Episode 32: The First 90 Days of onboarding a new recruit
In this episode of The Wize Guys, Brenton Ward, Jamie Johns, and Ed Chan talk about the importance of training your new recruits and why having a proper onboarding procedure equates to investing in the balance sheet of your firm.
Learn more on this episode to get you equipped in onboarding new recruits for your accounting firms!
0:35 - Understanding the context of investing in a balance sheet
3:45 - The importance of attitude for client-facing post
4:42 - Difference between client fanatical from team fanatical
5:56 - Working IN vs Working ON
7:29 - Tips for onboarding a finder, minder, and grinder
15:43 - Hiring an experienced VS fresh graduate
20:13 - How to communicate with clients
21:34 - Best training for senior client manager and senior production manager
23:04 - Assessing the improvement through review points
24:51 - How to build the framework for the first 90 days
35:46 - Why you should involve managers in the recruitment process
36:36 - Key steps in getting offshore team members set up and trained
46:46 - The risk for the 6-month probationary period
48:41 - Why 90 days is critical
51:09 - How much training do you do in the onboarding process?
51:41 - The importance of the ‘how-to’ videos
53:21 - Is it worthwhile to hire part-time staff?
55:22 - How to measure productivity with outputs
“I often talk about how your staff is your greatest asset, but it's also your greatest challenge.” - Ed Chan
“Don't fix their mistakes, let them fix their own mistakes.” - Jamie Johns
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Episode 32: The First 90 Days of onboarding a new recruit
Brenton Ward: We talked about in part one all around the interview and the recruitment process, but now I wanna jump to the other side of the equation, which is we found our new recruits, and we want to really invest in their onboarding and their training.
Ed set a bit of context for us around investing in this balance sheet side of the equation with bringing staff on board, training them right, and onboarding them right. Can you set the scene for us?
Ed Chan: Yeah, sure Brenton.
As most of us have sort of grown up in inverted commerce growing up in this industry, we all came from a grinding environment. So we came into accounting from a doing perspective ~doing the work, getting the work out the door, and we got paid for doing that. So most of us are pretty good at that. But then when we start our own business, we get into or we become a manager in if you're working for somebody else, then you are putting a management position and then you've gotta manage other people. That's a completely different change in skillset. And for some of us, we can do that really naturally, and others struggle.
I often talk about how your staff is your greatest asset, but it's also your greatest challenge. And if you can get it right, then your life is really easy because your staff is motivated, they've got the right attitude, they do the work that you should be doing and they make your life really, really easy. But if you get it wrong, your life's a nightmare because whilst they're your greatest asset, they're also your greatest challenge. So it's really important that we invest time into learning how to manage people and to learn how to lead them. I often say the way you look at your staff is often the way that determines your attitude towards them.
And I often ask this question, ‘Who do you value the most? Do you value your clients the most or do you value your staff the most?’ And the answer to that will generally tell you what you need to do because it shapes the way you think, whether you're working on your balance sheet or you're working at P and L. If you see your staff as being value really valuable and you see them as people that make you money versus people that cost you money. So if you see them as someone that costs you money, then you're seeing it in a P and L light. You see them as someone that makes you money, you're seeing them as a balance sheet value. So investing in them is very important and then that shapes the way you think about them. Obviously, the way you think determines the decisions that you kind of make and the decisions you make determines the outcomes that come from those decisions.
So it's really important that we start with your attitude and as my business starts to grow, we've got over 160 staff, I see them as the most important thing. I guess because I'm no longer client-facing, I need to make sure that they're the best they can be because they're client-facing. And if they're really good at doing that, then my life is easy. I leverage my effort through them. So instead of me seeing 9,000 clients, that's what's on our books, I leverage my time through the senior client managers. So the effort is much, much less. And then they can each see 500, 600, or 700 clients. And that's how you scale and leverage what you do. So that's just from a really big-picture point of view, just setting the scene for today.
Brenton Ward: That's perfect. And I think Ed, Jamie, being a little bit closer to it, because you are still well in the thick of one of the roles you still hold is helping recruit for your teams. Can you add a little bit of context to today's discussion and the importance around, as I mentioned focusing on this balance sheet plate?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, look, I think from a helicopter point of view or a big picture point of view, it's definitely talking to different firms, I always talk about when I started Sky Accountants, I used to be like client fanatical. So as you grow your firm, you want to move as the owner and as the founder, even if you're the general manager or whatever to move from being client fanatical to being team fanatical. Because the whole concept changes from a big pitching point of view that instead of going to work to do the bookkeeping or to do the tax return or financial statements, today I'm going to work to build a business that's gonna do those things. Who's gonna do those things? Well, it's the team that is gonna do those things. So it's not me that's gonna do those things. So, to add to comment to what Ed said, it's really about changing a focus from about working in to working on. That's obviously building the team and hiring the right people. And then once you hire the right people, get them onboard into your culture, and into your systems. I think as we're gonna talk about today, well what's that look like in the next 30 to 90 days?
