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September 26, 2023

9 Signs of Bad Onboarding – Do You Have These As A Small Business Owner?

Hey there folks, Michael Veazey from Amazing FBA here. Today, I want to talk about how not to do onboarding of new staff. There are multiple signs of bad onboarding. If you see these, you may want to rethink your onboarding process.

I think this is something that applies across the board. I was, back in the day, a visiting music teacher, teaching people, piano, Guess what you’re often not well integrated into the system.

And the reason I think this is very relevant for people running an e-commerce system is if you’ve got people who were working for you part-time , particularly when you’re moving out of being a solopreneur and getting your first team members, it’s very, very easy to fall into these traps.

So this is a kind of don’t do list. And obviously what you need to do is pretty much the opposite of this.

So let’s get started.

Sign 1: No Training

The first of our signs of bad onboardingĀ  is a lack of training, low priority of training or poor quality training.

We’ll start with the assumption and indeed the reality that somebody comes along with a preexisting skillset, just as you might hire somebody for an Amazon business that has a preexisting experience in PPC management or ads management, for example.

But a lot of us fall into the trap that we don’t offer any training and in music service world, they, there are a lot of laws around child protection and rightly so. But a lot of the services out there that I’ve worked for only require the training that is based on the law.

They outsource it to somebody. They don’t pay for the training. They don’t deliver it in any personal way. It’s assessed only online. And they expect you to do those hours for free.

That is not a good way, in my opinion, to make anyone take that training seriously, to make sure that the quality is good.

An online test is some kind of quality assurance, but if it’s really fundamental to the job, then I think that is pretty poor show.

And it’s very easy to do that in an online context as well. I’ve certainly taken people on assuming that they know what they’re doing based on their CV or their resume. But without offering any extra updating training, for example, if they doing Amazon PPC, that changes a lot pretty frequently.

So that is a major no-no in my book. Just having an impersonal training mechanism, that’s fine for really, really low level work, maybe because it’s scalable, but for anyone serious, especially if they’re customer facing or client facing or if they work in the Amazon world, if they’re going to be dealing with customer service, that is very unwise.

Untrained people are going to create a lot of problems for you. Having no training in your onboarding process is almost guaranteeing poor performance. Or at least poorer than it could have been with the same people. And the same recruiting effort!

Or under-trained people. If you don’t take training seriously, when you bring people on board, you are sending a very powerful signal that you don’t take the person you are taking on board seriously, and, or you don’t take their job seriously. That is obviously a very poor idea.

Sign 2: No or Unclear Policies

Okay, let’s move on to policies. Another of our signs of bad onboarding is around policies. When you start your own business or you’re growing from solopreneur to getting staff on board, you’ll be amazed at the number of policies that you should have.

Now that may sound like the sort of corporate world nonsense that you’ve got away from by creating your own job. But there’s a reason why people have policies.

I’m not suggesting you create a overly complex culture for yourself and your one virtual assistant or your two or three members of staff.

But there are going to be many, many places where you’ll need to clarify what the policies are.

Here’s another example from e-commerce consulting. I have recently started to onboard clients who will learn not with me personally, but with some of my best clients who are experts in wholesale sourcing and selling on Amazon, which is not a business model I’ve ever run.

So it’s great that I’ve got people that I know like and trust to do that. But one of the things that’s become very clear is that you need to define everything much more precisely than you could possibly imagine until you get some other people involved.

How an Unclear Policy Threatened My Wallet and Client Happiness

For example, recently we were just defining what the basic unit of measurement was for how we were going to charge. In the coach’s mind, they were going to charge by the hour. And in the client’s mind, and in my mind, I thought they were going to charge by the session.

Now, what that meant is that some sessions ended up being more than an hour, which I thought they were supposed to be capped at. And then of course, I got a bill from the coach for more than an hour.

But the client was left, feeling a bit underwhelmed because they’d had less than what they expected, because they’re expecting a number of sessions rather than a set of minutes.

And we’ve cleaned that up and I’ve got a policy now. And hopefully the communication’s better, but that’s a tiny example of one of the many, many things that goes wrong.

