The primary purpose of this blog since Nov 2003 has been to discuss topics related to being an internet entrepreneur. But my own personal role has changed several times during these past 6 years, as I’ve been CEO of an internet marketing company (which was sold in June 05), head of an internet incubator (Provo Labs), and then since January 2007, I’ve been 100% focused on running FamilyLink.com (including its genealogy properties, WorldVitalRecords, GenealogyWise, and soon GenSeek.)
During that time I taught business formation classes at (what is now) UVU, and internet marketing for 2 years at BYU. I’ve live-blogged a few conferences, and covered some political and investor topics as well. So I apologize to some of my readers who have noted my lack of consistency in blogging (I used to blog several times a week–now I’m lucky to blog once or twice a month) and the fact that I cover too many disparate topics in one blog. Ideally, I’d have 3-4 blogs dedicated to different topics, but then I’d probably not update any of them often enough. But, things are often not ideal, so I’ll just continue to blog when I can and on what topics I feel are worth covering.
One thing that has been far from ideal is the hiring practices of FamilyLink.com. We don’t yet have a real HR department, though we do have a benefits group that administers our health plan, etc. Growing from less than 20 to more than 60 people in six months poses a lot of challenges, especially when so many of our employees are remote (Seattle, Boulder, So. California, Salt Lake, etc). In the last couple of months we have really improved our recruiting process, our interviewing process, and we have the offer letter step down pat. Our stock options spreadsheet is updated every time we issue an offer letter that is accepted. So things are improving.
But one thing that still needs to be improved is the integration of new employees into the company culture and information flow. I have met with or talked with new employees after say 2-3 weeks on the job, and I’m always surprised to know that they don’t know really critical things, like who some of our other employees are, and what their responsibilities and skills are. When things are moving so fast for our company, it’s hard for the hiring manager to take a full day or two to orient the new employee to the org chart, who does what, what all our plans include. It is easy to make sure the person knows what their immediate tasks are supposed to be, but not necessarily how it fits into the big picture.
I decided a few weeks ago that FamilyLink needed a checklist for the hiring manager to use each time a new employee joins the company, so we don’t overlook any step–particularly with regards to making sure each new employee gets plugged in to who is doing what, and who they should be sharing ideas and knowledge with, or coordinating projects with. (Again, this is especially important because we have so many remote workers.)
Because Yammer is such a powerful tool for internal company communications, the first thing on my checklist would be to invite the new employee to Yammer, ask them to update their profile with all their contact information, and to browse the org chart to see who reports to whom. I wish the org chart could link directly to every employees LinkedIn profile–because I would require all the new employees to review the LinkedIn profile of all current employees. I’d also like them to spend a few hours browsing through various Yammer posts, doing searches, and seeing who has been involved in past discussions on topics that are relevant to them. All this would really give them a feel for who is on our team.
But in order to join our company Yammer account, the new employee has to first have an @familylink.com company email address, so that is actually the first thing on my checklist.
So here is my (slightly modified for public consumption) checklist of what I want to make sure that our hiring managers use whenever a new employee joins FamilyLink.com:
- Offer letter
- Sign Employee Agreement (confidentiality, assignment of invention)
- Get email account on @familylink.com
- Join Yammer: add personal contact info, including cell phone. Review all employee profiles on Yammer.
- Connect with all colleagues on Google Talk
- Define key metric, goal, and reporting tool
- Identify hardware and software and equipment needs with our purchasing manager
- Review mobile phone policy (who needs iPhone, blackberry, etc.?) and our expectations (increased productivity and use of our company applications)
- Complete paperwork to enroll in benefits
- Orientation about company-wide stats emails and confidentiality
- Provide access to customer surveys — training on why it is important (hint: we listen to our customers)
- Uservoice orientation (we use this for each of our sites/apps so customers can vote on what we should do next)
- Set up LinkedIn account–connect with other employees
- Connect on Facebook with colleagues
- Sign up for FamilyLink.com — become an active user of the FamilyStream
- Sign up for Google Reader, and follow other employee bloggers, as well as top industry blogs
- Lunch meeting with CEO
- Discuss which blogs they will read on Google Reader — enabling sharing with other employees
- Conference Plan — list 1-5 conferences they want to attend this year
- What LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups or real world networking groups they plan to actively participate in
- Discuss how to find smart people to follow on Twitter
- Company Twitter / blogging policies
- Discuss key metric, goal and reporting tool
- Discuss list of books to read
New employees in our engineering or web design/development team will have several more items on the checklist, like getting access to our development environment, our SVN source code check-in system, product roadmap, and bug tracking system. New marketing employees will get access to all our analytics and reporting tools for their particular area of specialty. And our ad sales and product sales teams obviously get a lot of training on particular systems, software, and selling approaches and collateral material. But the overall checklist is designed to make sure all employees get connected internally to the people and systems they need to be productive right away.
I remember reading that Google used to publish its daily sales figures internally to all employees until it started down the IPO path. Their philosophy seems to be hire smart people who gets things done and empower them with data. We really try to do the same thing. Our daily company-wide emails provide insight into all our company’s key metrics and our financial position. (Thus the need for a reminder about confidentiality.)
I emailed this checklist to some hiring managers last week and it was well received. But most of our employees haven’t seen this list yet, until today. I’m eager to get this implemented and tested in real life, and to get feedback on it. Some items are more important than others, and some can probably be done over time, instead of immediately upon being hired. I’m sure we’re missing some key items that haven’t surfaced yet.
I hope the checklist reflects some of my personal interest in helping each employee invest in developing their minds and expanding and enhancing their personal social networks. In February 2005 I published an article called “Investing in Employees: Designing a Curriculum for Key Executives.” Our new checklist doesn’t go as far as that article did in making sure employees have all the encouragement and opportunity they might need to become life-long learners, but I think it’s a decent start.
What do you think is missing from this checklist? Have you worked for a company that does a great job at incorporating new employees? What are the worst things you’ve seen companies do when new employees join up?
Please share your thoughts.