Brenton Ward: Yeah, Perfect. Excellent.
Coming back to the recruitment process and overlaying our deepening narrow team structure to make sure that we're getting that resource mix right. Because one of the things we wanna talk about today is coming back to whether we've hired a find a mine or a grinder. I think each of those different layers will require different tasks and different training when we bring new staff on board. So want to come back to just recap on getting the resource mixed right? But more importantly, once we've got that resource mixed right, we've recruited for the roles that we need to recruit for.
Where do we start, Jamie, we've acted fast, we've hired slow, we've acted fast, and we've taken a methodical process in terms of recruiting. Now take us through your approach on how important it is to hone in on this investment in onboarding and training from the day of a new team member.
Jamie Johns: So to recap, Brenton, you really wanna know like the steps, if someone's starting tomorrow after you've been through the recruiting process, What do the next 30 to 90 days look like?
Brenton Ward: Yep. And then I would really like to drill down into what that looks like from a finder, minder, and grinder. I'd like to dive to start with what your focus is, whether they are a find and mind or a grinder when they come in the door, and how you approach onboarding.
Jamie Johns: Yeah, so look, there's different whether they're obviously offshore or onshore. But then there are also common traits that you'll have between both. So yeah, look, just to start off, really the first thing you wanna do is, as part of the recruitment process of, I step back a little bit is essentially who are they gonna report to? So who is the scenic client manager on their team and who is the senior production manager, and you would introduce them to both those people? So one of the first things you'd want to do from day one if they're in the Philippines is get on a call and welcome them to the firm, introduce who they'll be going to work with and the key people there is the senior client manager. Ed often calls them the three stable terminals and it might be the assistant client manager and the senior production manager. And so, introduce them to those main people and then obviously introduce them to the rest of the team because while we do chats and bookkeeping and all that.
Like we are just a people business. It's all about the people. So introduce them to the team, that'd be the first thing. The other thing that we do is then I really like to give them a letter from myself as the owner or the founder or the CEO, whatever you wanna record, call it. And we do have like a sample letter in the Wize world about this. And that letter really should set the scene around the culture of the firm. Ed has a really good example, I think that we've just modified it to use the things that you want to talk about then in that letter and go through that introduction with the senior client manager and with the person things about the culture of the firm. One of the things is responsiveness, responsiveness to your team members, and some of the time when, depending on who you hire too, responsiveness to the clients as well. And that's a really critical one. The other one that you can cover as well as it's probably more softy, softy sort of touch people talk about mission, vision, and values. So you can talk about what's the vision and mission of your firm as well in that introduction.
One that I really like to do, and I've often shared with this is the firm what I call the firm's guarantee. So what's your firm's guarantee? Another to word it is, what's your firm's unique selling proposition? What is it about your firm that is different from every other firm in your mind? So I call that the firm's guarantee. I really love whether it's a finder or a minder, and I love everyone to know what that is. I don't expect them to know off by heart. The finders need to know that off by heart because one of the first questions that a new client will have as well is, ‘Why should we come to Sky Accountants?’ And so they need to know that off by heart.
The other thing I like to give him, Brenton, is an employee handbook and I think there's a sample again in the vault. The employee handbook can cover any myriad of things in there, how to apply for annual leave. Then built back onto that employee handbook is a list of videos that you want that person to watch as well. And then some of those videos we actually just refer straight back to the Wize Vault. So we'll just reference that to the Wize Vault and they can have a look at some of those videos as well. And then not only that, it's all your internal videos. So, how to videos as well that you've got on your own internet. That's probably answered that question, but that's what we do.
Brenton Ward: That's good. And I want to drill down into some of the finer points in that in a second. We're getting some really good questions coming through relating to a lot of those points that you've just touched on. So we'll see if we can answer those and a little bit more depth. Before we do some more, Ed a bit more context than from your angle of the importance and the difference in training and how we onboard based on whether we're onboarding a finder or a grinder. Any suggestions or contributions there?
Ed Chan: Yeah, sure. I just wanted to echo what Jamie was saying, to begin with, every staff member that comes on board, I give them, what's called the chairman's welcome. In there it itemizes what we expect of them and right up on the top is they need to return their emails and phone calls the same day they receive the email. And at the very latest the next morning, because often you might be in a meeting and you can't do that day. But it's the first thing you do the next morning. If you can't get back to the client the next morning, you gotta get somebody else to call the client to let the client know that you'll get back to them later in the day. That's the first thing I write, I give it to them. That's part of the chairman's welcome and it's a sack of war offense if they don't do it.