Refund Policies are Critical in All Business!

The other thing is refund policies, for example.

Now, if you are selling on Amazon, particularly through your own website, you will have had to come up with refund policies, and been very clear to your end consumers about that probably. But what you may not have done is documented that well enough so that your staff who are coming on board understand that.

One of the classic hires for a new e-commerce entrepreneur is indeed a customer service representative. And if you are sending people out there without clear policies to communicate with what are quite often going to be quite annoyed or angry customers, particularly around things like refunds or returns you’re really asking to damage your reputation. If you sell an Amazon, potentially you get a one-star review – which has a giant impact on conversions (and your profits).

So this is an example of where a vague policy is really risky. So having a clear policy for what happens when common problems turn up really important. It’s a classica sign of bad onboarding. Whenever I’ve worked for someone new and they’ve had no policy for a common situation, then immediately alarm bells have rung for me. Your team deserves better.

Policies for Staffing Issues

When common staff issues turn up also important. What do you do if somebody is not able to work for you? Particularly if it’s a virtual team you’re going to have different issues, but you know, they aren’t able to turn up at work as in, put in eight hours or six hours or two hours, whatever you’ve agreed what happens,? What counts as sick? How many days in a row is sick? Do you require a doctor’s note of some kind? If you’re working in person, how does that work?

I’m not an HR professional, but you can find standard solutions out there and talk to your friends. If you’re in a mastermind, if you’re not, you know, and if you’re in a community, if you have a coach go and get some input on this stuff. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. But you do need to have a clear policies.

You want the simplest set of policies you can get away with and the simplest writing of individual policies you can get away with. But the reality is it’s going to be a lot more than you might think, if you’ve not done this before.

Sign 3: Information in advance of First Day

Okay, let’s move on to third of our signs of bad onboarding . This is a mistake I’ve seen even before the first day at work. What should you not do? Well, if you’re working in a physical location as a music teacher, in one job I had for a short time, I was moving between 13 locations a week. So don’t give any geographical information. Don’t give the names of the contacts that you’ll be talking to. Don’t tell the contacts that you’ve got a new person starting.

And don’t tell key clients about it either way. Just basically don’t give anyone a chance to, to start off in a good way.

sounds ridiculous, but that is what I’ve experienced. And a lot of e-commerce businesses can make the same mistake as well. Because I’ve experienced these terrible onboarding things in the past myself, I would have hoped that I’d be better as a e-commerce operator when I started hiring people, myself.

The truth is that it’s easy to fall into this and I probably have done all of this stuff.

Online Information in Advance

The equivalent for an online based business is: where are you going to log on? Do they have the log on details? Talking of log on details, do you have a shareable document? Do you have a login to a password system? Like last pass. How does that work? How do we get access to the essential systems that we need to log into?

Have you told your suppliers in China that some guy in the Philippines you’ve just hired is going to be in charge of liaising about purchase orders or whatever it may be. Have you just hired a product designer or technically an industrial designer who’s going to be liaising with your Chinese factory? If so, have you told both parties that it’s happening? Have you given each other contact details for each other? Have you explained why it’s happening?

All of that kind of stuff. If you’re running a physical office, really basic stuff. Like, which door to go to, or which buzzer button to press or things like that are easily missed out.

Why Advance Info Matters

But it’s really a terrible idea for a couple of reasons. First of all, you want your new hire to hit the ground running and be productive from a financial and practical point of view, right? So that is a good reason to get it right the first time.

But also, you are as much on trial as the new employee or staff member, whether they’re engaged or in-person, or at a distance of several thousand miles, doesn’t make that much difference.

I would argue it’s even easier to screw this up virtually because you don’t see them.

But you are on trial as a company and as a manager yourself. And so if you don’t take care of this stuff, you’re just giving this signal again, that you don’t care. You also give them the signal that you’re unstructured and disorganized, none of which is going to be good for keeping hold of staff.

