Your people are your biggest investment. You want them to succeed. Getting them started off on the right foot is time well-spent. You've worked your tail off (following the other articles in this series - see below for links) to find the best candidates worthy of a job offer. Don't stop the hard work once they accept. Have a new-hire plan in place that sets them up to become the rock star you know they are. (Psst! These ideas can be applied to almost any other role.)
Give your new hires what they need to succeed
First things first, if you do not already have some sort of internal knowledge base started, make this your next move as soon as you know you are bringing on a new teammate. This will be a living resource; it should be easy for anyone to modify content to keep it as up-to-date as possible. The purpose of this resource is to document processes, policies, guidelines, norms, and other information your teammates need in order to perform their jobs and work together successfully. This information can range from a directory of all of the software used at your organization to profiles of your customers, or from how to submit an expense report to how to run a client meeting. Though there will certainly be some things that won’t change frequently and could therefore be included in a hard copy employee handbook, that’s not the case for most things these days. A digital tool is much better-suited for this and there are plenty of options for this purpose - a wiki, your helpdesk knowledge base (if it has the option to add internal-only docs), Google Docs, etc. The primary needs are: 1) it should be easily searchable, 2) it should be accessible by all employees, 3) it should be easy to add and edit information.
Once you have an internal knowledge base started, create a standardized orientation program to relay important organization-wide and role-specific information. This formal orientation may be two days or two weeks depending on the maturity and complexity of your organization. Whether it’s provided in person, via recorded videos, or a combination of these, this is your chance to warmly welcome the new hires and lay the foundation for the company culture. I recommend at least 2-3 days of formal orientation, with at least some components in-person, if at all possible. If you’re not sure what to include in your orientation, try putting yourself in their shoes. What information is critical for you to perform your job? Are there things you wish you had known when you first started? How can you relay that information in a way that will stick?
It can be tough being the new kid on the block. If you know there are new hires coming on board for other teams around the same time, coordinate with the other hiring managers to have your hires start on the same day. This gives the new hires a cohort - a group of people who are going through this process together. This can do a lot to boost morale and provide added support for your new hires. Plus, it’s an efficient way to deliver company-wide information to a group, rather than presenting the same information multiple times a month.
We say this a lot, but it’s worth repeating, customer success is a team sport. And because of this, it is important to introduce your new teammate to all the rest of your colleagues. Equally important, be transparent with the newbies. Make sure they understand how they will be working with each of the other people and teams in your organization. If you have distributed teams, take the time to make a digital company directory, complete with photos. And, if the new person will be working closely with any of those co-workers in other locations, arrange a video call with them.
In the same vein as starting new hires in cohorts, bolster the new hires further by pairing them up with a buddy. This should be someone else from their team who can provide guidance and support during the person’s first 2-3 months. This is a good idea on a few different fronts. For one, it gives the new hire a main point of contact outside of their manager who can help answer day-to-day questions. In addition, it means there will be another person more deeply invested in the new hire’s success.
If there are specific tasks, processes, or skills the new teammate needs to demonstrate proficiently by a certain time into their employment, these things should be clearly outlined and communicated. This is probably a document listing out the competencies required for the role and timeframe within which the new hire should be able to do them. Then, these should be discussed regularly between the new hire and their manager to track progress toward them, which leads to the next tip: set up regular one-on-one meetings with your new hire. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss accomplishments and goals, and work through any challenges. The cadence can vary, but should be at least every other week, especially during the new hire’s first 2-3 months.
What to do if it just doesn't work out
Despite best efforts, both on your part and the part of your candidates, sometimes things just don’t work out. Maybe your needs changed and the job looks different than advertised, maybe the candidate thought a certain skill wasn’t going to be as important as it is, or maybe some other circumstances changed. There can be a number of reasons a person and a job can end up being a poor fit. What matters now is how you handle it.
First of all, remember why you hired the person. Remember that there were strengths you saw in the person in the recruiting and interview process. Do you still see the potential in the person? Is the issue more of a poor fit with this particular role than a poor fit with the organization? If so, are there other roles at the organization that might be a better fit? Recruiting and interviewing people is expensive. If there is another role that needs filling, consider whether the person might be a good match for it. Considering this person has gone through all of your vetting, the other hiring manager may appreciate the potential of bypassing a lengthy search and interview process for a candidate that others in the organization have already gotten to know.
If you sense this is not a good fit, odds are the new hire senses it, too. It is no fun to struggle and feel like you are not succeeding in a job. Be open with the person and be kind. Your regular one-on-one meetings with the new hire (see above) are the best time to discuss progress or lack thereof. Have honest conversations about your expectations (also see above) and how well or not the person is meeting those. If things aren’t looking good, outline a plan together for getting the person to where they need to be. If things don’t improve, confront it and help them move on as graciously and expediently as possible.
In a nutshell, bringing on a new teammate is the start of a new and important relationship. Onboarding is about ensuring the new relationship is as successful as possible. With a solid foundation in place, your new customer success hire will be a happy and productive teammate in no time.
For those of you who followed along, this concludes the series on Hiring for (Customer) Success. Hopefully you found a helpful blueprint for building up your Customer Success team. We covered a lot of ground! For quick reference, check out the other articles in the series below.Hiring for (Customer) Success: Where to begin
Hiring for (Customer) Success: Fit and growth
Hiring for (Customer) Success: Sourcing great candidates comes from within
Hiring for (Customer) Success: Screening the candidate pool
Hiring for (Customer) Success: In-person interviews