So I set the bar really, really high. And the reason for that is that you can imagine if you had 160 people and they took their time to respond to the clients. I mean it's easy if you have one staff and the staff sitting right next to you and you're making sure that they're doing it. But when you've got 160 right across Australia, it's near impossible to manage 160 if they don't reply instantly. And we are in a business of service. The thing that differentiates your firm from the one down the road is your responsiveness. And if you can just put yourself in the client's shoes, if you were dealing with two businesses and one responded to you quickly and the other one just didn't respond to you, the body language they give you is that they don't care. They've got other more important things to do and you are very low on their priority list, whereas the one that responds to you very quickly tells you that you are very important to them and you're really high on their priority list.
So the message that we give now is to the owners that businesses can do that instinctively and they understand that. But it's the staff that doesn't particularly understand that because a lot of the staff are input-focused and they're not output-focused. This means they're focused on if they're grinders, they're focused on doing the work and getting the workout, and they're not particularly focused on the client, right? And then other staff more input focus meaning, it's about working hard and working fast, but they may not necessarily produce anything. So just cuz you are busy doesn't mean that you're productive. And it's a bit like saying it's a bit like the salesman who works seven days a week but doesn't sell anything. It is about the output. And so I put that right out there, right up there. Because often the staff that comes on board don't realize that we are here for one thing and that's to service the clients. So that's really important. The second thing then in the first three months you've gotta watch out for is that it depends on whether the person that you've recruited is an experienced person or that person is a graduate. If it's an experienced person, then in the first three months, whatever they do in the first three months is gonna be like that for the next three years or 30 years. Okay? That's my experience. So that's for experienced staff.
Now if they're inexperienced like graduates, then you wanna see a trend, they're learning something new that they're sort of learning, they're improving every day. You need to see that trend. They're improving, they're learning, they're improving, and they're getting better every day. And if they're not improving every day, then there's something wrong.
So, just go back to the experienced person. If that person is very slow, for example, see in our industry we can't have staff that's very slow because we charge our time out to the clients. If someone takes two hours to do something instead of one hour, then whatever you are paying them just doubles. It's like it's costing you twice as much because they're twice as slow to produce output because it's all about productivity and output and they shouldn't be working in our industry. They should be working in maybe in commerce or they should be working in public service. They're not suited to our industry. Often we think that we can just go out there and hire accountants, but they're accountants, and then there are accountants and they're different types to suit different industries. In our industry, it's about speed getting through the work, and getting production out the door. So, it's really important that in that first three months, if that person is experienced and they're very, very slow, they're not gonna change. So it's better to move them on because you're gonna lose three months, three months of getting somebody else in there and training them up. So in three, if you don't move that person on quickly, then in three months' time you gotta start again. It may take you another month to find another person and that's four months. You've lost four months of training the right person. So, move them on very quickly. That's extremely important.
Now just to break it up between finders, minders, and grinders. What should you do in the first three months? Depending in obviously how big you are, it changes if you're a large firm compared to a small firm. I always say that you've got a micro train so that you don't have to micromanage them later on. If you put the time and effort into training them. Often some accountants see that as a waste of time. They see it as I'm spending time with them, and I have to write the time off. It's just a waste of time.
Whereas I see it as a balance sheet investment if you invest a balance sheet investment with these people. But I do say this on the presumption that these are competent people, not you found the right competent person, not an incompetent person, which you've gotta let go. Then you've gotta micro train upfront so that you don't have to micromanage them later on because really good outflow output, people don't like to be micromanaged. They know how to do the work, they're very productive and they wanna get on with it. They need some direction as to what they should do. They just want you to let them get on with the job and you measure them by their productivity. So micro trains them up front so you don't have to micromanage them later on.
Now breaking them up into grinders, minders, and finders. So obviously if you're a small firm and you are training a grinder, then you've gotta get in there and teach them the technique because it's about technique. Someone could take an extra 30%, 40%, or 50% longer to do something based on their technique. So, as an experienced accountant, you can go a long way to get a result or you can take two or three steps and get there very quickly. It's just the experience that you have in getting to the point very quickly and you need to pass that on to them. They don't know that they just bring their baggage with them from the previous firm that they've worked with. Often you've gotta get that out of them.
