on role

  • Be patient with junior employees

  • Build trust through feedback consistency

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