When the subject of onboarding comes up, I’m reminded of a friend’s recent experience starting fresh at a new company. Let’s call him Steve. On his first day, he attended an all hands meeting where staff were expressing concerns about heavy workloads across various initiatives to upper management.
Throughout the meeting, there was a recurring response: “Steve, the new guy will handle that.” It got to the point where someone asked, “How many Steve’s did we hire exactly?”
Humor aside, this type of situation isn’t uncommon. A hiring decision is made, but there isn’t much planning done in the interim before their start date. They show up on their first day to either be bombarded with tasks, or left without much to do.
Recruiting new employees should feel like a relief. Fresh perspectives, new possibilities, and more balanced workloads. Although, if you’ve ever done recruiting, you probably know that it rarely works out that way.
What begins as an exciting endeavor to seek out that person whose presence will restore order to your over-encumbered and frantically busy team becomes a long, draining, slog of an effort.
gothamCulture is a little too old to still be referring to ourselves as a startup, but even as we have evolved and scaled, the startup spirit remains embedded in the way our team approaches their work every day. We view constant and innovative change as what gives us our competitive edge and unique service offerings.
The problem rapidly growing companies like ours tend to run into is that innovative change can occur in a vacuum. You may get so lost in the task at hand that you don’t think to discuss it with outside team members, and once the task is over, you simply move on to the next, without taking a step back to objectively review it.
If rapidly growing companies don’t share or document their successes, team members are often required to reinvent the wheel when the same obstacle arises on another project.
An effective approach to project management and documentation is critical for these organizations, but how do you sell the value of managing projects in a (somewhat) consistent manner to a group of people who view it as a hindrance to innovation or a burdensome layer of administration? How do you manage the tension between innovation and order?
Here are a few strategies I use to navigate these waters:
Embrace customer collaboration over contract negotiation. For those familiar with Agile, you’ll recall this from the Agile Manifesto. As an Operations Manager, our frontline staff is my customer. Reframing my approach to process design as collaborative instead of a negotiation makes for a much better outcome and a much more positive work environment. Work with your frontline staff to understand how operational processes impact their daily lives, and inform them of the value the project management process brings to the business if properly instituted.
Open brainstorming discussions to teams and departments outside of your project team or your regular “go-to” people. Every time we do this, we leave with a great idea. An issue many organizations face is that by sticking to their project teams, they develop “skillset tunnel vision”, and don’t properly leverage the resources at their disposal (i.e., you forget that the Stats guy is also an Executive Coach). Institute “Lunch and Learns” or other opportunities for staff to share lessons learned. It helps build your team and improves the way you resource your future projects.
Communicate early and often! It sounds so simple, but it never is. If you’re going to do Lunch and Learns, or Book Clubs, or any opportunity to get to know and learn from your staff, don’t just do it once a quarter. The sell should be easy: it’s a chance to break from your tactical work, collaborate with others, and get yourself back into a strategic headspace.
At the core of these tips is reinforcing to staff that interaction is key, and pausing to reflect strategically is critical to sustainable growth. If you can communicate these core concepts to staff effectively, carving out time to do both should come easily.