And if you’ve hired somebody bad, then you’re going to have to deal with being a better at hiring and I’m not addressing that in today’s podcast because that’s a whole different topic. But if you have hired somebody worth having, then your onboarding being this bad is not going to give them a signal that they should stick around. And capable people tend to have options.

Sign 4: Crappy First Day at Work

So let’s move on to the next screw up from our signs of bad onboarding : I’ve seen the first day at work. Again, I’ve seen music services, sort of the, the best at screwing this up, but I’ve seen this in e-commerce I’ve done it myself. Don’t give people a schedule, you know, if you want them to work particular clients at particular times, don’t tell them what that is just give them a bad list on the day.

Don’t give them a map of the facility. Don’t show them where documentation is or equipment that they need.

It sounds crazy, but a basic orientation takes a little bit of time and effort, but not very much. And it gets over that fear that we all have. Have you been a new kid at school back in the day when you were a child or you’ve been a new person as an employee? There’s a kind of fear that you’re going to be found out to be bad or that your boss won’t like you, or think you’re an idiot. Or that you made a bad choice and that you’re working for a terrible company.

You really, Get some basic orientation in place just to make sure that they feel like there’s basic competencies there and that you’re acknowledging their existence. Never mind welcoming them.

Online First Day Onboarding

The online versions of this are pretty straightforward. Again, you need to talk about: where do you find documents? Is it in a Google drive? Is there a Slack channel that they’re a member of? Which slack channels should they be members of? What systems online should they have access to?

Is there a documentation system for that, for example, we use air table. To document a lot of stuff. And we put a lot of passwords on that, frankly, that might not be so secure; for a small company it does the job. Et cetera.

Then- really important if they’re working directly with clients, whether that be customer service for Amazon; or working with business to business clients in a different e-commerce context; or back in the day, as I was, working with children, is that kind of clients- if you tell them that particular clients have a particular needs, and you’ve give them a heads up of what those are and what particular problems they’ve been in the past and solutions -then you’re setting them up for success.

If you send them into a client, who’s got a particular issue- then sending them in without that information is really setting them up for failure and setting up to damage your business. Maybe the client tends to pay late; or they are very fussy about certain product qualities; or maybe you’ve got a product that tends to produce issues.

You need to know about it.

Because now you’re messing, not just internally with your relationship as a business manager with your new staff member, but you’re messing with your business’s interaction with clients, whether that be product, business, or service, kind of doesn’t matter. You are setting them up for failure.

Sign 5: Not introducing new hires to managers

Another key sign of bad onboarding is if you got more than one or two people working for you, don’t set them up with a line manager or somebody who’s in charge.

Don’t say in your first day, "You’ll need to check in with Mary on a slack channel" or email Mary, or if you’re dealing with a physical school ," Go and see so, and so. "

And if they’re going into a client organization on your behalf then make sure that they don’t have any real contact points as well. So they have to randomly email or physically go and bother random people that they see around until they get an answer.

That’s embarrassing for everyone. It makes the new hire feel silly or feel scared.

And in certain cultures, like in the Philippines, people will tend not to bother people at all, including you, if it’s just you and a part-time virtual assistant virtual meaning by the way, they work online. They’re real people. Well guess what? They may simply never tell you that there’s a problem and that they’re embarrassed and then they’re not doing stuff.

They’ll try and make it work.

That’s a classic error for those of us who work online and work, particularly if you’re based in Europe or America and work with Filipinos. There’s a big cultural difference.

So if you are not clear up front about structure, they may never flag up to you that there is a lack of structure. They’ll simply do stuff that seems a bit odd, in my experience, and we can all do that.

Sign 6: No welcome to the Team

Finally a couple of other signs of bad onboarding. When it comes to the first day at work, make sure you don’t welcome them to the team. You know, don’t have anyone in charge of it and if it’s just you, then make sure you don’t make any time for it. Don’t show them if it’s a physical location, don’t show them where the toilets are, where to make tea or coffee. What time is lunch? What do people normally do? Do they bring sandwiches?

