Originally posted on the INA blog, here.
Within the corporate environment, companies invest significant dollars into making sure that their new employees will feel welcome, acclimate to the culture, and become effective in their new jobs. Considering that it can cost up to 50% of the person’s salary to replace them, a solid onboarding process is a valuable strategy.
However, within the home staffing environment, how to get your new employees up-to-speed may not be so clear cut. If you’ve never had private staff before, the challenge can be especially intimidating. How do you create an orientation plan when you don’t know what to expect?
Here’s some simple guidelines and tips to make sure that you and your new nanny or other household employee will be off to a great start:
1. Make time to meet with them on the first day
The first step to building a successful working relationship is to invest the time. Even if it’s just the first hour of their first day, greeting them personally lets your new nanny, caregiver, or staff member know that they are a valued edition to the team.
Without a doubt, the #1 aspect that employees look for in a private service job is a good personality match with the family. The best way to reinforce your family’s unique culture is to be there.
2. Have an orientation plan
We all want someone to step into a position and immediately know where everything is and how to perform the work. No matter how talented your new staff member is, there will be a learning curve. It takes time to become familiar with a new location, from identifying the cleaning products to recognizing the children’s favorite toys.
Create a plan to orient your new staff to cover these important questions:
- Tour of the home and location of key components to their work: cleaning supplies, service flows, and other supplies
- Regular schedules and appointments
- Introduction to other staff members, especially if they will be supervised by this person
- Child or elder care essentials: allergies, activities, favorites, schools, and doctor’s information
- Communication plans: who to call in emergencies as well as preferred communication methods for less urgent matters
3. A clearly defined job description
Hopefully, you will have created a job description before hiring your new staff member. If not, be sure to do this critical step. This is your guideline for all parties involved so that expectations are clearly communicated on all parts. Remember, your new staff wants to make your life easier. The job description lets them know in no uncertain terms what their responsibilities are.
4. Setting boundaries
Personal boundaries can be a sticky area for new household employers. While your employee is here to support your lifestyle, realize that they do have their own lives as well. Don’t ask them to stay beyond their normal hours every single day. Don’t stifle their communication with their own family members. While it’s not acceptable for them to be on Facebook every moment of the day, they may need to be contacted in an emergency.
A common term in private service is “friendly but not familiar.” This means that while your staff is an important part of your household, they are not your family. Some households reinforce the personal boundaries by having their staff refer to them as “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Jones.” While a subtle difference, it can help maintain the professional nature of your new relationship.
5. Your own adjustment
If this is the very first time you’ve had staff, realize that this is not like the movies. It can be an adjustment to have someone new in your home on a day-to-day basis. Do you treat them like a guest or a servant?
The answer is neither. While you are clearly the employer, remember that you need to communicate clearly to your new person. Sometimes they will have suggestions to improve the household operations. Listen to their voice of experience, but ultimately, the choice is yours. If you don’t like the way a task is being handled, speak to them about it. Often times, writing it out before approaching your employee can help you clearly define the problem and devise a plan for how to change it in the future.
For example, your new housekeeper makes hospital corners on your bed tight enough to bounce a quarter on it. However, you prefer that your sheets be laid loosely on the bed. Most staff is adaptable to the change – just let them know.