Let me paint a picture: You recently hired someone who interviewed really well. They seemed incredibly competent, thoughtful and interested throughout the process. Any assessments you had them complete showed promising results. But now, a month or two in, things are not going well.

You’ve trained them on what you thought was a simple task, but they keep getting it wrong. You delegated a project to them, and a week later you realized they’ve spent way too much time on it and still haven’t completed what you asked them to do. Maybe their lack of punctuality has been problematic, or they signed the company up for a new software program you didn’t authorize. You’re frustrated and at a loss. Where did things go wrong? Are you the problem in this situation, or are they?

You’re not alone – trust me, I coach on this challenge often.

Let’s talk about what to do if you find yourself in this situation. (Or if you’re ahead of things, you can use these tips from the beginning to increase your chances of new hire success.)

So, is it you or is it them? Let’s start with the three things that are firmly on you as a manager:

  1. Clarity of communication, expectations, direction and company values.
  2. Providing the tools and resources they need to do the job.
  3. Providing the thorough training they need to do the job.

 

And if I were to add a fourth, it would be having reasonable expectations for this new employee at the beginning. Just because a task is easy for you doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone! Start with simple, straightforward responsibilities and build from there. (I love finding helpful functions like Index/Match in Excel, but I have to remind myself that Excel functions aren’t easily picked up by everyone.)

If something isn’t working out with a new hire, the caring and kind thing to do is to be honest and direct with the person so we can fix the problem – not let it fester and hope it gets better (which it probably won’t). Often, it’s clear that there’s a breakdown, but you’re not sure where exactly the problem is. It’s time to zoom in and get granular for a bit to diagnose the issue.

Clarity of Communication, Expectations, Direction and Company Values

Let’s start with clarity. Based on the coaching I’ve done with advisors over the years, here’s a list of things you may not been clear on:

  • The job duties and success measures for each responsibility
  • How their job connects back to the company’s purpose and your clients’ success
  • What your expectations are for the things you assume “everyone” knows: punctuality and work hours, communication when someone isn’t able to be at the office, dress code, appropriate interactions/topics with you and other team members, how to answer the phone, working remotely, etc.
  • What your company values look like when they’re demonstrated in the employee’s role
  • How long various tasks should take to complete
  • What tasks are high priority and how you want employees spending their time
  • What mistakes can be fixed easily, and which ones can’t (or are really expensive to fix)
  • When you want them to follow the existing process exactly and when they can look for new ways of doing it
  • What they can and can’t say to clients, friends and family given their role and licensing status
  • How/when to realize something has gone off track and they need to check back in with you
  • What they should do when they’re not sure how to move forward on a task or project
  • What they should do when they have an idea for something new or an improvement
  • What communication avenues/styles you prefer
  • What authority they have to spend money, sign up for subscriptions, make changes in the business, etc.
  • How to approach you if they aren’t clear about what is expected of them, how to accurately complete a task or how to determine if they need more training
  • What it looks like for someone to really be knocking it out of the park in the role

Provide the Tools and Resources They Need

There are often things in the tools and resources needed area that are easily overlooked:

  • Do they have the right access level and permissions to do what you’re asking them to do in various software programs or shared drives?
  • Have you given them delegate access at various custodians and product sponsors?
  • Do they have the hardware to be efficient? Laptop? Dual monitors? Better mouse and keyboard?
  • Have you connected them with other people in your firm (or vendors/partners) who can be resources for them if they have questions?
  • Have you shared with them a list of key contacts at various vendors and partners?
  • Do they have the latest hardware and software needed to be successful? (Don’t be cheap here!)
  • Do they know how to order basic office supplies like notepads, pens and sticky notes?

Provide the Necessary Training

Third, think about training. Based on what you’ve observed of their skill set, what training is available that might be beneficial to them? 

