Posts tagged ‘new employees’
Pete’s latest post on 10 questions to ask every new employee got me to thinking: Wow, I am really glad that none of my employers has ever asked me what I think is just bat-shit crazy because knowing myself, I would probably answer!
After that, I began to think about the questions I have found helpful as a new library employee. I only have five that I think are critical, but the list could just as easily been 20 questions. The main thing is that when you are a new employee, ask questions.
- How does the phone work? – Don’t laugh! This is often not shown to new employees (after all it’s ‘just’ the phone). The thing is, there are a lot of tiny things to learn: what is the customary greeting–organization name, department name, employee name, other?; how do you transfer calls?; Do you transfer a call you can answer, when it is about a different department?; Does the phone get answered if a patron is standing in front of you?; How do you retrieve messages? There is nothing worse than realizing you don’t know some these basics when you answer the phone and it is the Director looking for your boss.
- If there is an emergency, what do I do? Who do I contact? – Most training is not disaster related. Maybe there is a blurb in manual (which you should read, but I know you might not get to it right away). Find out if you have to dial 9 for an outside line before you dial 911 (see #1, I told you it was more important than it sounds).
You don’t want to realize you have no idea who to call after the pipe breaks in the bathroom….
- When the copier breaks, what do I do? Can I refund the patron’s money? – Look, the copier is going to break. The sooner you learn about taming the beast, the happier your work life will be. Remember, the copier will break—they are evil!
- What is the login information for everything you use? After working several afternoons and nights, my first morning shift made me realize I had no idea how to log-into the computers or what passwords to use. It simply was not needed in my normal work week so it was not reviewed. Learn your passwords—nothing slows you down like having to look them up or ask for them after they are needed…
- I’m sorry, what was your name again? At the beginning, everyone is really nice and very understanding that you don’t know them. Two months down the road, it just looks rude and unprofessional. If you are lucky, the library will have an updated facebook of employees (Princeton Public Library does and it is the single most innovative and useful thing I have encountered at any job). Most of the time, you will need to find a way to remember people you do not work with regularly. Take advantage of your ‘new’ status and ask now….
There are plenty of questions I did not include—things like where to eat, what is the normal attire, how do breaks work, etc. Lots will be covered as you are trained, and some will simply come from talking with co-workers. Again, now is the time that you are expected to ask questions, so take advantage and do it!
One final note: So far in my short library career, I have learned more from one question I ask my co-workers than any other: ‘Can I help you with that?’
Good luck to all new library employees!
Kate Sheehan had a wonderful post a week or so ago, Customer Service Mind, Beginner Mind, in which she writes about the value of looking at things with a fresh eye. It reminded me that every time I ever started a new job, I was hyper-aware of all the wacky things about my new organization; the signs that had been taped to the door since 1973: the restrictive (or just plain arbitrary and weird) policies that seemed to have no rhyme nor reason; the lack of basic equipment available for staff (no sliderules or abaci, but close.)
These awarenesses weren’t always negative. Sometimes I was aware of the amazing benefit package that everyone else seemed to take for granted (or even grumble about) ; or an incredibly efficient work flow or communication mechanism — like a wall in the staff room with everyone’s picture (Facebook 1.0), or a Director that was actually available to speak with employees.
But no matter how strong or strange these awarenesses were, they always faded away within the first few weeks on the job. It didn’t take long before my new environment would simply register as “normal.” Seriously, there could have been a chimpanzee in a tuxedo singing the star-spangled banner in the lobby; but if he was there on day 1 and day 2, by day 3, I’d be nodding and saying, “morning George, you sound good today. Nice job on the bow-tie…” In other words, I can’t underestimate the power of our brains to adapt and reset the benchmark for normal experience.
I always thought that those first few weeks as a new employee, when everyone told me everything and more, but no one asked me for MY thoughts or impressions, were a wasted opportunity. So when I became a department manager I made it part of the orientation process to squeeze these observations out of all new employees. I would literally take new employees to lunch and tell them that for the next few weeks, their perceptions were extremely valuable and encourage them to share with me if there was ANYTHING that we did that seemed odd, inefficient, wasteful, or stupid. Or amazing, creative, and blazingly brilliant.
If you can manage to get this data — heck, even one tiny piece of datum — from your new employees (give them a break now and then from reading the 250 page employee manual), you’ll have gotten some very useful information.
So. Submitted for your approval, here are my [drum-roll please...]
TOP TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK EVERY NEW EMPLOYEE
- What was your first impression when you walked into the library?
- What are your impressions of the aesthetic environment inside the building? What could we do to improve it?
- What are your impressions of the aesthetic environment outside the building? What could we do to improve it?
- What are we doing that strikes you as wasteful — of time or money?
- What services are you surprised to learn that we are offering, for better or worse?
- What services are you surprised to learn that we are NOT offering, for better or worse?
- Are there any policies that you don’t understand the rationale for? Are there any policies that strike you as just plain nuts?
- What are your impressions of our website?
- What was your experience like when you called the library? What are your impressions of our phone system?
- What are your impressions of our customer service orientation? Are we customer-focused? What could we do to be more so?
BONUS QUESTIONS (for the brave ones out there)
- How friendly (or unfriendly) did the staff seem when you first walked in the door?
- What are we doing that strikes you as straight-up bat sh*t crazy?
If you consistently ask these questions of your new employees, you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to recapture the newness of seeing, if only briefly, through borrowed, “beginner mind” eyes.