Every successful business grows. At some point you decide to move from what you can do alone either because you have more work than you can handle or because you have decided that your company is better served by you focusing on just a few areas, perhaps sales and marketing. To get the time to focus, you have to get help. Whether you opt for high priced talent or entry level support, the time you spend bringing them up to speed is either going to be an investment or an expensive lesson in lost productivity.
We all know that common sense is not so common. If you have not hired staff before you will discover, often painfully, pitfalls along the way. While we learn from experience, it is less painful to learn from lessons learned by others.
As you sit there, mulling over the idea of bringing someone on-board, let’s compare two approaches for hiring someone to assist with order fulfillment. We’ll assume your actual hiring process (advertising, interviewing, reference checking) will be the same for both approaches.
Organic Approach (we’ll call this “Organic” because it just kind of happens)
- [2 hours] Explain process to new hire and what you expect them to do.
- [1 hour] Show where all the materials are stored and explain usage .
- [2 hour] Walk through the fulfillment process (check computer for orders, check inventory, pull inventory, update computer inventory, package, ship) .
- New Hire (associate) starts working independently while you go and work on marketing materials.
- [2 hours] Questions from new hire about expectations and process over the first two days.
- [10 hours] Questions from new hire about process over first two weeks [1 hour/day x 10 days].
- Repeat above for each additional new hire/temp
The Organic approach will result in a trained associate in about 34 hours (your time training (17 hours) + the new hire’s time (17 hours) = 32 hours), assuming they have the correct skills to start with. If they do not have the right skills and you have to hire someone else, you have another minimum four days of lost productivity plus the additional training time.
Steps 1 - 4 before hiring new person.
- [1 hour] Write down expectations for new hire. Be specific and avoid making assumptions; if they need to be at work by a specific time, say so, etc. This is not a novel and can be as simple as 3 x 5 card with a list of tasks, duties, and expectations.
- [30 minutes] Write down the skills the new person needs walking through the door. Do they need to be able to lift 40 pounds? How about basic data entry skills. Social skills? Will they be interacting with customers? Does appearance matter? This is not about being nice or not nice; it is about selecting the best person for the job and clearly setting expectations.
- [2 hours] Sketch out the process the new hire will follow. Just a high level flow is usually enough; it can consist of boxes that identify each part of the overall process and arrows showing how one sub-process ties to the next.
- [2 hours] Document the process including steps, helpful hints, locations, and resources (perhaps you have user guides for equipment or on-line help files for software).
- Hire the candidate.
- [30 minutes] Walk through written expectations and give a copy to the new hire.
- [30 minutes] Walk through process sketch.
- [1 hour] Walk through actual process.
- New Hire starts working independently while you go and work on marketing materials.
- [1 hour] Questions from new hire about expectations and process over first two days.
- [2.5 hrs] Questions from new hire about process over first two weeks (15 minutes/day x 10 days).
- [30 minutes] Update written expectations and process based on new hire questions
The Planned approach results in a trained associate in about 17.5 hours (11.5 hours for you + 6 hours for new hire). Further, the original 5.5 hours of prep time will not need to be repeated. Subsequent hires will take about 12 hours of training time.
The Organic approach will get you a trained person in about 34 hours. Unfortunately, it does not use your time efficiently as you will be the only resource for that person to go to for help if there are no materials for the associate to refer to. It also does not help with additional hires although your first hire may be able to help out. No doubt you will get faster with subsequent hires, and you will probably do a better job of screening as you discover what your first hire was missing in the way of skills.
The Planned approach takes a little more time up front but because you end up with a set of reusable documents, this time is more of an investment. When the new hire comes on board, he or she will have reference material stating expectations about the job, their performance, and the process they need to follow. This should reduce the number of repeat questions as well as reducing miscommunication about performance expectations.
- Like “the Pirate’s Code,” the process descriptions are more like guidelines. They do not have to cover 100% of everything, 80% is good enough. You, or your new hire, can add details as you go along.
- Your English teacher will not be grading you so just get the key ideas down. If you are reading this article you have a computer and spell checking is included in most programs.
- Keep it simple. The more complicated the explanation, the harder it is to understand.
- You are not getting paid by the word or the page, again, keep it simple.
- Not all documentation has to be typed, draw a picture by hand if that is easier.
- If the idea of writing is still making your stomach ache, plan for the training process to take more time with your first hire and have him or her document it for future hires.
- There are efficiency experts, process specialists, and technical writers who can also create documentation for you. If you hire someone, make sure they show you how to edit the files they deliver so you can perform updates in the future.
It is the wise business owner that knows their own strengths. If you have reached the point where you know you need to focus your talent, it is time to think about your first new hire. Clearly getting them fully functional as quickly and efficiently as possible will allow you to get on with applying your unique strengths all the sooner and faster. Further, investing in the on-boarding process is a prudent use of your funds and lays the groundwork for future cost-effective growth.