Over the last two weeks, I’ve been onboarding my replacement at work. On the one hand, it’s great to finally offload the extra tasks that I’ve been juggling since assuming my new position. On the other hand, I’m having to experience a new world at work in the form of management and performance coaching. It’s one thing to do the tasks yourself, but it’s an entirely different thing to anticipate another person’s tasks, teach those tasks to the person, the follow-up on the progress with feedback.
While I am not the direct manager for the new program assistant, I share some of the responsibilities for ensuring she’s successful in her new role by virtue of me being the last person who occupied the role. I suppose I’m over-thinking this a bit, since employees move on all the time and are not accountable for the new person’s performance. Nevertheless, between me still working in the same office and me being a team player, I feel that it is my duty to help the new employee succeed until she can run under her own steam. Afterall, the program assistant position is a job that was developed over the course of four years, so it’s a lot to take in all at once.
I knew prior to her starting that I would need to reflect intentionally on how I could teach someone to do the job that I have built over time, and figure out how to deconstruct the tasks and portfolios so that it makes sense to a fresh set of eyes. Since this is my first time doing this, I took a stab at it and realized that there was a lot more I could have done to prepare for onboarding her.
One example is at the end of her first day. I met with her to do a mini-debrief on how she felt her first day went. She admitted it was a bit overwhelming, but was confident that she would learn more as she did the tasks. She then asked for my input on what she should do the next day. I hadn’t anticipated this question, so I floundered a bit, suggesting that she should take some time to read through the relevant policies and procedures I’ve got stashed away in a binder, as well as reviewing the committee minutes from the past year for an upcoming meeting she will need to plan.
After work, I reflected on this and realized that I didn’t do a good job of setting her up with concrete tasks for her to fill her day meaningfully. Don’t get me wrong – at some point she will need to read over all of that stuff as it will be important to her job. However, I realized there are better ways she could be utilizing her time. Instead of reading over abstract documents, I need to get her working on tasks that are directly related to what she will be doing over time.
The next day, I jotted some ideas down and met with her in the afternoon to discuss how things are going and give her concrete tasks to start figuring out, such as responding to program-based email inquiries, learning where to find reports, typing up committee minutes so I could critique them, etc. I also coached her on setting up meetings with the program Chairs to 1.) introduce herself more formally, and b.) to learn from them what their needs and wishes are. I seeded some questions with her on topics she ought to cover, and left it to her to arrange the meetings. In the background, I also spoke informally with some of the Chairs to let them know she was doing this, and to suggest ways they could help onboard her to their program areas.
This was a much better way to onboard her, and she was busy over the rest of the week learning various systems. She would stop by my office a few times a day to ask clarifying questions or ask advice on how she should approach a certain task. She was learning by doing, and seems to be adjusting well to her new role. I’ll leave it for her actual boss to determine whether she is meeting targets, but at least I know she’s able to work with us as a team behind her.