Developing Writers, Part 1 of 3: On-Boarding Tips

So after an exhaustive two-month search you’ve filled your staff vacancy. Your new writer stands before you, wide-eyed and ready to get to work.

 So, what’s your on-boarding plan?

 If you have a successful orientation and training program, here’s a gold star; well played.

 If you lack a plan, or use the old “throw ‘em in the deep water and yell SWIM”, maybe you want to try something else.

 I offer these ideas that work for me.

1.  Provide a warm welcome — Day One sets the tone for your new hire’s tenure, so you want to make a first-class impression. Be sure their work-space is clean and neat and their security credentials are ready for them. Take them on a meet-and-greet around the office. Introduce them to your team, your boss and your internal clients. Show them the important spaces (bathroom, lunch room, and cafeteria). Plan out Day One. Whether you give them writing or proofreading to do, or begin training, keep them busy; do not let them just sit there. I like to have a team lunch in the first week or two after the on-boarding paperwork has been done and the newbie has a chance to settle. Lunch is a relaxed way to connect on a personal level.

2.  Set expectations — Explain your rookie’s role within your work group, your department as a whole, and their contribution to the company’s goals. Understanding their role in context helps people to get comfortable. Make clear what is expected in terms of learning and performance. If your team does formal goal-setting, do so up front.

3.  Make training relevant — Train your new writer on what he or she needs to know when they need to know it. If this means scaling down a program to a specific list of tasks that they’ll perform off the bat, do so. Training without immediate practical implementation is a waste of time. You can always supplement training later. Too often I’ve seen the glassy-eyed stares of people who were mesmerized by an overload of lessons they’d seldom, if ever use.

4.  Involve your team — I assign pieces of our training to my team members so that everybody has a stake in the new person’s success. You learn who your true team players are.

5.  Keep tabs but don’t hover — Once trained, give your rookie room to perform. Inspect their work regularly but allow them to figure out some things on their own. Find out if they need to be spoon fed or are resourceful. Schedule sit-down time. Resist the urge to circle overhead like a vulture.

6.  Challenge them — Where assignments are concerned, I’m a risk-taker who trusts my gut instincts. I don’t believe a writer needs to “pay dues” by sticking to entry-level tasks for a predetermined period of time. When I see that spark that tells me a person is ready for more responsibility, I make every effort to give it to them, even if they might think they aren’t ready. I believe most people, given a chance, will rise to the occasion.

7.  Remember everyone if different — In time you’ll know whether you have a rising star on your hands, a dependable worker bee or someone who won’t cut it. Go from there.

 Make a checklist of the above steps, and add it to the writer’s personnel file upon completion. Keep your program updated for process or administrative changes. Do this and you’ll have an easy, well-planned orientation plan for your next new hire.

 In our next blog, we’ll discuss the role of mentoring,

 Dan Skantar is Director of Content Services for JP Enterprises. He devised his training plan at a previous job after he asked himself: What DIDN’T they tell me on Day One?

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