Some beneficial trainings might include: 

  • Broker/dealer or custodian online courses or in-person training programs
  • CRM and other tech online courses or in-person training programs
  • Online courses on general business tools and concepts through things like LinkedIn Learning
  • General industry or customer service training – books, industry terminology, podcasts, articles, blogs, etc.
  • Industry licensing and certification programs like Series 7/65/66, the Securities Industry Essentials exam, Registered Paraplanner or other programs
  • Carson Coaching Online courses and resources

Schedule a Reset Meeting

Now that you’ve identified some areas where you may have not been as clear as you could have been, the additional tools and resources they need and potential training options, it’s time for a RESET meeting! Now, remember, nothing is scarier to a new employee than hearing, “We need to talk.” So let’s do this with some kindness – be clear about what the meeting is about (and what it’s not) when you request it.

“Hey Jim, I want to sit down and have a reset meeting with you – don’t worry, you’re not getting fired – I want us to talk through what you need from me to help you be successful in this role.”

In the meeting, set up the topic with something like, “Thanks for sitting down and talking with me. I know you’re a very capable person, and things aren’t going as well as I’d like for you in this role, so there’s obviously a breakdown somewhere and I want to figure out what we need to fix.”

Start by sharing what you’ve observed that is problematic. This shouldn’t be an interpretation, but a direct observation: “Jim, here’s a couple of examples of what I’m seeing that I’d like for us to work on: The last two review meetings you’ve completed prep for have had the wrong account values in them, and the RMD project I asked you to complete should have only taken about two hours, and it took you much longer than that. It’s my job to give you the clarity, tools and resources, and training for you to be successful, so I’d like to get granular and more structured for a bit until we’re operating smoothly.”

Start with clarity. What are the things you realize you haven’t been clear on? Share those things. Then ask, “What other things do you need more clarity about?”

Next, move on to tools and resources. Share what you found in reflecting – maybe they didn’t have permissions they needed in the CRM, for example. Then ask, “What tools or resources do you feel like you’re missing to do the job well?”

Then, it’s time for training. Share first the training you’ve identified that would be helpful for them. Then ask, “What other training do you feel would be helpful for you to be successful in this role? It can be formal or informal.”

Finally, let them know what measures you’d like to put in place temporarily until you identify where the breakdown is. This is going to depend on what the issues are, but here are some examples of things you may need to put in place:

  1. Have them write down the process as you train them, then type it in a process template and send back to you to review. This helps both solidify the process in their mind AND point out steps that you may have missed in the training process.
  2. Have them follow the documented process exactly for a period of time. Yes, you want them to bring new ideas and improve processes, but let’s make sure that they “get” what needs to happen first.
  3. Implement daily meetings to check in, hear what they’re working on and see where they need help, advice or a decision.
  4. Give an expected completion time for each task when you delegate, and tell them that if it’s taking longer than that, they need to stop and come check in with you – there’s a good chance something’s wrong at that point.
  5. Share with them your weaknesses in the training role – then encourage them to stop you, speak up and ask questions if something isn’t making sense. For example, when I get really good at a task, my brain tends to “combine” two steps and I’ll miss a step when training a new hire. I share this in advance and tell them if it seems like I missed a step, I probably did. Ask them what they need to feel comfortable in speaking up.
  6. When delegating a new task that doesn’t have a clear documented process that you’re training them on, describe the task, timeframe and “what done looks like.” Then ask them to do two things: summarize what they heard, and share their thinking about how they will approach the task.

 

What If It Doesn’t Get Better?

If you’ve done that and it’s still not better, ask yourself one more time (and review with your coach!):

  1. Have I clearly outlined my expectations?
  2. Have I provided the tools and resources needed to do the job well?
  3. Have I provided every training opportunity to be successful in this role?

 

If you can honestly say “yes” to the above questions, then there’s a good chance you have (to use the words of author Jim Collins) either the wrong person on the bus, or the right person in the wrong seat.

If you have the right person in the wrong seat, you can make adjustments on the org chart as needed. If it’s the wrong person on the bus, it’s time to sit down with the employee again and create a documented performance improvement plan.

AUTHOR

Sarah M. Cain

Vice President, Coaching & Consulting
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