Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 5: best practices for new and recent hires 2

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on June 15, 2013

This is my fifth posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-314 for Parts 1-4.)

I began discussing best practices approaches for presenting yourself as a top employee in Part 4, where I discussed building your performance as a new and recent hire and through your probationary period, on a solid foundation that you begin building during the pre-hire interviewing process. I continue that discussion here, initially assuming that you have been able to establish a clear and mutually agreed-to understanding, with your new manager or supervisor, as to what your basic and high priority tasks and duties are going to be. Consider this the best starting point, baseline situation for starting a new job with a positive day one.

• In this, you know with real accuracy what the problems and priorities are, that you were hired to address.
• You know what resources you will have at your disposal.
• And you start out with at least a good idea as to what challenges and barriers you will have to face, overcome or bypass in order to succeed. That, I add means knowing what time restrictions and deadlines you face, and if there can be flexibility in them. You know if you have to gain buy-in from outside of your work group in order to gain access to the tools and information you would need for your work (e.g. sufficient access to some company-wide shared resource that you would require, and where access cannot simply be taken as a given.)
• And you have a fairly good idea as to what you can turn to your supervisor for help on, in gaining access to resources you need, and where that is going to be part of your own job to manage this on your own.

This type of baseline scenario comes very close to being realized in practice for most any standardized position where work responsibilities and resource access requirements are more or less routine and standardized. So for example, if you are hired to work in Accounting, and to manage the finances of some specific assigned set of accounts, it is likely that you’re being assigned a login to a license for the accounts management software you would use, will be standardized and simply part of the onboarding process for your type of position. And if you need help gaining access permissions for accounting data that you require in order to perform your job for some particular client that is slow or resistant to sharing their information, or that is disorganized for that, processes are likely to be in place for addressing this type of challenge.

If you are hired for a more unique position or for a new type of position in the organization, chances are there will be learning curve challenges for everyone involved: you, your direct supervisor and their more senior supervisor, in-house stakeholders for what you would work on and accomplish, and others. And every one of these interested parties will likely start out with their own priorities and their own assumptions as to how they should prioritize working with you in helping you meet your goals. This can all become very important when you are hired to complete high priority tasks and to reach high priority goals that are fundamentally new to the organization but that are nevertheless crucial to it – where you take on a key position that would facilitate disruptive change.

• Communications skills are crucial to early success for any new job but they are particularly so for when you take on a job that requires by its very nature, forging new paths of communication and collaborative cooperation and even across lines in the table of organization to succeed.
• And this has to include ability to develop two way communications that would help you to align priorities and manage expectations with others and perhaps a diversity of others, as well as communicating understanding as to current status of work done.

I have seen employees succeed when initial scheduling assumptions prove unrealistic – because they can effectively work with others including stakeholders who start out with rigidly fixed timetable assumptions, in reframing expectations and scheduling goals to make them more realistic and attainable. I have seen employees fail when they cannot do this and even when they are solidly performing and reaching benchmarks as quickly and systematically as actually possible.

• And this brings me to the commonly cited issues of goals, stretch goals and early successes. In a more standardized position, these can be relatively easy and standardized for formulating and agreeing to what is to be done to meet these performance points. And processes and performance benchmarks will in most cases be in place for consistently and fairly reviewing and evaluating new employee performance for them.

You are, for example, hired to manage a set of accounts for the Finance and Accounting Department, and one of your accounts starts out with its records in disarray and with new people in that client’s offices who you will have to help bring up to speed so they can provide you with the information that you need to manage their account, to continue my first example from above. Processes are probably going to be in place for helping you plan out and execute on this and if anything unusual arises that would create special challenges there, support processes are probably going to be in place for that too, along with guidelines and support that would clarify where you should resolve these issues yourself, and where you would need and receive higher level managerial support.

• For the truly novel and procedurally disruptive position, as would arise when a new type of hire is brought in to facilitate disruptive change such as the development of new blue ocean strategic opportunity, none of this is likely to be in place.
• That means the new hire building, and arguing the case for building perhaps much of their own support system, starting with their gaining “in-fact and day-to-day” support from the managers and executives who saw need for their being hired and for their work but who may start out only offering “in-principle” support.
• That distinction is crucial; supporting a goal “in-principle” is often a lot easier and a lot less time consuming and effort demanding than rolling up your sleeves to actually provide the detailed support required to rethink and break out of old patterns and ways, and to try out and prove new ways and new paths forward. And the details in this tend to be discovered as this work proceeds, and as unexpected challenges and opportunities present themselves that could not be anticipated in advance.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will more closely examine new hire probationary periods, and making them work for you. This means thinking and planning about this phase in your employment as being more than just a period of greater risk where you can be laid off with less (or even no) explanation as to reason, than a post-probationary period employee could be. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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