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Got Detail Dump?

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  • | 8:53 a.m. June 25, 2010
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Here's the latest thinking from the American Marketing Association, with insider tips, on precisely the best ways to indoctrinate a new professional services employee!

Let's agree, the first days in your brand new staff member's life are critical. You want the orientation to be productive, rewarding and fun.

Avoid detail dump
You want to avoid the “Information and Registration Dump” concept on the first few days when excitement is at its peak. It's not very inspiring to spend days filling out forms, reading employment benefit options, instructions on policy, expense account format, e-mail and telephone access, insurance, 401-k, life and health care policies, studying marketing literature and attending introductory “how we do things” lectures.

You just don't want to do all those little annoying tasks on day one of a new associate's launch. So what should you do? Do it all ahead of time. And, spread it out over many days.

Bring in your new future profit generator in advance of opening day. You might even want to culminate the terribly tedious task of writer's cramp and brain drain with a few light lunches at a nearby waterside stop. Invite an additional front line associate or two, from whom you hope to informally assign a go-to mentor for the first 30-60-90 days. It will help the new comer build an internal social network and develop a general comfort level.

If you're fortunate enough to be adding multiple employees to staff, you'll soon realize that class knowledge overload is non-productive. Retention of content is often low due to self-imposed pressure. You can totally skirt that issue by opting for a staggered approach to on-boarding. Hold a short series of orientation meetings over the first few week of a new hire's tenure to focus on different topics. Give people more time to digest material and develop greater breadth of understanding about the organization. Additionally, it will give your front line professionals opportunity to share knowledge while enhancing their own pre-planned presentation skills.

Keep up the pace
New employees, particularly those in professional services first jobs — young lawyers, bankers, builders, architects, insurance, real estate, communications, graphic arts, accountants and more — often are disappointed with the slow pace of gaining responsibility within the corporate family. They have the highest expectations and need to be involved in, at the very least, the next higher level so that they know and understand where they are heading. Fostering meaningful discussion and actual involvement in real current projects is the direction you want to take the new warrior.

Adopt a hire
Authors Dr. Chip Bell and Ron Zemke have written over 35 books on the subject of management and professional services sales training. They say: “The hiring process may be all about survival of the fittest. However, as you move from selection to orientation, it's important now to leave the Darwinian thinking behind and begin thinking more in terms of “adoption”, or how best to assimilate new hires into the existing group”. (They created the Adopt acronym as a guide to develop, or at least tweak the orientation process to improve results.) Let's “adopt” our own minor revision to reflect needs that may work best for your own Gulf Coast enterprise. Here's my revised rendition:

Affirm the new employee for making the decision to be part of your organization or team.

Debrief the new employee for service insights. Their fresh eyes allow them to see things in your own professional services delivery system Ask for new hire input. This sends an early signal that you value their opinions.

Orient your new hires to the values, standards, vision and norms of the organization. Tell what you stand for. Suggest how to tailor behavior to enhance the vision and support the mission.

Partner the hire with an enthusiastic leader from “outside” his work group to act as mentor with the broadest view.

Tribal ritual borrowing from a Native American Indian tradition, gives your young “brave” a special task or challenge during the training process. Make it real — not just busy work — and show the candidate how it makes a contribution to the team.

Consider structuring your own version of an executive Gulf Coast Boot Camp where your established leaders — at various levels — take your future warriors through specialized topics of the trade. Include your real life case histories and extreme experiences. Bring in a motivational speaker.

Ask your outside CPA to invest an hour of mentoring and discuss “news you can use” commentary. Invite your community bank's local economist to come in with a futurist's preview; others on your staff may want to sit in. Have a “bagel and brag” with your top sales people giving “Today's Top Tips”. Titled internal execs may wish to share wisdom from their specialization.

Finalize the “camp” with a group light luncheon in the conference room with a handful of your superstars to wish the initiates well. Present a high quality advertising specialty gift to commemorate your well planned orientation. Then adjourn sending your new associate on to reflect upon the tremendous planning and effort by the enterprise and the really outstanding associates that are in place and proven performers to help propel the new initiate's career.

First and foremost
Remember please, we're focusing foremost on observation of your professional services new hires. If it's their first job, your first hire, or the first days and weeks for a seasoned hire, they are actually reviewing you almost as insightfully as you are focusing on them. What they eyeball you doing in support of your vision, your sincerity, your attitude, your dress code, all sends a powerful message. It says more about you and the enterprise than any speech you could make, letter you could write or any bulletin you could post in the lunch room. The way you treat and respond to clients before, during and after the sale, sets the real message of your corporate culture.

The bottom line
Become a better listener yourself, encourage and demonstrate teamwork yourself. Let them observe you serving clients with enthusiasm, skill and attentiveness. And, don't forget to be seen treating your Gulf Coast internal team with respect, attention and appreciation.

If you do this right, your people and your corporate personality will closely reflect you. That's because they are you. Chances are, in rising to your present professional attainment you have seen more, done more and have more. Now, with your new personnel launch, you are making ready to move forward again.

You will want to start on Day One with a new hire as you have with your present team: to connect, support and inspire to share your vision and to show your passion. Most of all, you will continue to listen, continue to learn and continue to lead. Remember, your client base will never be happy unless your personnel serving them are happy. Additionally, your clients today will demand a total service engagement that isn't just beyond the norm, but makes its mark in their minds and in their hearts.
A wise man once said that, “Vision without action is dreaming. Action without vision is random activity. Vision and activity together can change the World!”

Lou Lasday creates action-oriented strategic marketing initiatives for Gulf Coast emerging companies. He has been a general partner of an Ad Age Top 100 marketing communications firm and regional president of the American Marketing Association. Lasday can be reached at [email protected]


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