And if they're minders and finders, then it's a different technique to train them because it's more about their interpersonal skills. So you have to work with the senior client managers on how to communicate with the clients. I'm not talking about speaking English, I'm talking about being able to communicate with the clients at their level. Often when you're getting in front of clients, you that they're at different levels of knowledge and you can with someone that's financially literate, you can use terms like, ‘Can I have your debtor list? And can I have your creditor list?’ But if you're talking to a tradesman who doesn't understand the financial language, then you've gotta use language like, ‘Can I have a list of people to owe you money or, a list of people that you owe money to?’ And if you can communicate and connect with them at their level, you are at a much-heightened level of connection with your clients. As I said, our business is about people and connecting, and communicating with people. And if you can't communicate then you're not gonna be suited for a senior client manager.
So the training for a senior client manager is different from a senior production manager. So the senior client manager, you're looking for that connection with the clients that that ability to have rapport, instant report, the likability factor, you have to be a likable kind of a person and, and the people person, that's right at the top. And the things you look for are different for the different roles in this deep narrow team that we recommend and how you approach it depends on that. And also it depends on how large your business is.
Now if you're small, you've gotta do that, it's hands-on training for yourself. But if you've got a larger organization then your senior production manager should be doing all the grind, doing the training for the grinder under his or her team. And then the senior client manager should be doing the training to the assistant client manager in communication skills and interpersonal skills. So it just depends on those categories.
But at the end of the day, you've gotta look if it's an experienced person, first three months, whatever, they're like that first three months, they're gonna be like that for the next three years or 30 years if they stay there. Then if it's a graduate, you wanna see an improvement every day, the trend lines going upwards. You need to see that otherwise is best to move them on.
Jamie Johns: Look, I'm just gonna add a couple of quick things, particularly with the grinders. The way that you see that they improve is through their review points. So what you never want to do is just say, ‘Oh, it's quicker to do it myself as much as humanly possible.’ I often get this question, ‘How do I know they're improving?’ Well, you'll only know if they're improving, if you do review points and then over time, their review points become less and less and less.
I remember my experience when I started as an accountant. There were a couple of really good firms that I worked for and I knew that I was progressing because the review points got fewer. But you're not gonna know that review points would be less if you continually, ‘Oh, it's quicker if I just do it myself, I'll fix their mistake.’ Don't fix their mistakes, let them fix their own mistakes. So I'd only add that.
Then what Ed said about the finders is I've trained senior client managers and trained assistant client managers. I will always double back the meetings with the clients so that they can see my interpersonal skills, they can see how I handle a particular client, whether it's a doctor or whether it's a trade and even phone calls. A lot of the times when I'm training a client manager, I will chime them into the phone calls and they'll mimic you and they'll watch you. But you've already hired them for that likability factor and the people skills that Ed said. Then you just need to fine-tune and tweak their skills so that they can do their roles. So yeah, just add a little bit there now.
Brenton Ward: So I wanna break what Ed and yourself have just said down to Jamie in terms of building a framework for the first 90 days. We've kind of got a fixed component of the introduction into the firm and the chairman, the CEO's welcome letter and then helping the new staff understand the culture, mission, vision, values, and that sort of thing. So that's gonna be fairly fixed no matter what recruit comes into the organization and no matter what the size of the organization is. But then we have this training component and coming back to the goal of building an extraordinary system for saying you guys at Sky, ‘Who is very heavily reliant on and rightly so on your internet system, this is the WizeHub of the Sky, how much of that comes into play in terms of onboarding a staff member?’ Like do you guys have structured training models that each new team member goes through on the systems that you use and things like that? Or what are you suggesting in that area?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, so in our internet and like all on the print and there's a module in there called production. So let's just say you are a grinder and you're offshore. What you wanna do is, is have a list of videos in there on certain areas. The zero videos, there can be videos on Unleashed, and there can be videos on ReceiptBank. So various videos that they should go through to watch depending on their skill level. Then not only that, the other thing that we've developed over time as well as for some of our bigger or virtual CFO jobs, we actually have videos on that particular client. See these days you can use Loom or SnagIt that you can record. As we are right now recording any conversation, the screenshots click by click you can literally record and you can just put them in your own spot under how to, and even have one page for that particular client. Because you might have a really large client who needs your own videos. So I couldn't overstate the emphasis of having those SOPs or those standard operating procedures videos for the staff to follow.
If you've got an offshore team or you've got remote officers having all those things organized in one place. I know a lot of firms have got videos and they've got procedures and policies, but the problem is the people working in the firm, the team can't find them. It's more about just having them but then being really organized on how to find them as well.
Brenton Ward: So honing in, let’s say the grinder role because for most people listening in that's probably gonna be the area in which we're recruiting in over the next couple of months or this year. There's this balance of micro training and getting them ingrained into the firm, but also getting their productivity levels up as quickly as we can. So how do you guys balance that? Because I mean, 8 hours is a long day when you're a new recruit in some senses trying to get up to speed with systems, but we also need the output to start taking place.
