Hiring skilled marketers is only the first step to building a great team. In this video, we dive into our 90 day training process that we use to onboard new hires quickly and effectively.
Oftentimes as an agency we’re relying on the talent of junior or mid entry level staff members to execute a lot of our work. So a lot of our training is focused around that level of an employee.
Also with Siege, we deliver a very unique kind of service in terms of content marketing focused on SEO. So it’s very common that the people we hire don’t really have an exact match or exact background to what we do. Many have transferable skills, or have worked in similar agencies, or in house doing bits and pieces of what we’ve done, but it still requires a little bit of training to get them onboarded to our best practices or our way of doing things.
So these tips I’m going to share have allowed us to effectively scale that process and also onboard a lot more efficiently so that we can ensure that we’re getting the best work out of our new hires as quickly as possible.
So I’m going to dive right into tip one, and tip one is something that my fellow director, Alex Heinz, turned me onto, which is the curse of knowledge. Which is really that training should be more of a conversation between a manager and a new hire.
Tip #1: Training should be a conversation
If your training feels more like a boring lecture series where you’re just sort of rambling on for an hour or longer about what they need to be doing or what they need to be learning, you’re going to lose interest really quickly. And you’re also not finding any knowledge gaps with that new hire.
The curse of knowledge is essentially the assumption that you don’t actually know the background of that individual. And so you falsely assume that they have the same knowledge base as you do and so that they’re working off the same assumptions or experiences. And that is very rarely the case.
Here are some things we do during training to combat this issue:
- Pause multiple times during training sessions to ask them questions or engage them
- Give them an opportunity to ask questions
- Have a new hire repeat concepts to us along the way throughout training
So again, we can ensure that they are understanding what we’re talking about and that they’re overall registering what we’re telling them.
So that’s tip number one is to just make sure that training is more of a two way conversation as opposed to just you feeling like you need to relay a bunch of information to that new hire.
The next tip that I’m about to dive into is really important. I find that sharing in the training responsibilities at a company is really key.
Tip #2: Share the training responsibilities
We’ve made mistakes before where the new hire gets assigned to a manager and it’s basically that manager’s sole responsibility to train that new hire and that actually doesn’t really work out long term. There’s a few reasons why this is not an ideal case scenario.
One is that it’s very exhausting and taxing on that one manager. It’s great that the manager and their new hire are getting that much face time together. But it can also exhaust the relationship really early on in the process.
And then two, you’re basically secluding your new hire to just interacting with your manager when in fact there are probably other members of your company, either people in other departments or just other senior people who have been hired maybe six months prior who can help share in the training responsibilities and give that new hire a little bit more face time with other people in the company.
A new hire here at Siege when they’re onboarded meets with a lot of different people.
So some people, for example a new hire will have regular upwards of five one hour training sessions with a director here at the company, which is great. It’s more of a high level overview, gives them opportunity to ask some higher level questions.
Managers, they’re still meeting with their manager in a direct report setting as a one-on-one every week or every other week.
They will also have shadow sessions with a handful of more senior specialists. So people who have been in the role for six months to a year already and are doing the actual work that that new hire will also be doing.
And then finally we try to encourage some cross department training opportunities. So a content marketing specialist will meet with a graphic designer here and be paired up and they get to learn about how to collaborate together and what their ideal workflow will be moving forward.
So training should really be a shared responsibility at your company. Make sure that your new hire is getting face time with multiple people.
So now I’m going to dive into the third tip, which is essentially relate the training back to the new hire’s tasks as much as possible.
Tip #3: Match training to workload
If you’re the manager in charge of training your direct report, you probably have a good idea of what their day to day tasks are going to be. But if you’re kind of removed from that, it’s good to ask the manager first, “Hey, what is this new hire going to be working on the first week?”, and try to tweak some of your training tips or materials around that. I find it really helpful in training sessions to mention their specific clients. Try to relate it back to the work that they’re going to be doing.
