Expanding the Team: Orientation and “Fit”

Fit is Everything

A few months ago, my wife and business partner, Jocelyn, and I knew we needed to expand our team in the upcoming year. Our top priority was finding the right “fit,” especially since ours is a lifestyle business with periods of frequent travel and a blurred line between work and play. Orientation doesn’t happen in a moment. When we bring in a new team member, it’s for the long haul, so we took the time to get it right.

Work with a Professional

I contacted an expert to help me find the best potential candidate, and she did all of the pre-screening for us. Each time we talked to her, we stressed that the most important thing to us is the right fit. As a professional, she knew all of the questions to ask and facilitated us meeting several top contenders.

Don’t Settle for “Good Enough”

Work brought me out to the West Coast, where I sat for the first time with Lulu. I’m not superstitious, and I don’t put a lot of stock in my gut. (I eat a lot of hot peppers; my gut is easily deceived.) But after just a couple of hours during our first meeting and a short follow-up visit, I knew our team would not be complete without Lulu. She was perfect for our team!

Be Willing to Pay for Quality

Not surprisingly, she didn’t come cheap. She required a hefty signing bonus as well as relocation expenses to cover her move from Oregon to North Carolina.

Orientation Doesn’t End with “Hello”

We met Lulu’s plane at the airport with a sign: WELCOME LULU! Once we grabbed all of her things, we got her to our car and drove her back to our home office. I could tell she was a bit nervous, jetlagged, and out-of-sorts, which I expected. To put Lulu at ease, I asked Jocelyn if she would mind sleeping in the guest bedroom so I could help Lulu get more comfortable.

I couldn’t ask for a better wife. Without hesitation, she kissed me and then Lulu and joked as she left the room, “You two better not keep me up all night!” She winked at me as she closed the bedroom door and shut off the light.

Wouldn’t it be great if companies spent as much time engaging new hires as we do when we bring home a new puppy?

For several days, my wife slept in the back room so Lulu could sleep in a kennel next to me in bed. Then I spent a few more days sleeping on the floor while we moved the kennel out of our bedroom and into the family room.

“Keep her at eye level,” the breeder told me. “That way if she whimpers in the night, you can reassure her and put your hand out to her.”

Lead as a Servant

We didn’t sleep much the first couple of weeks. Lulu was nervous, and it broke our hearts to hear her whimper. We had to orient her to the house, new faces/names, and routines: where she eats, sleeps, plays, etc. And of course, we had to introduce her to the women’s room, which is just beyond the big Maple tree in the backyard.

But let’s be honest: puppy training is really people training. Lulu entered our home wanting to please us, craving to do the right things to make us happy. But the real work was ours: we had to help her feel safe, express excitement at every bit of progress she showed us, teach her the ropes, make learning fun, and keep our cool even when an antique (and heirloom) rug got mistaken for a chew toy.

Success of your new-employee orientation program is not so much about the quality or intelligence of your new hire; rather, it’s about you acting as a servant-guide throughout the learning-curve.

What new-employee orientation practice do you offer that makes your employees wag their tales throughout the entire employment life-cycle?

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