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Welcome Aboard

A friend told me a story recently which caused me to reflect on this. Her husband is a tax expert and recently joined one of the top accounting firms in the country. His field is very specialised and so he was used to working in a team of 1. Several weeks into his employment with his new firm he produced what for him was pretty standard advice for a client and sent it out. A short while afterwards the Office Managing Partner called him in to ask him why he had sent this out without it going through the proper channels – they had a whole department handling this with a supervisory structure and process. The upshot of the conversation was that my friend’s husband was blissfully unaware of this – he had received NO induction to the new firm!

Fortunately in this situation no harm was done, as he is highly competent. However, it just flags up the importance to the business to have a proper induction process. Why is an induction process important. Here are some reasons:

Regulatory– you may be required to do this by your regulators. This is built on good business practice.

Risk Management– you reduce the risk of errors being made by the new employee in innocent ignorance. You Professional Indemnity Insurers will be keen that you do whatever you can to reduce the risk of error and claims. One of the things for them to check when a member of staff causes a claim of their training and supervision – which starts with their entry into the business – which will lay the foundations of everything thereafter.

Protecting your investment– your new member of staff is an expensive investment. Often they are working a probation period, which protects them as well as you. How you treat them colours how they perceive you and how their attitude will be to your firm. They will also talk to contacts outside of your organisation who will be asking ‘how’s it going?’. You would much rather your new recruit is singing your praises. Attracting new talent is hard. You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot.

Maximising Profit– you will want them to get up to speed ASAP. So, give them all the tools to do so. It’s an investment, but you will want to ensure that they are productive as soon as you can.

Damage Limitation & Exit– it may seem strange to write this form the outset, but, if there is to be a problem with this recruitment then you want to spot this as soon as possible and ensure that they have no excuse which might slow down the exit process.

I ran a team of 60 when I was in private practice. Amongst many other things, I was in charge of hiring and firing staff. Here is a suggestion of              the sort of things to include or consider when bringing in a new member of staff.

a)    Ensure they have ready and available when they start all equipment they need for their job (computer, email address, desk/station, stationary). I have been staggered to see in some of the businesses I visit and from stories from friends of people waiting days, even weeks for the basics for them to be able to start their work! How demoralising is that. And what a waste of the company’s money.

b)    Tell people the new member of staff is arriving and when and why – so they are expected. Don’t forget Reception – so the welcome starts at the door!

c)    Job description – essential – they should have this from the start so there is clarity as to what is expected of them – on their side and on the employer’s side. Talk it through with them and make notes of any discussion which you then send to them for agreement.

d)    Give them an organisational Chart and talk it through with them so they understand where they fit in, how the reporting lines work and who is responsible for what.

e)    Talk through processes for admin things such as Risk Management, Policies, Holidays, Breaks, Hours variations, Health & Safety, CPD, Lunch, any Bonus Scheme etc. Give them a copy (electronically please) of the Manual and ask them to read it. Boring but essential.

f)      Talk through Processes for doing their job.

g)    Talk through targets.

h)    Monthly 1-2-1 Meetings and Appraisals – talk through the process (hoping you have one).

i)      Probation Period – ensure that there is a clear understanding on all sides as to what is expected for this to be successful.

j)      Mentoring/Buddy System – this will speed up learning, an approachable person at their level they may go to for questions. The buddy can also be your eyes & ears for any early warnings.

k)    Ergonomic Assessment – don’t forget your obligations under the Display Screen Regulations – part of the Health & Safety Regulations 1992 (amended 2002). Ensure your new employee’s desk & equipment is set up correctly to their shape & size. Often overlooked, even by the largest blue chip companies.

I’m sure I have missed out ideas. Please feel free to add your suggestions.

Ingemar Hunnings runs a consultancy helping Law Firms run themselves better as businesses. Previously he practiced as a solicitor for 24 years, as an equity partner for 14 years and running a department of 60 staff. Since setting up his consultancy he has worked with over 250 businesses.

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