Do they go to the local? You know, restaurant, what is it? And make sure you force them to embarrass themselves by asking people dumb questions. We’ve dealt with that before, but if you don’t give them a welcome, then. You’re inviting the opposite and the online versions of that. Make sure again, you don’t tell them where to log in for certain things. You don’t tell them what the daily routine is. You don’t tell them that you’ve got a meeting that everyone should attend on Monday morning at 8:00 AM, UK time or Eastern standard time.

So that’s a really classic one and Filipinos particularly, but everyone, wants to feel they belong to things. Filipinos are very, very into family. And if you actually ask them about their family, it’s going to go a long way to making them feel part of something they want to belong to. And that’s true for all of us really as is particularly important in, in Filipino culture. In my experience.

So there are virtual and physical versions of these, but you just basically kind of make sure you welcome people and make sure they feel cared for, or even noticed.

Sign 7: No follow-up after the first day

The finalĀ  set of onboarding mistakes is following up after the first day.

Make sure you don’t check in on them. You don’t check in how they feel or indeed contact them in any way. Never check in with the clients to see if the work’s any good. Now that only applies certain contexts if you’re doing business to business or with clients who got a service at the end of it. So that’s maybe not relevant for e-commerce, but it certainly applies in music. It applies in consulting, if that’s something you do as well.

And never take time to integrate them into social events either. I mean, if you’re running an online team, it’s harder to have social events.

So, you know, there was. Great way to screw this up is never checking on them. And obviously the opposite is easy. You just got to follow up. Check-in how they feel. Check in with the clients, if you need to.

And you can have a culture where you say to people before somebody joins you "So-and-so" is, joining us. Make sure you make them feel welcome. And if they’ve got questions, please go out of your way to help them."

And then you can monitor yourself if that’s actually happening and, you know, make sure you keep your ear to the ground with this.

Sign 8: No Communication

Okay, couple more, mistakes. Communication.

Only communicate when there is a problem, that’s a great way to screw up onboarding. By the way. I’m so guilty of that. I still do that. So try to communicate when there isn’t a problem, just to sort of see how somebody’s doing and ask them how their family is. Particularly if they’re in the Philippines.

Otherwise great ways to screw things up. Only communicate via copying everyone into a mass email or my slack messages or the group messages.

WhatsApp groups are another thing. Everyone feels like "I’ve sent a WhatsApp message to 50 people. Therefore I’ve communicated."

No, you haven’t. You’ve just bothered somebody with yet another group message. They may have muted your WhatsApp group. I certainly tend to do that. That’s not communication.

When it comes to your new staff, working with clients, make sure you don’t smooth the path by introducing them or anything like that.

The opposite is obvious. Make sure you communicate when there isn’t a problem.

Do one-to-one communications or one to very small group relevant communications and make sure you smooth the path.

Sign 9: No CPD/Continuous Professional Development

A couple more things. Continuous professional development, or CPD, is something that it can be very easy to assume should be the responsibility of the employee, or the staff member you’ll bring in. That is not a good way to create. An attractive post attractive job. Or to keep staff. This is a less dramatic one of the signs of bad onboarding. It won’t necessarily affect early experiences. But…

So if you take no responsibility for training staff in best practices; you don’t create a plan for their Development; you don’t involve them in those plans, if you have one; you don’t pay for training or the other development; and you don’t offer in-house professional development, you’ve just removed a ton of reasons why people take jobs. Because apart from the money, it’s about growing a skill set and experience. And if you’re not offering that, you will probably lose them to somebody who does.

A Better Onboarding Process

Really the opposite is to have a very conscious onboarding process, which is a subset of retention or keeping good people and keeping them happy and thus keeping your business reputation intact. And making sure that you finally can stop doing everything in your business. If you are a solopreneur or have a small team.

Now the irony of all this stuff, sounds like a lot of work to avoid these mistakes. And it is a lot of work.

Moving from Technician to Manager

Here’s the thing. You don’t really move from having to do all the work to doing no work. Particularly when you move from solopreneur to hiring somebody, you think, oh, that person should be doing their work. Now, why aren’t they doing it? I’m really annoyed. Now I have to manage this person and I have to do my own work?

