At some point in time, your startup will need to move beyond a one-man show and bring others on board. Hiring the right people to expand your team beyond its core is an exciting step in the expansion of your startup, and once you identify those new team members, you need to integrate them into your existing structure.
Planning the onboarding process
The onboarding process to bring a new employee into your startup should begin before you even start the hiring process. Before you put out a job posting or start interviewing candidates, draft a plan that will tackle onboarding and orientation for that new hire. What will be their primary responsibilities? How will you convey the necessary requirements of their day-to-day work? Will they join a team, and what is that team like? How will you get them up to speed on your products and services?
This should be a draft, not an intensive plan that charts out their first month at work. The draft is subject to change based on timeframes and deadlines, as well as the individual new hire themselves. Having a plan in place, even as a draft, will help you to organize the onboarding process.
During the hiring process
Take personality and working style into consideration when you make your hiring decisions. Are you a laid back company that encourages individual expression and free form thinking? The tight-laced former employee of a Fortune 500 firm may not be the best fit for your business. This isn’t to say that a diversity of working styles, life experiences, and backgrounds isn’t important. Rather, when you are making hiring decisions to expand your small business, it’s imperative to look at candidates as a whole rather than a list of accomplishments on a CV.
Understanding your leadership and management style is an important part of the pre-integration process. Consider that this may be your first employee or your 20th, you may have a manager already in place or you may be taking on this role yourself. There’s been a lot of research conducted on management styles and which ones tend to be more useful than others in particular settings. I’d encourage you to dig into that information, particularly from reputable sources such as higher education management schools or well-respected business publications.
The breakdown of different management styles differ depending on who is talking about them, but generally we find that they tend to fit within one primary designation: democratic or authoritative. Democratic leaders solicit input from others and rule by majority. Authoritative leaders use a more top-down approach and make more executive decisions. These different management styles can influence the onboarding experience.
Regardless of what type of manager or leader you are, there will be a learning period when your new hire is discovering how you and the rest of your team interact with each other. Any problems or divisions that may be going on in your business will come to light at some point in time, so try to get your eggs in order before bringing in a new voice to the mix.
Integrating into the team
We know that finding the right team member to expand your operations is critical, but how do you integrate them into the team once you’ve hired them? This will look different, depending on what type of structure you already have in place. If you are a small startup, bringing a new team member into place has the potential to be more disruptive (either positively or negatively) than if you have a larger employee base in place. In a larger office or corporate setting, a new team member can make less of a splash, but it is easier for them to get lost in the crowd during the onboarding process and perhaps not receive the help that they need to get settled.
Pairing a new hire with a more established team member can encourage a mentor relationship and allows your new team member to gain a better perspective on the day to day work and responsibilities of the role. Encourage your current team members to interact with the new hire and to make them feel a part of the group. Positive relationships with one’s coworkers is a major factor in preventing job attrition, which can pay off significantly in the long term.
Bringing a new hire into your team is a learning process, both for you and for the new employee. They are learning the ins and outs of your business, how they fit within your existing structure, and the impact that their role has on your organization. You have the opportunity to learn from this new hire with the experience they bring to the table and how to use their strongest skills to contribute to building your brand.
After the onboarding process wraps
The onboarding process should continue outside of a new hire’s first day. As new projects and deadlines arise, these are learning opportunities for your new hire to understand how your business runs and their key place within a startup’s functions. Check back with your new employee on a regular basis, and ask them for their input and suggestions on what they found helpful or not helpful during the onboarding process. The first 90 days of an employee’s new job can set the standard for their job retention, and making a good impression consistently throughout this timeframe is even more important than a good first impression.
Learn from each onboarding process that you go through, and take what worked and what didn’t to inform later processes. As your startup grows and expands, you’ll need to hire more and more people. Learning what works and what doesn’t from past hiring processes allows you to streamline the onboarding experience and make integrating new employees a smoother process for all involved.