One of Carmen's questions is, ‘Is there an expectation on productivity levels over the first sort of 1, 2, 3 months that you guys aim to target for knowing that we've gotta allow for training in that period?’
Jamie Johns: Yeah, well the answer to the question is it'll just take time and you'll have to see how they progressively improve as the days and the week and the months passed. So you might have their productivity set at 90% for example because that's all they're doing. They're just doing the work. And then over the next three months, you'll see how they progress on those review points. Part of that is to make sure your firm's a little bit bigger. We always give them a buddy. What's a buddy? A buddy is someone who's more senior to them and then you as the senior client manager or the senior production manager, whoever it is.
Like Ed said, depending on the size, you should be checking in weekly and saying to that buddy, ‘How are they going? How are they progressing?’ And then not only that, you can spot-check some jobs, and you can see how much time is being spent on those jobs. But you'll definitely know by looking at the time sheets and looking at the jobs, whether that person is progressing or not. But as I said earlier, it's really important that they fix their own mistakes. That you don't just do it for them and then eventually you'll see them getting quicker and quicker and quicker. Then you'll know whether they're on the money or not. You're not gonna know in the first go the first day, but as Ed said, you'll definitely know after the first three months or 90 days how they're progressing. Because if they're not progressing, they might just be incompetent. So you want to get 'em to that productivity level over a series of time
Brenton Ward: Ed, anything to add to the productivity point?
Ed Chan: Yeah, so obviously if the person is an experienced person, you'd be looking at different things to someone who's a graduate. If the person is experienced, they can do the work pretty quickly. But the only thing they may not know, which may slow them down, is the idiosyncrasy of that particular client, which is unique to them and it's the first year that they've worked on it. So you've gotta allow some sort of training or slowness in that space. But they should be reasonably productive straight away if they're the right person. That's the easiest one to look at because the job last year, that particular job took two hours and this person is. You've scoped it out and you've allocated the times for the right areas and they know exactly what they have to do. Then instead of taking two hours, they take three hours or four hours, and you allow some because it's the first time they've done it. But you can generally tell, ‘Okay, the ones that are harder to tour are the graduates because they've got so much to learn, they're starting from scratch and you don't know whether it's incompetence or whether it is just inexperience.’
So for those who are listening and who've trained people, you'll be able to tell whether someone's productive and or whether someone's competent or incompetent. Because you can't train incompetence, you can train competence. Generally, they're competent, but they're just inexperienced and you can, it's worth putting the effort into training them. But if they're incompetent, it doesn't matter how much time you put into that person, they just can't, they just won't get it, and they won't be able to do it any faster. So you've just gotta be aware of that.
Jamie Johns: Another important point too is when you're giving anyone new that you're onboarding and you're giving them tasks or giving them jobs. We always try and give them budgeted hours and communicate with them. Look, this should take you this many minutes or this many hours to do this task every month or to do this job. So it's a little bit about leadership as well. You don't just give people a job and say, ‘Well, how long's a piece of strength?’ You've gotta set timeframes around the jobs because some of the jobs you've probably done for years. For the other new jobs, you'll have that you've scoped out and that you've either quoted or whatever there should be a timeframe set around jobs as well, Brenton.
Brenton Ward. Okay. And just on that, in terms of what you men mentioned before, Jamie buddying up with other team members and then also training as a different skill to what we're typically used to undertaking. So how do you get other team members involved? Just more specifically, do any tips on how to get other team members involved to manage the training process in the first 90 days?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, well you generally just get the team together, Brenton. At the start, you get the team together, discuss that there's a new person starting, and then talk about just having a buddy or who's gonna be the buddy to help the person. I know even at the firms I worked for years ago, I always had just that buddy person to go to that if I had a question I could ask them.
And the other benefit of that, it creates a narrow and deep team structure as well. Because often if the buddy does have a few more years of experience and has dealt with the particular clients, usually that buddy is the 80-20 rule. That buddy will be able to answer probably 60 to 80% of the questions that they have. And again, it's important that you've gotta lead it, you've gotta get in and say to the team, ‘Don't just fix that person's mistakes. Get them to fix it.’ But then you'll always have that 20% or 40%, whatever it may be of questions that the buddy's not gonna go, no. And then that'll filter through to the senior production manager or even the client manager. Then the client manager can address the person, the buddy, or address both people later on during the day, ‘This is how you fix this mistake.’ Because often in your daily huddle, their last question is, ‘What are you guys stuck on? Oh yeah, we're stuck on that.’ So those mistakes or those areas are jobs that they're stuck on, we filter through to the top. But I've seen a lot of firms when they hire people and they just create this really flat and wide structure where every new hire has to go to the senior production manager or every new hire has to go to the client manager and then they start losing it. That's back in the old way where everyone reports to the partner, everyone reports to the manager for example, and you don't want that. So the buddy system leverages the knowledge that the people you've already trained. In some of our teams, the senior client manager wouldn't even deal with the new hire, it's the buddy and then the senior production manager who guides them who does the training and that type of thing.
