How To Design A New Team Role — Trail Hikers vs Trail Blazers
Long hours and burnout is a sure signal that it’s time to hire somebody to help you get a few things off your plate. But knowing what you want them to do is critical for that person being successful. If you get the approach wrong from the beginning and don’t know what you need or who you are looking for, it could spell disaster for your company.
When I look at making a hire, I first try to assess my own day-to-day and examine what it is I’m trying to get off my plate, and why I’m trying to do it. Am I trying to get it off my plate because I don’t have capacity, or is it because I don’t have competency?
As hard as you try, it’s just not possible for you to be good at everything or have time for everything, so at one point or another, you’re going to hit that moment where you don’t feel like you know what you’re doing, or you are dropping balls because too much is on your plate.
This is where you decide whether you need to find a trail hiker or a trail blazer.
Trail hikers are people who like following a proven path. They won’t get lost so long as they have an easy plan to follow. If you ask them to create a plan for your company, they will fall flat on their face.
Trail blazers are the exact opposite. Give them an untouched forest. Drop them in, and let them figure it out. These people are really good at creating a plan for others to follow, but they are really bad at maintaining the plan long term. They’ll get too bored and look for something else to create.
You would look for a trail hiker if you already have a proven playbook for them to follow. A playbook is like a map that helps them navigate through their job. Often, these are the roles you know the best and you’ve been doing for a while. You’ve got your systems down but you just don’t have the time to give it your all. Finding a trail hiker to come in and follow the systems you put in play will be a godsend to your company. They will jump in and start executing right away.
You would look for a trail blazer when you are hitting your head against a rock and you just can’t figure out how to do it no matter how much you try. The trick with this is that you are hiring someone specifically to experiment their way to a viable system. So be careful with hiring this role. If you don’t have the financial stability to support experimentation, you’re just going to have to keep doing it the hard way until you are able to come up with a viable system on your own. This is where consultants usually come in. They already have the playbook or they are Trail Blazers who will create the plays you need on a project by project basis. You don’t have to keep them on your payroll long-term. You just need them to build the playbook so you can hire a trail hiker to follow the plays.
For this article, let’s focus on finding and hiring a Trail Hiker and assume you are going to provide them with a playbook. Let’s divide the process into three steps.
- Job Description
- The Playbook
- Onboarding Plan
When I write a job description I use what I call a play action worksheet. (Can you tell I’ve been a football coach?) My play action for a job description has 8 sections. Under each section, it’s as simple as answering a few questions and then composing it into paragraph form, ready for posting to a job board or using it as the basis for the job description and handing it over to the new employee.
The job description has the Business Overview where we talk about the problem we’re solving and why that matters.
Next is the Position Overview. This describes the mission of the position as it relates to their daily activities. Every job description is critical for outlining their scope of practice so they aren’t stepping on other people’s toes and they aren’t taking on more work than they are able to.
Then comes the Skills & Responsibilities. This section breaks down the position overview into a bulleted list of specific abilities and responsibilities that are within the scope of practice.
The Desired Experience is a section most applicable for when the job description is turned into the job posting. I like to write this in a way that is talking directly to the reader. I’ll write things like, “You’ll know that you’ll do well here if you have previous experience in working with home owners directly in their home.”
Next I put in a section About the Company to position us as their guide and mentor. We want people coming into the company to know that we are here for them and that we are a stable company that will help them advance their careers. This is a great place to put your company’s story pitch which highlights the mission of the company.
Next comes the Benefits section. What benefits does your company offer? How will that bless their lives?
Then the Compensation section. For a job posting, you’ll provide a compensation range. When you are handing a new hire their compensation plan, it’ll be broken down exactly how they are going to earn money and what will be their salary or wage.
Finally, Time Expectations. What does a day in the life of this new hire look like? What are the days and hours of operation? How often are they expected to work in the office, in the field, or from home?
The position playbook has two components. The first is a fully written manual for exactly how to perform their job. This manual outlines the full scope of practice in detail and tells them how to do it. Begin with the guiding principles for that position, then an overview of how your company operates on a day-to-day basis, then go through each responsibility they have and write out a step-by-step process.
The second component of the playbook is a series of workbooks that they’ll use to perform the tasks outlined in the manual. The workbooks can be paper, digital, or software based. In some cases, you’ll have a software system that you’ll train them on that will help them execute the tasks. But when you can’t find a suitable software solution, sometimes good old fashion paper is the best thing to use. It’s flexible and you can customize it however you want. The workbook sheets may look like a series of instructions with boxes to check or fill out.
However you put together your playbook, the key principle is to just make it simple to learn and use. The more simple it is, the more scaleable the system is. You want to create as few steps as possible to produce a minimum viable outcome. A viable outcome is one where the customers and the employees are happy with the end results. Adding too much value can actually produce a diminishing return on effort, so find that line where you’re creating happy customers with the least amount of effort.
The next thing you need to have established when designing a team role is to have a smooth onboarding plan.
Onboarding is the process that happens after the job offer is extended; and I hate to spoil the news but it takes more than one day. The onboarding experience is critical to employee retention. When employees are onboarded poorly its like using a compass to follow the trail but you started 2º off to the right. Without course correction early, when they end up a year down the road, they will be far off the mark. So slow down your onboarding process and create mile markers throughout the first year that ensure you’re on the right track.
The first week is critical. They have to feel supported and excited to be there. In the first day you want to make sure that you have all of the administrative stuff taken care of. Its most helpful, especially as a small business, to work with a company like mine that takes care of the boring HR stuff for you, filing W-4 forms, and I-9s and getting direct deposits taken care of to get them set up on payroll.
Next you want to make sure they have all the equipment they’ll need. I like giving them a tour of the job sites or the distribution centers they’ll be purchasing products from so they have a clear education on everything.
In these first two days you want to focus on administering education and training. Video works best to keep the training consistent and using an LMS (Learning Management System) can help you track whether they are actually doing the eduction. It tracks progress and tests their knowledge. Creating that video content is as simple as turning on a cell phone camera and pointing it on yourself to just start educating. Another option is to write out your training content in article format, hosted on a blog and then working with a company like my friends at Dingus Digital to turn your training article into a video. They’ll build a professional studio for you and hire on-camera talent to turn your training content into a polished video.
Then you want to take your new hire to the field and pair with a master trainer. Just like in a previous article I wrote about the Master & Apprentice Growth Model, you want to make sure they are being trained hands on by someone who is really great at what they do. But if you really want to take things to the next level put the new apprentice with a master, who has a journeyman working with them, or an another apprentice who is about to become a journeyman. This gives the new hire a buddy mentor. Buddy mentors are great because they can build a friendship while also learning from the more experienced worker. It takes the edge off the relationship being that they aren’t their direct supervisor and often cements the training provided by the master.
As the new hire progresses through their training period, you’ll lengthen the distance between mile markers. Have a plan for those first two days; what happens at the end of the first two weeks; the first six weeks; the first 6 months; and the first 12 months?
Packaging Your Plan
All of these things should be packaged in an easy to reference location. You don’t want to build this system and file it away to forget it. You want it to be easily accessible. It’s a lot of work to get it there but you can do it, especially if you ARE the trail blazer. The toughest part is just having the time and the ability to do it. If you feel like you might not have the time or you are discovering that maybe you are the type of person that prefers following an existing trail, but you know you want this stuff, there is help. I can help you build out your company playbooks and add video to them like the plan in this article. If you’re curious about what this looks like, I recommend getting on my calendar for a quick chat. Go to HAKES.DIGITAL to book a time or just message me in the chat.