The Best Onboarding Process for New Managers

Authored by Michelle Nickolaisen

Published on April 27, 2015

We’ve talked about employee onboarding before, and it’s likely we’ll touch on it again. Effectively onboarding your new employees can increase retention and keep your whole team happier and more productive. In fact, a report by SHRM showed that employees who went through a structured onboarding process were 69% more likely to stay with the company for at least three years, in addition to other benefits. But most of the information out there is talking about onboarding in general, often with the assumption that you’re hiring entry-level employees. What’s the same, and what’s different, when it comes to hiring and onboarding new managers?

When it comes to hiring managers, you have two options: hiring from outside or promoting from within. If you’re still in the very early stages, or if you have mostly inexperienced employees in your customer service team, you’ll probably end up hiring from outside your company. There’s a few downsides to hiring from outside your company. Among them, there’s data that shows that it’s more expensive, and that outside hires tend to leave sooner. Outside hires also won’t have the same product knowledge as someone who came up through the ranks. That’s not a problem when promoting from within, but depending on how long the new manager was in their previous position, they might have a harder time asserting authority over their previous teammates.

Onboarding your new manager: What to do before they start

You’ve chosen your new manager and they’ve accepted the job offer. What do you need to do before their start date, to get things off on the right foot? Here are some tips:

What the first two weeks should look like

The first two weeks will probably not have much, if any, “work”-work. It’s tempting to start handing things off immediately, but doing so can overwhelm the new hire and make them less likely to stick around.

One of the first things you should address is making sure that they have a big-picture idea of where the product and the company as a whole is going. During the first two weeks, they should have at least one meeting with a member of the strategy team (or, if your company is still small, the CEO/founder) to learn this. To be an effective customer service manager, they need to know not just where the product is at right now and how the company was started, but where the founder sees the business going in the upcoming months and years. Helping them understand their team’s role in that bigger vision frees them up to make the right management decisions.

Remember how we mentioned before that outside hires can often take a while to get up to speed, compared to internal promotions? The factors there tend to be things like:

Given that, you want to try to address these as quickly as possible to make the transition easier for your new hire. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do to change someone’s personality to match your company culture—which is why it’s important to convey that during the interview and hiring process to screen out bad-fit applicants.

When it comes to product knowledge, it’s a good idea to set them up with a user account on your product and let them spend several hours learning it during the first few weeks. Structured lessons from experienced users are great, too. The new manager should also have several opportunities to sit in on customer service calls. This gives them a more well-rounded perspective on not where it’s at right now and what customers are actually having issues with, as well as how the team members are addressing those issues.

To get them up to speed on existing team dynamics, show them the different teams that exist in each department and give them real-life examples of how they’ve worked together. When it comes to the team that they’ll be managing, make sure they know the strengths of each team member as well as the strengths of the team as a whole. Knowing ahead of time that John excels at email support, whereas Allison is better at writing up knowledge base answers, will let the new manager delegate more effectively and get them off on the right foot.

Last but not least, you need to give them concrete benchmarks that they can refer back to. Tell them specifically what kinds of improvements or work you’d like to see in the first 30, 60, 90 days or first six months. Making expectations clear up front makes them more likely to be met or exceeded. You can do this by:

Things to keep in mind moving forward:

The first two weeks will probably be overwhelming for the new hire, no matter what you do, but the above tips should make the transition as easy as possible. After those two weeks are up, there should be another “refocusing” meeting with their manager or the founder/CEO to discuss again the role the new manager is to play in the future of the product and business. It will probably cover a lot of similar ground as the first meeting, but it’s easy to forget details when you’re overwhelmed, so it’s worth repeating the important things.

Past that, there are several other things to keep in mind during the first 6-12 months of working with a new hire:

It’s a lot to keep in mind, but by doing all of this, you’re making it much more likely that this new manager will be a part of your team for years to come, and help your business grow even more.

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