New Employee Checklist

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 from Michael Jensen
Join Yammer: add personal contact info, including cell phone
Connect with all colleagues on Google Talk
Define key metric, goal, and reporting tool
Hardware needs (Chad Wright)
Review mobile phone policy and our expectations
Orientation about company-wide stats emails and confidentiality
Access to survey results — training on why it is important
Access to Uservoice
Set up LinkedIn account–connect with Paul and other employees
Connect on Facebook with colleagues
Sign up for FamilyLink.com — become an active user of the FamilyStream
Access to Dashboard
Lunch meeting with CEO
Discuss which blogs they will read on Google Reader — share with other employees
Conference Plan — list 1-5 conferences they want to attend this year
Twitter / blogging policies
Discuss key metric, goal and reporting tool
Discuss list of books to read
  1. Offer letter
  2. Sign Employee Agreement (confidentiality, assignment of invention)
  3. Get email account on @familylink.com
  4. Join Yammer: add personal contact info, including cell phone. Review all employee profiles on Yammer.
  5. Connect with all colleagues on Google Talk
  6. Define key metric, goal, and reporting tool
  7. Identify hardware and software and equipment needs with our purchasing manager
  8. Review mobile phone policy (who needs iPhone, blackberry, etc.?) and our expectations (increased productivity and use of our company applications)
  9. Complete paperwork to enroll in benefits
  10. Orientation about company-wide stats emails and confidentiality
  11. Provide access to customer surveys — training on why it is important (hint: we listen to our customers)
  12. Uservoice orientation (we use this for each of our sites/apps so customers can vote on what we should do next)
  13. Set up LinkedIn account–connect with other employees
  14. Connect on Facebook with colleagues
  15. Sign up for FamilyLink.com — become an active user of the FamilyStream
  16. Sign up for Google Reader, and follow other employee bloggers, as well as top industry blogs
  17. 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.

6 Comments

  1. Seems like a pretty comprehensive list to me. I wanted to pass on this link which talks about the importance of hiring slowly. As I read it just now, it struck me as being relevant to your current business situation. 🙂

    I don’t know what a solution would be if you had explosive growth and couldn’t really hire slowly, effectively. Maybe having regular social outings to break the ice, build relationships, etc.? Then again, I find that I get to know my co-workers better during an intense project we collaborate on, than I do from a lunch we jointly attend…

  2. Ah, on-boarding. You either have it going for you or you don’t. What has been interesting for me is to have worked for a small (50-150) company which struggled with incorporating new employees, thus experiencing very high turnover and to now work for a larger (3000) company which often celebrates 10 to 20 year anniversaries of their employees (wow, what a run-on). I should warn you, this will be long, but specific. Specifics are important when it comes to this, I think.

    At first I was hesitant to work with a larger company, but ARINC has proved me wrong. It is a large, international company with a small-business, family feel. What helps is a strong company culture. On the first day, you spend it going around the office being introduced – everyone is very open and friendly and make easy conversation (southern charm in Maryland is alive and well). What made the biggest impression was one the VPs. After a few weeks, he made a point to come by and ask if I was still excited about work and proceeded to talk very sincerely about how he felt how what we do is very important. I have run into him since then, where he calls me by name and says how he noticed me running after work one day and it was inspiring him to start up again. I also know his background – a retired Army General. Basically, having someone so “high up” in the company, not to mention well respected by many in the military world, know me makes me feel great. Not only does the VP do this, but most of my co-workers. The little things like everyone saying “good morning” sincerely and chatting about their dogs or daughter’s upcoming wedding create those initial relationships that are crucial to on-boarding. What is more, is that it doesn’t feel like they have to – it doesn’t feel like a policy or procedure. It is natural.

    Hiring the right employees initially will foster the company culture, and the right employees will stick around. The problem with the smaller company was no culture. The managers did not associate well with ALL employees – they picked a few favorites thus ostracizing the rest. Culture trickles down. Sometimes the company would hire people under qualified which would turn off some of the staff. Consistency was also a struggle. While improvement is great, various integration policies would come and go. Follow-up/through was also a struggle. You bring somebody on with many high hopes of how you presented the job and the company in recruiting/hiring/training and then they just get let down. Not ideal for integrating someone.

    Hopefully this hasn’t felt like rambling. I think more focus should go on to on-boarding, especially in the sense of how it connects to culture, and what it takes to build culture. I’m interested to see your take on that.

    Hope all is well! Congrats on the growth!

  3. Ryan

    I’ve always been impressed with employers who have a clear vision and purpose for the incoming employee. There is nothing more frustrating than getting hired on and sitting at your desk wondering why you’re not doing what they said you’d be doing when they hired you. Personally, I’d find it easiest to integrate into a new job if I had an immediate task I could do that required just enough interaction with other people to get my feet wet and running from the start.

  4. Great list, Paul. Thanks again for passing this along. I have added this to my Evernote and will keep it close. We are planning to start our growth at the end of the year and this will come in handy. As a very small business, I have made the mistake of overlooking important items, and have sometimes failed altogether in getting new employees situated with the proper communications tools and protocols. Often times we are running around like crazy chickens and don’t stop to set things right and optimize; having a list like this (that considers communications and empowerment) will be of great benefit moving forward. I appreciate your effort in sharing this, and thank you again for the help.

  5. Nathan

    The checklist is a good start. However, you should really get serious about getting somebody to head up your HR department… not just to do the administrative HR stuff, but you really need somebody that is actively working as your business partner to fully engage your employees.

    Hiring managers certainly have a role in helping new employees adjust and acclimate, but where the difference in great companies is really made is an HR manager that is a strategic business partner, rather than merely a benefits administrator.

  6. […] Paul Allen: New Employee Checklist – “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.“ […]

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