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Onboarding your new household staff or manager

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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 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 household manager, personal assistant 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 or manager is, there will be a learning curve.  It takes time to become familiar with a new location, from identifying the cleaning products to accessing the passwords for the personal calendars.

Create a plan to orient your new staff to cover these important questions:

  • Tour of the home or office and location of key components to their work
  • Regular schedules and appointments
  • Introduction to other staff members, especially if they will be supervising this person
  • Child or elder care essentials, even if they are not providing direct care to other family members: allergies, activities, schools, and doctor’s information
  • Communication plans: who to call in emergencies as well as preferred communication methods for less urgent matters
  • Expectations for hours, reimbursable expenses, pay dates, benefits, and other payroll-related items
  • Processing employment paperwork

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 persona assistant or household / estate manager 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 or working closely by your side 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.

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About the Author:

Since 2004, Donna has been teaching job seekers of all levels effective job search strategies. In 2009, she published her book "Get a Job Without Going Crazy: a Practical Guide to Your Employment Search." Donna is based in Denver, and has presented workshops in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas. She continues to work with job seekers across the country.
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