How to Balance Training a New Hire and Doing Your Own Job (Without Freaking Out)
Originally published on TheMuse.com
You’re feeling accomplished—your amazing new hire has just started and they’re ready to be trained. You did a stellar job welcoming them, and your team is fully staffed for the first time in forever. Phew!
Now begins the hard work of managing your fresh new talent while making sure that your own work also takes priority.
Research shows that almost 30% of new hires have left a job within the first 90 days of employment. It’s a daunting statistic, but one that every manager should be aware of. After all, you don’t want to spend all that time and energy bringing on a new employee only for them to jump ship a month later.
What’s important during this pivotal time is to create a supportive environment where your new hire thrives and continues to feel motivated and happy on the job.
But how do you do that while keeping up with your own daily workload? Being both an individual contributor and a people manager is tough to balance, but it can be done!
I would know—I did it at an incredibly fast-paced company with a team that was both hyper motivated and brand new to the working world. During this time, I learned a lot about what not to do from the late nights I spent at the beginning of my time as a manager, and I’m excited to share five game-changing tips that will keep you calm and your new employees cared for, while saving you from any late nights of your own.
1. Get Your Priorities Straight
The first and most important task: Take a good, hard look at your workload. It’s hard to strike a balance if the scale can’t handle the weight. Remember: A new employee means one more responsibility you have to add to your list, so chances are something else has to go.
How are you spending your time? What are the most important things you’re working on, and what’s less important? What’s taking up a lot of your time, and what do you wish you could spend more time on? If it’s truly too much work for one person (a.k.a., you) to accomplish within a normal work week, perhaps it’s time to reconfigure or deprioritize a few things.
For example, if you realize that you’ve been spending two hours each day fielding basic questions from lower-level staff on your team, it may be time to create an FAQ they can refer to or plan for another layer of management.
Once you have a clear picture of what’s a priority, take your findings and your possible solutions (these are super important!) to your boss. By changing the team’s structure, hiring more people, resetting goals, moving deadlines, or training up existing employees to take on different responsibilities, you may be able to mitigate yours and others’ stress.
2. Utilize Your Calendar
Make your calendar your new best friend! Use it to outline what projects you work on when, when you have one-on-ones with your team members, and when you’re doing heads-down work and can’t be interrupted. This way, you’ll protect your time, hold yourself accountable, and make sure you’re spending your time wisely.
Scheduling work into your calendar will also give you a best-case-scenario workday to shoot for, as well as an important visual that will point to problems like overlapping meetings or no flexible time in your day.
And do your best to pencil in your lunches and breaks so you give yourself time to rest and recharge.
Finally, you know you’ll be more pressed for time than usual while managing a new hire, so give yourself a head start by scheduling your week before it happens, and allowing for flexibility—knowing that your plan will definitely have to shift and change depending on the circumstance.
3. Check in Often in the Beginning, Then Taper Your Meetings Down
You’ll want to schedule check-ins with your new hire at least several times (if not every day) for their first week, then taper off to once a week or once every two weeks when it feels appropriate.
Having these set one-on-one meetings is a great way to give your new hire room to talk through trials and triumphs, set long-term goals, ask questions, and give and get feedback in a private setting. It also condenses the face time they may need from you into one sitting, rather than the less appealing option of being interrupted every five seconds.
Dedicating time to your new employee and protecting your own time are equally important, so try to cut these meetings down as early as possible and rely on your other resources (such as this self-onboarding document) to carry them through. You can always add another check-in if needed!
4. Lean on and Delegate to Your Team
Remember that you’re not a team of one—you most likely manage an entire group of fully-trained employees, so draw on their collective expertise.
If you already have a team lead who can run point on all initial inquiries from your new hire, ask them to do so. If you don’t, it’s time to give someone an opportunity to step into a leadership role. Pick someone (or several people) who’s more tenured and has expressed interest in learning how to manage, and allow them to show your new hire the ropes, train them on a specific project or program, or even just take them to coffee to answer their questions about the company.
This is a great move not only because it gives you time back in your day, but it also shows your team that you trust in their abilities. It doesn’t mean you have to be 100% hands-off—you’ll still be involved in their training and be their direct boss—but letting your other employees carry some of the responsibility can boost morale and show that you’re invested in their professional development. It’s a win-win!
5. Have an Open Door Policy, But Set Boundaries
As a manager, it was very important to my leadership style that every employee who worked for me felt completely comfortable approaching me with questions, big or small. That said, it was equally important that I set boundaries so that I could actually get my work done without constantly being interrupted.
Communicating your needs and setting expectations is a big part of this. If, for example, you’d rather receive a Slack or email if something’s not urgent, set those boundaries on day one. This is why using your calendar is also so helpful—your employee can easily check it to see when the best times are to reach out or stop by your desk.
Of course, it may be hard for a new person to determine what qualifies as “urgent,” or you might work in close quarters where Slacking someone who sits right next to you is, well, awkward. So I relied a lot on a simple in-person check-in that allowed me to finish the task at hand and also be a supportive manager.
For example, I might say in response, “I’m happy to help, but is this urgent? If not, I’ll come find you in five minutes to discuss further as soon as I finish X.” The important part is that you follow through on these promises—don’t let five minutes turn into two hours while your employee sits twiddling their thumbs wondering why you forgot about them.
Adding a new employee to your already full plate can feel overwhelming, but like anything, finding your management groove is a learning process. By assessing your priorities, using your time well, creating space and boundaries for communication, and trusting your team to help out, you’ll be setting yourself up for success. And when success means you’ll ultimately be able to get out of the office and spend more time enjoying other parts of your life, it’s worth the extra effort.