Brenton Ward: Okay.
Ed Chan: And It's also really important that you get the senior client manager or the senior production manager involved with the recruiting. Because if you want them to take ownership of that person, then the decision has to be theirs as to who they hire. If you hire it and just give it to them, then they're not gonna take ownership of that person. But if they hired it and it was their decision, they're gonna put a lot of effort into making sure that that they were right in the decision they made to help that person step up, and succeed. Just Imperative.
Jamie Johns: Yeah, we just recently hired this week a senior production manager. The senior managers do the last interview. I'm not even there. So they do the last interview, I've done all the other recruiting work, of course just find them. As Ed said, that's their call at the end based on two or three candidates that we recommend. So you must get their buy.
Brenton Ward: Coming to many of the Wize Tribe goes hiring offshore now in some sort of capacity. So, Jamie, you've got a lot of experience in this. So I'll start with you. In terms of any differences in the way in which you guys treat the onboarding and the training process for your offshore team members compared to onshore?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, look, Brenton, I mean just from a logistical point of view, you haven't got someone who's coming into the office and you can't walk them around and show them the office and introduce them face to face each person. What you've gotta do is obviously jump on the screen, jump on Microsoft teams, and I always like to pull people in. You might have five people in a team, in a team session, and introduce them in that way. So obviously it's just logistically different.
So yeah, so you've gotta do that and it's very easy. I guess I'm just trying to think of someone who's never been offshore before. It's always easy just to forget someone when they're not sitting in the seat in the office next to you. It's really just easy just to overlook they're not in the office so I'm not gonna call them. So you've really gotta have a raised awareness to check in with people and say. And part of that is, I would say obviously the buddy system, and even more important is that daily huddle to get because I have seen firms where they won't have the huddle or they forget the huddle. I've seen the best and the worst I've seen where you've got team members sitting there doing nothing, watching YouTube. So the emphasis is to make sure you have your daily huddle, make sure they've got the buddy and you want to be in the early days, you wanna be checking in two or three times a day.
I even remember one of our guys, we had a particularly large job and to train that person for Oregon for like three months or more. We would have a team viewer and we would just the particular person just shared the screen and just shared the screen. Then after a while, because when you share a screen, you can give someone control of your screen or, take control of it back. It comes to a point where you give them the mouse. So, it's a really great way is don't just show them, but give them the mouse to do the clicks and then you'll guide them to do it. So logistically there's different, but it's very easy if someone's not in the office and you have an offshore before just to forget that they're even there.
Brenton Ward: We're very heavy on the recruitment process, understanding what those offshore team members are. Certainly, if you're hiring directly, what their IT situation is computer specs and internet speed and things like that. Now, when it comes to the actual onboarding part, do you guys get your actual IT contractors involved to make sure everything's set up properly with your onshore team? Or do you get your team members to work that out? Because they're not IT specialists.
Jamie Johns: When you're just high directly offshore, you simply just have in your checklist to ask them about their setup at home. So, ‘Do you have two screens?’ You just simply ask the interviewees simple questions like, ‘What's your internet speed?’ And you can get them to prove that within a seconds in minutes. ‘What setup have you got?’ So you simply have to ask the questions and then check them off. Brenton.
Brenton Ward: Okay.
Ed, anything to add on that side of things?
Ed Chan: No. I just can't stress enough daily huddle. It's so important, especially for those who are offshore because if it's outta sights outta mind and you need to lead them and you need to build the culture. The culture is built by you, the owner, and if you ignore it, then you'll have consequences. So, it's all about leadership in this area.
Now, if you are just snowed under with grinding work and you're not able to have the time to lead, then it's gonna have consequences of people leaving people with bad attitudes or all that kind of stuff. So you've gotta have this attitude of ‘I've gotta push it down to somebody else to do, because if I'm doing a task from start to finish, then I'm not managing, I'm doing and doing doesn't give you outcomes,’ right? So your attitude should be, ‘I should only do the last 20% of a task. Someone should start the task, get 80% of it done, and then I do the last 20%.’ And if you do that, the last 20% could be reviewing the work or training, someone, right? Now, if you do that, then you're going to be able to scale and leverage your business and you're gonna have the time to spend with the staff motivating them, training them, and building the culture.
