How to Effectively Onboard a New Marketing Hire

One new team member can really shift the dynamic of a team. Even the prospect of hiring somebody new for your agency can trigger a wave of powerful reactions, both positive and negative. 

So, before you dive head-first into job postings and interviews it’s worth asking yourself, “Is a new hire the right step at this moment?”

A new agency hire is often the first thing that comes to mind as a solution to the skills or knowledge gap, but sometimes there are other options. Maybe you could bring in a freelancer or leverage somebody already on your team who has a skill set that could bridge the gap.

Maybe when you look a little closer at your agency resource management tool, you’ll realize that pushing out the timeline of a deliverable could mean your existing team can manage the workload. Maybe the client is open to adjusting their timelines to make this happen.

With a bit more digging, you might realize that you don’t actually need to hire anyone new… 

But if you realize that a new hire is, in fact, the best solution for your marketing agency, here are a few tips for making the process as easy as possible. This isn’t the kind of formal agency onboarding advice your HR director might provide, but rather some tactics that have helped me bring on a new member to an established ad agency. 

  1. Prepare yourself

Set realistic expectations for yourself about the entire process–about how much time you need to devote to properly welcoming a new team member and about how long it will take to get them up to speed. No matter how much of a rockstar your new team member may end up being, successfully integrating them takes time and effort.

Make sure you’ve set up your own schedule accordingly and have the resources you’ll need in place. 

2. Prepare your team

A new colleague starting can bring up a lot of emotions for your existing team members. Make sure everyone understands why you’re hiring somebody new for agency. Get buy-in from your team by explaining how you evaluated resources, recognized that everyone is currently overworked and are hiring somebody new to help support them and ensure they don’t end up burnt out.

Clearly explain the role the new team member will play so that nobody feels threatened by their arrival. Give everyone an opportunity to ask questions and voice any concerns they may have. 

Share an outline of the agency onboarding process the new team member will go through and what role, if any, each existing team member will play in that process. 

3. Warmly welcome your new team member

Make sure your new hire feels warmly welcomed from day one. Introduce them during your agency stand-up and ask them to share a little about themselves with everyone during that time. Set up meet and greets with everyone they’ll be interacting with regularly. At Function Point, we also like to have new hires meet with each department head. 

I like to go out for a team lunch the day somebody new starts. Getting everyone away from their desks and into a more social setting is important to start building rapport right away. 

I also ask everyone on my team to go out of their way to personally introduce themselves and book a short coffee meeting to get to know their new colleague. This has become especially important with the rise of remote work because the natural interactions that occur in an office setting no longer exist.

4. Set your new team member up for success

Especially in the incredibly busy environment of a creative agency, it can be tempting to take a ‘sink or swim’ approach to agency onboarding. 

In my experience, this never works. It’s not fair to the new hire or your existing team members. No matter how experienced a new hire is, they won’t be familiar with your internal agency processes. They need time to get to know how you do things, to build relationships with other team members, and to fully understand your business and those of your clients. 

Instead of throwing your new team member directly in the fire, let them get acquainted with the work and your processes gradually. Clearly outline the expectations for their first 90 days. The first month should be spent getting to know the job and the team and learning company processes. Have them shadow each person on your team for a day so they can get a big-picture understanding of how their new team functions. This also gives everyone a chance to get to know each other better.

Day 30 to 60 is when a new hire will actually start doing the job they were hired for. They’ll do some executional work and become more comfortable with internal processes. By days 60 to 90, you should start seeing your new agency hire perform. They should be proficiently carrying out the work they were hired to do and have adapted to company processes.  

If the new hire is performing a brand new role, you can take a collaborative approach and develop a roadmap for their first 90 days together. Ideally, they’ll have been hired because they have the expertise, confidence and ability to do this. Have them outline what they expect to achieve and by when. Check in frequently to adjust the process as needed. 

5. Dealing with potentially awkward situations

Joining a new team can be intimidating or awkward at the best of times. Depending on the situation surrounding the open role, things can be even trickier.

If a new hire is replacing somebody who quit, I like to keep things positive and focus on the fact that the time that person spent working in the role allowed them to grow and they were able to use what they learned to advance. 

If the role was open because somebody was fired, I am transparent without going into unnecessary details. As much as possible, I stick to data–if somebody needed to be let go because they only had 50% billable hours while the rest of the team was over 70%, that helps keep things objective. 

If a new team member is joining your agency because somebody has gone on leave, I try to give the new hire and the rest of the team as much clarity on what to expect as possible, even if I can’t share future plans with 100% certainty.

Some managers like to give a new hire a heads-up by explaining that existing team members might be upset about their previous colleague’s departure (no matter the reason). I prefer to let the new hire form their own opinion. 

Instead, I focus on ensuring everyone on the team feels comfortable approaching me with any concerns they have so I can address potential issues before they become real problems. 

6. Keep An Open Mind

Finally, when you’re adding a new team member to an established team, keep an open mind and encourage your existing team members to do the same. 

It’s helpful to remember that when you add somebody new to your team, you’re effectively creating an entirely new team. And every new team goes through various stages of psychological development as they learn to work together. Teams move through each stage as they overcome challenges, learn to work together and eventually focus on accomplishing a shared goal.

So be prepared for your way of working or the rhythms you’ve developed as a group to be shaken up with the arrival of a new personality and new ideas. Embracing those new ideas could end up being exactly what takes your team to the next level. Stay open-minded and excited about the potential of what you can all achieve together as this new team.

Jimmy Wu is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Function Point.

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