Monday, December 04, 2006

New Hires

I had a new employee start today.

I started preparing for her shortly after we made an offer.

We have a checklist for new hires that includes things like:
  • Identify a cube

  • Have hardware set up

  • Identify a mentor

  • And I create a training plan.

    For Sam, his new hire training plan consists of meeting with his work leader to figure out the skills he'll need to succeed at testing their product. But for others - employees who don't have a work leader or for whom I'm the work leader - I have to create a complete training plan.

    I used to be a teacher (back in the olden days) and I had to create lesson plans for each of my one hour classes. A training plan is very similar to a lesson plan. You start with objectives. "Sam will be able to set up a client in our test environment." It's measurable - he can either do it or he can't, but it's not time boxed. Do we want Sam to be able to do this on his second day at work? How long should this take him to do? To learn?

    I find it hard, even as a former teacher, to think like that so, when I have to come up with a training plan, I tend to use a form for each sizable chunk of work. The form asks the following questions:

  • What should the trainee learn?

  • When will they learn it?

  • How long will it take to learn?

  • Who is their mentor / teacher for this task?

  • Is there a clear connection for this task to his job as he understands it?

  • How will I know he's successful?

  • How will he know he's successful?

  • This helps me think about the supporting things like a login or access to another system that might be necessary.

    Do your training plans differ for each trainee? How can I make my plans better?

    Sunday, December 03, 2006

    When employees screw up....

    My partner and I contracted with our favorite construction company to tile our bathroom while we were away. Now there are five of us - when we have the kids - and only one bath so having it done while we all were away was critical.

    She chose the tile while I was away and it was to be ordered and delivered on Monday according the 'tile guy' at the store. He took our money and promised that he wouldn't run the batch until the tile was ordered and confirmed.

    Imagine our surprise when we checked our account that evening and saw that the funds had already been removed! We figured that he had simply forgotten to confirm that the tile would be delivered as expected....

    The next day he, I'll call him Jason, called and said that the tile hadn't made it on the truck and wouldn't be available until Wednesday of the week we were to be away. this would give our contractor only 2 days to tile the bath surround and floor. Our contractor assured us that he'd make it work for us.

    Then Jason called again and said that he was wrong, the tile we had ordered wouldn't be available until sometime in december. It was just the contrasting tile, however, so we chose another trim. This resulted in a substantial refund because the new trim was less expensive.

    We left for our vacation and assumed that all would be well. But it was not to be. Jason, it seemed, had not ordered enough floor tile. Our contractor let him know on Wednesday - shortly after picking up the order. The contractor called Jason at least once more on Friday.

    Jason called us on Saturday as we were on our way home. He took complete responsibility for the snafu and assured us he'd get the tile to us the following Wednesday. We'd planned a trip the following weekend to visit the kids in Kansas, so it was going to work out.

    Monday afternoon Jason called and said "I can't order this tile without payment, you know." We were flabbergast. We thought he'd ordered the tile already. As he hadn't, it wouldn't be on the Wedneday truck, it would need to wait for the following Monday.

    If I'd been Jason's manager, I would have stepped in at this point. I would have assured the client that the error was in hand, the tile had been ordered, and that we (the flooring company) would do whatever was necessary to make installation work for us and our contractor.

    Instead, Jason continued to flounder, refusing to offer to compensate us for our night(s) in a hotel. He maintained that a good contractor could get the toilet pulled, the tile laid, grouted and sealed with in one 8 hour day.

    We've pushed back and are ready to do what we need to to get our tile installed. What would you have done if you'd been Jason's manager?

    Saturday, December 02, 2006

    Rewarding Employees - when the company does well.

    My friend, Jane, works for a start up company. She's the manager of their small IT department - she's got about 8 direct reports and also heads up their project office. She's been with the company since it started six years ago. Last year, for the first time ever, they made a profit. This year, with sales through the roof, they crossed a revenue threshold that they thought was still three years out.

    To celebrate they catered a lunch for all employees (about 150 - 180 people) and gave away about 60 "nice" prizes -- everything from iPods to $10 gas cards. They also invited the management team to a country club cocktail hour and gave them all a gorgeous silver clock.

    Jane was thrilled that everyone in the company was able to celebrate.

    She's now in the midst of salary planning for 2007. She wants to reward her employees for their hard work, but find that her budget for salaries has been restricted to 3% overall.

    She's very frustrated by this as she feels the company is going to suffer when people, who have indeed worked their 'guts out' (as she puts it) get a raise that just covers the cost of living.

    What would you do in Jane's situation?