You’re ready to add to your team and make a hire. Before you make the offer, know that the onboarding process is probably THE most important part of bringing on someone new (aside from making the right hire in the first place, of course).

But if not done right, it can feel like you’ve made the wrong hire. You’ll be setting up your new team member for failure and adding frustration for you and your current team.

Avoid these 5 mistakes when onboarding new team members

Here are some of the most common mistakes business owners make when onboarding new team members–and what to do instead.

1. Not having a plan for onboarding

You have the perfect new hire and you’re desperate for them to jump in and get to work.

But they need some help getting started, and you (or a key team member) are responsible for giving them the guidance they need to be successful. Without a plan in place, the new team member will feel overwhelmed and unequipped for success.

What to do instead: Have a plan in place. Your new hire isn’t going to be able to jump in at 100 percent on day one. Instead, slowly introduce new responsibilities a little at a time until she’s fully up to speed.

2. Not having a list of responsibilities

Will your new team member know exactly what her responsibilities are, without your spelling them out? Chances are she won’t. And without clarity around what you expect and what success looks like for her, she can’t be successful.

What to do instead: Prepare a thorough list. This could be part of your job description, but more likely it’s a separate list you send your new hire when onboarding–one that includes deadlines and the process to deliver the work. Be sure to identify what success looks like for each of these responsibilities. Let her know what the expected outcome is for each piece so she can reach for those ideals from day one.

3. Not communicating with the new hire

Most small business owners hire contractors, rather than employees. But even contractors who, by definition, should need little training, need to be part of an open and two-way communication.

Without regular and intentional communication you risk having the new team member feel left out and ill-informed about what’s going on in your business. Not only that, but they may grow to be afraid of approaching you with questions and concerns.

What to do instead: Set up communication guidelines. Depending on the team member’s role, set up weekly or monthly check-in calls–either with just you or your whole team.

The idea here is to celebrate wins, communicate vital information and allow a space for them to ask questions. Aside from this, make sure your team member knows how to get in touch with you with questions and concerns (because some questions just can’t wait until that regular check-in call).

4. Not communicating with your current team

Adding new team members is exciting, but it could be potentially frustrating and threatening to current team members. They may feel that their job (and pay) is in jeopardy or that the new team member is more work for them than she’s worth.

What to do instead: Have an open dialogue. Meet with your current team before the new team member starts to outline what responsibilities, if any, you will redirect. And be clear on how and when to communicate or send projects to the new team member.

It’s also helpful to gather the whole team for a call, even if that’s not something you’ll do regularly down the road. It just gets everyone on the same page and working toward the same goals.

5. Not having realistic expectations

Think about the learning curve when you started your business. There were a lot of false starts, long hours and frustrating late nights.

Any new venture is a learning process, even when you feel like you already know what you’re doing. A new team member is no exception. She needs time to acclimate to your brand’s climate and learn your systems and processes. It will take two to three months for her to start earning her keep, and that’s okay.

What to do instead: Reframe your expectations. Start looking for the little wins your team member makes along the way and celebrate those. Make sure you communicate feedback regularly and let her know what she’s doing well and where she can make changes. She won’t know how to improve unless you tell her.

Hiring for your team is a necessary, though sometimes frustrating, part of business growth. When done well, you’ll gain confidence and see forward momentum that can lead to more growth. It’s an exciting time!

For help with setting up your business for success, grab my downloadable organizational chart template! It will help you determine future roles that you can add as your team grows.


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