I can't stress that enough. That starts with a daily huddle and often you might get busy and you don't wanna do it and you don't do it. Well that's poor leadership and it's not easy to be a leader, but you can have the best people in the world, the best systems in the world, but if you don't have strong leadership, the whole thing falls apart. So it's gotta come back to that leadership.
Brenton Ward: So let's talk about performance management guys before we get into some questions. Looking at that first three-month period, we've covered this in a number of points that you raised throughout the conversations to now. But really looking at how you guys manage basically what was on paper and what was in the interview process to three months down the track when we're into the new role, how that team member is performing. Jamie, how do you guys manage that process internally with new recruits?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, well, with our contractors and our new team members, we always have a six-month probation period. But even in that six-month probation period, we always have a performance review. So we have a six-month performance review and you formally do that. I just actually helping a client manager today in training do one of them for his staff.
I can't stress the importance of just that six-month review and just being involved again in a couple of them recently, it's a whole different conversation piece. You're not talking about the work, it's just at another level. It's about talking. You do it together. So when you do the performance review, you've got the bookkeeper or the accountant there, and then you've got the manager there and they have to agree on the performance level ~ Is it excellent, Is it very good, good or poor, or meets expectation? And just the discussions that you have is totally different that what you do every other day of the year. Then again, I find if it's a good fit. It's a really rapport-building exercise. It's a rapport-building exercise between the manager and between the person on their team. I've just seen that come through time and time again because again, it's a different discussion. They're different conversations around, ‘Well, how am I actually going? What can I do better? What are my weaknesses? What are my strengths? What is the feedback from the person to the firm to the manager? What are your long-term goals?’
Today, as we discussed, this particular Filipino team member had been with us for nearly five years and the manager said, ‘Well, what are your long-term goals?’ We said, ‘Well, look, there's no reason you can't be a senior production manager. Five years is a long time.’ And then she said, ‘Well, what do I need to do to achieve that?’ We said, ‘Well, you need to master division 7A: non-commercial loss rule.’ Like we gave her a list of things. So we're gonna give her some knowledge-shot exercises to hone in on those skills. So, you can get the feeling of it. You're having a whole different level of discussion around where they're at now. Like, ‘Where they've come from, where they're at now, and where they want to be?’ But what do they have to achieve in order to get to that next level if there is a progression for them? And this team member that we had. She had first she'd started talking to clients about the production work and we said, ‘What have you achieved in the last six months?’ And she said, ‘Well, for the first time in five years, I've started talking to one of our major clients really successfully.’ So if we hadn't had that performance review right, we wouldn't even discuss any of that. So it's critical that you have your six-monthly performance reviews.
Brenton Ward: So just on that, because one of Ed's previous points is looking to see the performance of that team member over the first three months or so. I would expect that by the six-month mark, there are no real questions in your mind that that team member's not going to work out because we would've identified it earlier in the piece in that sort of first 90 days, whether they are gonna work out or not, and have addressed the issues. Is that the case? Or how have you got certain checkpoints in place over the first say 90 days to make sure that is right?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, you'll normally check in with the manager and senior production manager or the buddy to see how they're going over the first 30 days. Because what the risk is, well we often sort of don't want to deal with it because we've got, we've got the next client to see, we've got the next job to do. And you like the sort of almost brush it under the carpet, but if you actually have a really detailed look at how their performance is and based on what you hire them to do, you can make a good assessment of whether they're gonna cut the mustard as they say or not. But that's what the probation periods are for, Brenton. If they're just not gonna make it based on the assessment that you make around how fast are they doing their jobs.
I remember doing this years ago when I was even closer to it, I used to have this like three strikes, you're out thing. I'm happy to obviously show people something about how to do it once, don't fix their mistakes, and happy to show them a second time, but geez, I'd really question it the third time and if it was. I had to show them the fourth time, right? It's like, you're incompetent, so three strikes you're out. I used to have that exact same and four strikes were like, ‘Well Matt, it's past that.’ So yeah, well that's it. I mean if you think about it, if you have to show someone four times how to do something and you've done a video where you've done a document, they're just not cut out to do the job. And so that was my rule of thumb in that process. Because it's like for those of you who have got kids if I show my son how to do something three times and he doesn't get it, while there's maybe he's not cut out to be a carpenter or whatever it is.
Brenton Ward: That makes a lot of sense. Ed, before we get into any questions, any comments on that?
