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How to onboard new hires without creating land mines

A yellow sticky note with "Remember!!" written on it, pinned to a white wall

“Remember” is also an awful word. In an earlier post we discussed how “should” is a terrible word. For businesses, “remember” may be even more lethal.

Exercise: listen in on a new employee training. Every time the trainer uses the word “remember” make a note. Each item someone is asked to remember is a land mine, one that could frustrate a customer, the employee, or the trainer.

It’s one thing to remember your anniversary. But each time a person is asked to remember something, it’s usually a sign that the system they are employing has some structural weakness.

Sometimes the fix is very, very simple.

What is sounds like:

“remember not to click the continue button until you’ve put in the customer email address”

What is means:

“Our form doesn’t adequately error-check and will allow you to submit inaccurate or insufficient information”

How to fix it: don’t let the continue button be clickable until all the required fields are entered. Highlight the ones that are required and missing information.

What it sounds like:

“Remember to copy your supervisor when sending out a client notice”

What it means:

“Our solution doesn’t currently do this automatically”

How to fix it: put in an outgoing rule or filter in your mail app that notices specific phrases or terms and automatically forward the note to the supervisor. Or make a template that includes the cc by default.

What it sounds like:

“Remember to alert the customer one month before their subscription ends”

What it means:

“We don’t have a system to alert us about expirations”

How to fix it: In your “new subscription checklist” include a calendar entry for “process renewal notice”, or use another kind of reminder service like Boomerang which schedules to-do items in the future.

What it sounds like:

“Remember to check if the customer prefers PDF instead of postal mail for their invoices”

What it means:

“Our system doesn’t check this automatically, leaving you the option of frustrating the customer each time you invoice them”

How to fix it: In your invoicing system, have the process check the customer preference area. If “wants email” then don’t allow the print button to even WORK. Change the print button to say “email PDF” – if the button dynamically changes to the ONLY way the customers want to be notified, you eliminate that possible opportunity to disappoint them.

What it sounds like:

“Remember to not say the word ‘unfortunately’ in a customer service email”

What it means:

“We’re very particular about how we word things and that word is problematic, but we have no way to restrict its usage”

How to fix it:

Use the “auto-correct” feature in your text editor (Word, Pages, etc) to automatically change the word as you type it. It will magically remember it for you, so that the typist doesn’t have to be so careful with their  word selection.

Here’s the irony of how to fix this: the least experienced person in your company is the most qualified to do this. The longer someone has worked for you, the more accustomed they are to all the workarounds. So they are the least aware of them because to them it’s just “the way we do it” – but your processes may be fraught with little post-it notes that require memorization.

So ask your new hire to keep a tally of the “remembers” during their on-boarding. Take each one and systematically work out a fix so that they can focus on doing great work rather than avoiding these little procedural land mines.

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