I can vividly remember starting a new job many years ago.
The place was a bit of a shambles and just between you and me my boss was a patronising prick. He’d seemed so nice; so approachable … during the interview process. But from day one it was as if Dr Jekyll had left Mr Hyde alone in the building!
One morning about a month into the job, I happened to get into the elevator at the same time as Barry (not his real name). He was on his way up to “a very important meeting” and as I stepped out at my floor, he asked “everything cool after month one, Slez?”
The elevator door closed behind me.
Let’s just say everything wasn’t cool after month one. And I wasn’t there after month two. In fact there has never been any evidence of my 34 days at that particular organisation on my CV. It’s as if it never even happened.
I had definitely learned something during that month though. How not to treat staff – especially new staff.
Asking a new team member after their first month if “everything’s cool” while you’re on your way to another meeting is not only unprofessional. It’s just rude. After all I didn’t even get a chance to respond.
Actually I did. When I handed in my resignation a week later.
New staff members are still fairly vulnerable after a month in a new role. In fact many would describe themselves as feeling “consciously incompetent” – in other words they are aware of how much they still don’t know.
This is why the 30-day post-hire checkin is crucial. It’s not only a chance for you to discuss whether your initial expectations are being met. It’s the perfect opportunity for your new team member to share with you whether their expectations are being met too.[Oh – and for any recruiters reading this … my advice is that you always conduct the 30 day checkin with both your candidate and client in person. Not over phone and definitely not via email.]
1. Put time aside
30 days in any business can pass by in no time at all. One minute it’s the first of the month and before you know it you’re preparing for month-end. But for a new employee it can feel like an eternity if they haven’t received regular feedback.
You should check in regularly with every new staff member in the first few weeks. But you should definitely set a specific time aside for their 30-day checkin. It’s even worth scheduling it in both your calendars from day one. That way it won’t get overlooked.
If there’s a meeting scheduled, you can be assured that your new team member will be preparing for the conversation. So in order to avoid an “everything cool?” scenario, spend a few minutes preparing your part of the 30-day checkin too.
In terms of your ‘success expectations’, what specific and measurable outcomes (if any) had you defined for your newbie by the 30-day mark? Without these having been clearly spelled out, your new team member won’t have anything to go by when listening to your feedback – either positive or constructive.
3. The setting
Needless to say a moving elevator isn’t the most appropriate forum for the 30-day checkin. Neither is a cab on the way to or from a meeting. Nor is just sitting down on the corner of your new team member’s desk with a beer for a chat on a Friday afternoon.
Personally I have conducted many 30-day checkins with new team members over lunch in a café. I found it to be a more relaxed and informal setting but a chance for us to have an in-depth conversation reflecting on their first month in the business.
4. The 2-way conversation
Remember that the 30-day checkin isn’t just your chance to provide your feedback. Of course you will have your chance to speak, but you should let them kick off the conversation.
“So … it’s already been a month. How have you found the role so far?”
“How would you describe your first month in the team?”
“Can you believe it’s been a month already? I’d love to hear your observations on how you’ve found things so far”
These are so much better than mumbling “everything cool?” just as an elevator door is closing.
5. Listen carefully
Just as you (hopefully) did in your initial interview with them, during the 30-day checkin you should listen twice as much as you speak.
Take notes, and ensure you are engaged and not distracted (make sure your phone is out of sight!)
Of course when you are providing your feedback, whilst you might have a few general observations, where possible try to relate the conversation back to your specific success expectations.
6. Encourage them
For the most part, 30 days is too early to make any drastic decisions. Whether it’s a free flowing conversation or there are a few awkward silences or unexpected pieces of difficult feedback (from either side), where appropriate let them know that you are on their side and will do all you can to help them meet their objectives.
7. Follow up
Believe it or not this is one of the most important steps – even though it happens beyond the actual 30-day checkin. If you have agreed to make some changes, investigate something, speak to another team member, or come back to your new team member with a response to a particular question, make sure that you do so. And if possible commit to doing so in a relatively short period of time.
Nobody respects an “all talk and no action” manager. And if that’s the impression you create at the 30-day mark, it will be hard to regain the respect when it comes to any future performance related conversations.