Yes! That’s called transitioning from being a technician in Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth” terms- -that is doing the work yourself to being a manager. Where you have a whole new set of skills to learn. Which means getting other people to do the technical work. And it isn’t not work is just a different type of work.

This concept of passive income gets thrown around a lot. A much better way of thinking of it as Alex Hormoz is put in recently in his hundred million dollar leads book is thinking about not “passive income” but “leveraged income”.

So you’re always going to have to put time and effort into your work or business. But if you’ve got other people doing the actual labor for the, technical outcomes, the deliverables – such as doing customer service emails, such as creating graphic design, such as creating photography and all the other jobs you get in e-commerce- well guess what?

You have the potential to leverage your time and by running a group of people in a good way as a good manager then you have a good shot at making more money per hour of your time.

Building a Transferable business

And building something that is transferable.

Which is the last thing that I want to say. If you get good at onboarding, you are creating a system, and a practice and a culture in your company, that means that you will be good at hiring and keeping good people.

That means that over time, that can be documented. The business as a whole can be passed on to somebody else. And the business does not depend upon you personally, running around doing all the work, being the technician.

Because if that’s the case, I would say your business is just not transferable. And one of the things that stops businesses being sold isn’t because the numbers are bad, the financial metrics, or even the brand and reputation. It’s because if all of those things, the cashflow, and the brand and reputation, and the products, depend on you personally, as the business owner, you can’t sell the business. Because when you are removed from the business, the business falls apart.

And the solution is. To get good at finding and, in today’s focus, onboarding great people and have a system that does that.

It takes Experience to become a better manager!

So sooner or later, you’re going to have to move from being a technician to some kind of manager. You may not be the best manager – entrepreneurs often aren’t because they are very resourceful and they do lots of different things. They do tons of different jobs within their organizations. They also have a lot of energy and a lot of commitment to the cause.

That isn’t likely to be true for most people you’re going to ever hire, unless you’re hiring a real, A player, even getting a business partner on board. In which case you are going to have to get somewhat better at all these things.

The good news is that by looking at all the ways you can go wrong, such as we’ve done today with onboarding, it’s quite easy to do the opposite.

And actually, once you think through that, plus you think back about your own work experiences in corporate environments, where people screwed this up for you then you just do the opposite, and you have got a pretty clear list of what to do!

Staff will forgive imperfect management – but not caring will alienate staff

And here’s the thing. If you are willing and you acknowledge that your staff or employees or engaged people have needs, and that you are responsible for meeting them, they’ll cut you some slack for not being perfect at it, in my experience.

It’s when you ignore people or when you only communicate when there’s an issue, that’s when you’re going to lose people in my experience. Which I’ve fallen into very badly with virtual teams in the past, and sometimes still do now. You accepted, you’re paying below market rate, you’re not going to get perfect people or amazing retention. That’s okay. You can grow that over time, as you grow the resources of your company .

Getting into good habits about this stuff is a hundred percent worthwhile. It’s a master skill of business. You don’t have to be amazing at it, but if you’re good enough at this, then it enables you to realize your other great strengths such as building systems and brand, whatever it may be, operational excellence and supply chain, whatever it is you’re good at.

Good enough is good enough

You have to cut yourself some slack. When you start this stuff off as well. You may start off as a sort of D even if you work at this stuff. That’s been my experience. And if you can get up to a B a solid B Minus, as an employer. That’s good enough in many situations to still create a valuable, wonderful business.

If you really, really want to scale a very person centered business, like an agency, you’re probably going to need to be like an, A level, A plus manager or hire such people.

But the good news is if you are just operating a physical products e-commerce business, you don’t necessarily need to be amazing with people to build a really solid business. You just need to be good enough. And so hopefully by not making these terrible mistakes that we’ve experienced, you will find that you are good enough. And that you get much, much more out of your staff. That they stick around for longer. That you finally have some of that time and energy back to focus on higher level tasks that you wanted in the first place from hiring.

Thanks so much for reading.

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