Onboarding Winners

We’ve hired the best candidates for our tasting room and now we’re ready for high season, right? Not quite – our work is not done until we onboard them properly. This goes far beyond having the new hires shadow our best staff members. There are best practices we should to follow to make sure our newbies learn our brand and procedures, and stay excited to work for us and take care of our guests.

Imagine two guys starting out at two different wineries on the same day. They leave the house in the morning – kiss the spouse, kids and goldfish goodbye – and head off to their first day on the job. They are both very excited because they landed a job in the tasting room of their favorite winery.

The first guy – let’s call him Sam – gets to the winery on time but there is some “crisis” and his manager is too busy to meet so he gets shuffled around for a while and is finally told to shadow Carrie who is nice and competent. But Sam soon discovers that Carrie doesn’t really doesn’t like her job. There are lots of wines to learn and Sam asks lots of questions, about half are answered by “Cranky” Carrie. Sam is finally given a huge pile of paperwork of training and other admin stuff by the office manager about 3:00pm and told to go through it, sign everything that needs to be signed, and let his manager know if he has any questions. His manager pops in quickly at the end of the day and apologizes for not having time to meet with him, but promises to do so when he gets back from his market visits next week. Sam heads home.

The second guy – let’s call him Harry – has a different day. When he arrives, there are balloons on his locker in the break room and a big “Welcome Harry” sign. His manager is there to greet him, hands him business cards with his name on them, a well-organized training manual, and an agenda laying out what to expect over the next few days and weeks. The training manual includes the winery organization chart and contact list, a sample performance review, the department metrics and goals, and a self-assessment where Harry will indicate the areas where he knows he needs more training.

His manager confirms they will have lunch together and introduces him to his orientation buddy – who we will call “Thorough” Teddy. Teddy is just that. Harry spends the entire day getting up to speed on everything he needs to do his job, and understands that any knowledge or skill gaps he has will be covered through more training over time.

Before he leaves, he discovers there is a brief but fun surprise welcome party for him – a longstanding winery tradition – where he gets to know his team members a little better. Harry heads home.

That morning they both left home that morning in the same state of excitement and enthusiasm, but when they get home that night, how does each one respond when their wife asks “How did it go?” What is Harry’s Response? What is Sam’s response?

Sad Sam is dejected and very worried that he made a mistake. He is NOT confident he can do the job, or will like it. Going back in tomorrow is going to be tough.

Happy Harry is over the top and already feels like a superstar. Can’t wait to go back tomorrow and do whatever it takes to start selling some wine. Now Harry’s wife isn’t surprised. She has prepared a special dinner with the welcome basket of organic vegetables sent over by the winery earlier that day, along with a bottle of their Reserve Cabernet.

They started out equal. We – their managers – created Sad Sam and Happy Harry.

While the example may seem simplistic, the truth is these are close enough to reality to be recognizable. When it comes to effective on-boarding, the buck stops here. If we don’t plan well and take steps to get there, we’re not setting up our staff with the tools they need. Consider a checklist to ensure we’re setting up our new employee for success:

  • Manager has cleared time for the new employee, including lunch on their first day.
  • Training agenda is prepared, laying out what to expect over the next few days and weeks, including a sample performance review, and department metrics and goals.
  • Business cards, training manual, winery organization chart and contact list are ready and printed.
  • Self-assessment is ready for the new employee to take to highlight where they feel more training is needed.

We have one chance – and only one chance – to set the right tone on day one. A person’s first day at work makes a lasting impression. What impression are you making on your new hires?

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