At minimum, even if you’re too far removed from the new hire’s day to day and you don’t really have time to tweak your training around them, or personalize it for every new hire, at minimum, you should at least throw out examples using that person’s name.
What I’ll do often in my training is say, “Let’s say John and I are brainstorming for client X together…” and flesh out that example a little bit more in the training. I find that just even using the new hire’s name in your training kind of causes them to pay a little bit more attention. Maybe it just breaks up the monotony of your speech a little bit and it just brings them back into the conversation a little bit faster.
My next tip is, this may be a little bit obvious, but it can be also kind of difficult to realize and bring into action, is solve for multiple learning methods.
Tip #4: Solve for multiple learning methods
Not everyone is going to like to learn something the same way. Some people want to sit down and read a full training manual and digest it on their own. Some people are going to prefer to be in a more one-on-one conversation with their manager and ask questions along the way. Some people may be more visual learners where they want to watch a video or complete a test project.
We have taken a lot of feedback from different new hires and have been really empathetic to how each one likes to learn and try to build a scalable training method that at least accounts for a lot of different learning methods. It may not account for everything, but we feel confident that what we’ve built so far checks a lot of the boxes.
One package that we basically do for any new hire is that we will do five one hour training sessions in person with a director. That’s kind of more of a presentation with options for asking questions along the way. So that’s for somebody who likes more of like a conversational atmosphere to learn. We recently launched internally and to the public SiegeLearn, which is our 45 lesson content marketing course.
Every single content marketing specialist that we hire at Siege goes through this module and these lessons. And that provides a mixture of written materials, and also some accompanying videos to kind of just again break up that monotony, so they’re not just given 45 lessons full of text that they have to digest.
And then another final element that we add to accompany SiegeLearn for us internally is that we will do ten one-off test assignments related to the lessons that they’ve taken in SiegeLearn, which we find that it just helps further enforce that they actually read the materials and also that they retained what they just learned.
And it gives a great opportunity for the manager to read those test assignments, give them in depth feedback, and also facilitate more conversation in their one-on-ones moving forward.
This overall package has been great for us to understand how different people like to learn, what’s been most effective. One concern that has come out of this that actually isn’t too much of a concern for us is that what if people get bored? What if they are hearing the same information two to three different times? And I actually don’t find that to be a big issue.
I actually want people to hear the same thing multiple times because we’re throwing so much at a new hire in their first one to three months that it’s unlikely they’re going to retain every single point just hearing it one time.
So that’s something you should keep in mind too when you’re crafting your training materials, is that it’s okay if there’s overlap between all the different materials that you’re providing them.
Tip #5: Always be revising
My final tip, my fifth one, is to always be revising this method.
I think a big mistake of training is that you will build it one way, the best way you think it should be built. And there’s a lot of biases involved in that in terms of like how you perhaps best like to learn. And unfortunately if it just is published and left to everybody to use for a whole year, it’s likely going to become stale pretty quickly and not useful for you in the long term.
One thing that we do to combat this is that after a new hire’s first three months we will send them a new hire feedback survey. It encompasses a lot of different questions, but we have a few prompts related just to training feedback.
So some questions that we’ll ask them is, “do you feel like the training materials were in depth enough?” “Do you feel like the length of training was too long, too short?” And then “if you were just to describe your onboarding and training experience in a few words, what would that be?”
I’m also actively asking for feedback at the end of training sessions, trying to field things over email and that has been super valuable for us to revise and reiterate our training program.
So that about does it. Those are our top five tips and what we’ve learned from training content marketing specialists here at Siege. I hope it’s been helpful for you.
If you are somebody either wanting to learn the unique side of content marketing driven by SEO, or you’re somebody who works either in house or at a small agency that does similar to work to us, SiegeLearn is something that we’ve launched publicly and is something that is available online for purchase. You can check it out at siegelearn.com and read more about all the lessons available.
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