Please have these expectations in writing for every position. This is not the same as a probationary period (we’ll talk about probationary periods in Chapter Five in detail), so don’t use that terminology when discussing expectations. You hired this person for a reason, you have a job description, you have departmental and company goals, and you have an overall strategy you are trying to accomplish. Given all of that, there should be a number of concrete things this person could hope to accomplish within thirty, sixty, and ninety days.
The reason to record and communicate short-term expectations is that you don’t yet know your new employee’s learning style. They may be a very quick, intuitive learner, and you don’t want them to have to wait for you or their manager to tell them what to do next. Short-term expectations let them know what they can move on to independently. Or, your new employee may be a slower, more methodical learner who needs to have the complete picture drawn out in order to accomplish goals. Some people also seem to keep learning steadily as a function of time—each new piece of knowledge builds on the previous piece. Other people are what I’ve heard called “platform learners,” meaning they seem as if they’re not getting it at all, and then suddenly they have a huge learning spike and move beyond a peer. Then they’ll platform again, and then spike again, and so on. Each position in your company will have different learning requirements, but you will help your people succeed by being understanding of, and working with, their learning styles.
So, discuss the goals and objectives for the position with your new hire in the first week, and be sure to answer any questions. Point them in the direction of resources and let them know who to go to for answers. At thirty, sixty, and ninety days have a “debrief” or review, and talk through where they are in accomplishing the goals, and where they need additional help either because they’re lagging or because they’re leaping ahead. Don’t leave them alone just because they are doing great. People who are excelling need to know that, and need to know where to go next. This period is also an opportunity for you to get to know a new employee’s communication style to see if it matches any profiles you had done. This is also the time to make any adjustments in working relationships before expectations become entrenched. Be patient but firm about your expectations. The additional time you spend now will pay off dividends in the future. It’s certainly cheaper than starting the hiring process all over again!
Don’t be afraid to change course here if you discover that this person has talents you didn’t see before or if what you thought they had just isn’t showing up. Do a reality check and don’t be afraid to talk to your new employee about it. Identify the person’s strengths and see where you can make them successful within the boundaries of the position. If you have to make an adjustment based on skills and abilities, be sure to document it. Meeting every Monday with the “5 by 5” (a five minute meeting focusing on the five things you want to accomplish) for the week is a great way to document what is and isn’t happening.
Excerpted from my book, “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed.” Available here on Amazon.