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Maggie Harlow

A 5-Point Checklist for Getting the Most Out of a New Sign Employee

To successfully onboard a new team member, don’t just throw ’em in the deep end.

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Here I am “camping” with one of my new employees, Alexis Garnek, graphic designer. Here I am “camping” with one of my new employees, Alexis Garnek, graphic designer.

HIRING CAN BE SCARY, no matter how much time you spend trying to evaluate your prospect. Obviously, the compensation and benefits you’re putting on the table represent a big investment, and all of us business owners want to make that investment in new employees pay off in a big way.

In today’s climate, new hires can be very difficult, expensive and time consuming. Turnover creates a massive drain on a business, but investing a bit more into the process and your people can yield remarkable returns. Once you make a hire, you can sometimes get “too busy” to check in, coach or assist. I’ve been guilty of the “throw ’em in the deep end!” mentality, but now I don’t believe I’m ever “too busy” to do what I should to support my team, particularly my newest team members.

How to make the most of your investment? How about more investment, but in this phase, your time and attention? Once you’ve made the commitment to hire someone, I would argue the real investment starts in creating maximum results. Here’s a five-point checklist for getting the most out of your employee investment.

  1. Clear expectations. Be sure you have clarity on “success” for new employees, from the most mundane details (what time to show up) to how their success in the company is actually being measured (revenue, jobs completed on time, reduced errors).
  2. Give them your attention! Giving your attention to their needs and experience will go a long way in their commitment to their work. Even a 15-minute visit every week to talk about challenges, success and progress will put fuel in their tank, as well as confirm for you they’re on the right track.
  3. Honest feedback. For some managers, this is often the toughest thing to do, but it’s the most valuable thing you can give to an employee. What are they doing well? What do they need to improve on? Be specific! All difficult conversations don’t have to be negative. Think about putting on your “coaching hat” and run them through drills with detailed notes on areas that need improvement.
  4. Set an annual review schedule. Both sides review and discuss. You don’t need anything fancy; just sit together and document a conversation that focuses on goals, improvements and achievements. Be ready to hear their feedback as well.
  5. Take time to “camp” with them. Now and then grab lunch with an employee, visit over a coffee or just ask them about their weekend and tune in. Personal connection can make all the difference for an employee!

Keep in mind that the support and help doesn’t always have to come from you, the owner. You can delegate some training, coaching and “camping” to other senior team members who know the ropes. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Cultivating a team — no matter how small — that helps lift one another up will pay off in the long run.

Keep it simple! Set weekly meetings, create lists of skills or trainings you want your team to do, give them due dates but save the critical conversations for yourself. A little bit of planning goes a long way.

Make your investments in people and watch them blossom, or, if they aren’t the right fit, help them find the door. Building a team through human capital is a powerful investment with proven returns.

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Maggie Harlow is the CEO of Signarama Downtown Louisville (Louisville, KY), one of the largest and most prestigious locations for the global sign franchise. Contact Maggie at maggie@signaramadowntown.com

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