Ed Chan: Actually it's not as easy as you might think. After three months, often you're so busy and You have this thing in your head that says, ‘Oh, well they're doing something, so something is better than nothing.’ Then if I have to start again, then all the effort of starting again. ‘They're doing something, at least they're doing something, so I'll just keep them going.’ That's a big mistake. It's much better to cut the ties there and start again. Then the other ones that are hard are where they're doing okay, but they're not doing brilliantly. And then it's the same thing. ‘Oh yeah, at least they're doing something.’
To start again is gonna take so much more effort and then you tend not to do that. So, but then really good managers know that at the end of the day, you gotta be tough otherwise you're only as good as your second in charge. The client managers and the senior client managers are only as good as their senior production managers. If their senior production managers are really good, their job is really good and they can really perform. So the senior client manager has to go and see the clients and get in front of the clients more often. So the more often they get in front of the clients, the more work you get out of them. So you want to get them out in front of the clients, but if the work isn't done properly by the senior production manager and they're constantly in the office fixing it up, then they're not gonna get enough time with the clients. So they're only as good as the senior production manager. They're two OIC if you like. Then the really good senior client managers know that their own performance is only as good as bad as the person that they're gonna hire. That's why you've gotta get them involved with the hiring. You've gotta make them responsible for the recruitment. You can help them get all the logistics done and put the ads in and all that kind of stuff, but the decision must be theirs. You need to put two or three final candidates for them to choose from. And you can debate it with them, you can talk to them about it, and together you make the decision. So that's all I wanted to add to what Jamie was saying.
Brenton Ward: How much training do you do in the onboarding process?
I think we've pretty much covered that off, guys. It's basically buddying the team members up with a buddy. Then bringing in the senior managers over the top make sure that process is running smoothly.
Any suggestions or tips, Jamie real quick on video overload? So Byron saying like, how many videos can they watch in the first week without getting overloaded? Like, do you guys balance that out at all to make that not such a heavy load in the first couple of weeks?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, normally the videos are associated with the jobs or work that they're doing. So just you don't just like give them 50 videos to watch on the entire firm. What we tend to do is depending on the jobs that they're doing or they might be doing a job on a self-minute superfund, for example. So we'll give them two or three videos on class super or whatever it is.
Normally the videos we have like they're internal and they're private and often they're on real-life examples. So yeah, it's best to associate the videos with the actual work that they're doing. And depending on their skills, some are good at ReceiptBank and various others. So if they've got a job with Receipt Bank and they need to upskill on that, and that brings it. That makes it more real than real life.
Ed Chan: Just on something that Jamie said earlier. Doing the training on video, just videoing it so that you can just play it so you don't have to do the same thing over and over again. Then he said there are often firms that don't know where to store it. Well, if you're using the WiseHub, there's a section there called how to, and that's where you put all your videos and then everybody knows to go to the how to section and to download the videos there. And there are different categories that you can categorize so it's easy to follow. So if you haven't used the WiseHub yet, encourage you to do that because that's your internet that you can go to and it's been developed over many, many years. It works and you just gotta use it, that's all.
Brenton Ward: For a small firm, is it a good practice to hire an individual for multiple positions, i.e. office manager and assistant client manager, or better to hire them part-time and have them in their separate roles?
Ed Chan: Well, the answer to that obviously depends on your resources and how big you are and what your fee structure is and all that. But if you're a one-man band and you are growing the withdrawal process is to withdraw from your admin first. So the admin is division six. So you hire somebody to take over all the admin. Now that's not a full-time role for that person because you're too small, then get them to do some grinding work for you or some division four work which is preparing the bookkeeping and accounting. So you may want to hire a bookkeeper that does three days of admin and two days of bookkeeping. And then as you grow then you move the person across the division four full time and then you replace that person with another admin person. Because it's a lot easier to recruit an admin person than a really good production person. So if someone has an inclination towards production and they're showing skills in production, you always push them towards a production side and then you replace the admin with an admin person. Because admin people are really easy to find, just really good production people, not so easy to find. So, hopefully, that answers your question.
Brenton Ward: Since you're focusing on output as a measure of productivity, how do you guys feel about starting with the end of mind as a training process? Starting by showing them the final reports, etc, and then working back through the process it takes to get there?
Ed Chan: Yeah, that's a really good process because often I remember when I was a junior and I was starting out, I got to do one thing, but then I didn't know how the whole thing fit it together and I was doing a bit of this and a bit of that and bit of this. Then finally after, so many months or years, then the whole thing clicked for me. So that would've helped me if someone started with the end in mind saying, ‘Look, this is where we want to end up. This is what it looks like when you go on this journey.’ And so you start with that and then you work backward from there. Then you take them through the steps to get there. So that's, that's not a bad idea actually.