Best Practices for On-Boarding New Household Staff

Mar 30 2017

We have all been the new person at some point or another--the new kid on the block, the freshman at the big university, a manager in a new office. In such hard-to-navigate situations, receiving a tour around "campus" is customary. Communicating where the water cooler is, how the boss prefers to be addressed, or which software system is used, are small yet significant ways to welcome and acclimate a new employee. Doing so communicates to new staff members that while they have been hired for their experience and credentials, training is still an integral part of the on-boarding process. When both parties (employee and employer) are informed about one another's needs, personalities, and expectations, everyone gets one step closer to success. Further, such collaboration creates an environment where employers are viewed as approachable, thereby encouraging employees to ask the right questions about how to succeed in their role.

Similarly, your household has its own culture, and while the time may not always be available to engage or orient a new team member the way a human resources manager might, we have found that being mindful of the following tips can make all the difference in helping your new hire get off to a running start, while ensuring your peace of mind.

Logistics

The goal is to establish routine, save time, and increase productivity. Clarifying who, what, where, when, and how also fosters familiarity and encourages new team members to take ownership of their new role and environment.

1. Familiarize new employee with facilities: parking, entrances, restrooms, and personal spaces for belongings, etc.

2. Give direction on beverage and meal policies and other protocols, e.g., is coffee, tea, water provided to employees? Will employees be required to bring lunch with them daily, or can they prepare their own meals at the house? Where can personal meals be stored and enjoyed? Smoking is not permitted, texting and social media is off limits, etc.

3. Provide uniforms or attire standards for work days and events.

4. Introductions are important in making your new employee feel welcome. Introduce the new employee to all on-site staff (depending on the size of your staff) and introduce them via email to off-site employees or vendors where applicable.

5. Are there any daily basics a new staff member should know?  Such as: how to expense something the new employee purchased on the family’s behalf, areas that are restricted, whether to answer the phone or door, and where the cleaning supplies are.

Communication

As the saying goes, communication is key. In the case of your new household team member, being clear on how to communicate with principals, managers, other staff members, and vendors or contractors promotes success, efficiency, and accountability. No one wants to cross wires, and with the following tips in mind, everyone can communicate on the same wavelength.

1. Specify preferred methods of communication with your new employee, whether it is leaving notes on the kitchen counter, email, phone, or text messaging, and establish preferred times to reach you, under which circumstances, and through whom you should/could be reached, such as via your personal assistant, executive assistant, or house manager. Let new employees know how you will be communicating with them as well.

2. Share an emergency contact/vendor list.

3. Discuss your expectations on how you want guests greeted, how to manage guests' needs, and when and how to announce guest arrivals.

4. Does your household have a log to record packages, deliveries service people, or unexpected house calls? Clarify the procedure on when and how to notify principals, managers, or staff.

5. Be clear about how to address and refer to principals, managers, other members of staff, family members, associates, and friends.

Personal

No one can read minds, so offering a glimpse into your personality, preferences, pitfalls, and pet peeves will help your new relationship flourish. Encouraging new employees to get the lay of the land goes a long way as a quick training device. For instance, we have found that, as early as week one, encouraging new employees to open every drawer and closet helps them learn more quickly where things go. Such familiarity will reduce tentativeness and foster success.

1. Don't be shy about offering anecdotes about past situations that became "hot button" issues, if you feel you need to provide context to your new employee.

2. Advise on any allergies, environmental sensitivities, and annoying scents, sounds, or sensations.

3. Make connections by offering some relatable information about yourself, such as: you can't resist dark chocolate, you love certain movies, you do not talk about religion or politics, or time with grandchildren is sacrosanct, etc.

4. Discuss information, situations, and other relationships that are confidential and reinforce the importance of the family schedule and family calendar.

5. Clearly communicate and/or illustrate how you envision the household functioning as well as the standards and expectations. If things have not been going well, explain why, without undermining other individuals. Highlight what is working well. Providing tangible examples will help solidify the expectations and relationship.

Security and Technology

In a fast-paced, ever-changing technological world, even you may find it challenging to keep up with the state-of-the-art functionality of your household. This is why it is even more important to arm new team members with information and directions on the technology used in your home as well as protocol that keeps you, your staff, and valuables safe and secure. We have found the following tips to be great conversation starters regarding electronics as well as the sensitive issues of privacy and safety.

1. Introduce your new employee to the security staff or other management personnel, who can explain in-depth security and fire safety protocols.

2. Supply the employee with key fobs, key cards, lock keys, security codes, emergency phone numbers, passwords, etc. If employees do not have such access, introduce them to the person who will be letting them in.

3. Provide instructions on how to arm and disarm security systems, lighting systems, and other alarms; the location and proper use of safety deposit boxes, safes, and vaults; and on the use of HVAC systems (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), audio/visual devices, Wi-Fi, computers, cable, washer/dryer, etc.

4. For employees who will be using a work-related laptop or cell phone, introduce them to staff members or the IT vendor in charge of such matters and review usage standards and clarify whether or not the equipment can be transported or used for personal use. 

5. Are there objects that are exceptionally valuable either monetarily or sentimentally? Be sure to point them out and advise on how to protect and preserve them, whether they can be moved or cleaned, and what to do in the event something is damaged or missing.

And remember, it is a good idea to review these best practices and principles with both new employees and existing staff. Take the opportunity to update team members when you engage in the on-boarding process with a new employee. This will foster a true team spirit!

Happy On-Boarding!

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