New Hires

The three most impactful people in determining the joy, success and fulfillment an employee finds in their job…

I have discovered that typically none of the these three people fully appreciates the honor and responsibility that is bestowed upon them to have this impact on another human.
These three people are crucial not only in determining whether a new hire/employee enjoys their job, is successful at it and finds fulfillment in it. For, the joy, success and fulfillment an employee derives from their job is hugely influential in relation to the joy, success and fulfillment that employee derives from life as they spend more of their waking hours at work than they do with their life partner, their children or anyone else. It helps to ensure that each of the three people is reminded how vitally important their part in this is, and that we each remember that we can, at any given moment, also see ourselves in each of these roles.
I believe these three people are in order:

1. The Employee Themselves

This may sound obvious, but the reason I include this in the list is that I have discovered that often the employees themselves don’t fully appreciate their ability and role in determining their own joy, success and fulfillment at work. As leaders, the most important thing we can do for someone we lead is to help them appreciate their own ability to impact their own destiny. If we don’t instill a growth mindset in our employees, but rather let them feel the joy, success and fulfillment they derive from their job is more a matter of fate, then not only are we hampering them in achieving their ability to succeed, we are allowing them to get in their own way. They can be their own worst enemy or own best champion.

2. The Manager

Sadly, I’ve also seen that as managers we often overlook just how much honor an responsibility is bestowed upon us in making a hiring decision and then managing an employee. Each employee does spend more waking hour at work than anywhere else in their life. We, as their managers, bear a huge responsibility in making that experience enjoyable, fruitful and fulfilling. If we succeed at fulfilling the honor that is bestowed upon us to manager another employee, we ourselves may derive a great deal from that experience in terms of finding our own joy, success and fulfillment in our jobs. More on the manager’s responsibility at Where to Begin the Journey.

3. The Spin-Up Buddy

Spinning-UpThe first three months on a job can be the most influential in determining whether an employee finds joy, success and fulfillment in their job. Yes, they themselves and their manager bear a huge responsibility in this endeavor. However, the odds of success are greatly increased if a new hire has a buddy/mentor that helps spin them us in their role. Ideally this is someone that works closely with them in a similar role. They show them the ropes, they introduce them (along with the manager) to people they should know to succeed in their job, they help ensure they find their feet in doing their job.

Often the person bestowed with the honor of being a new hire’s spin-up buddy becomes that employee’s most trusted confident at work and often that relationship continues on well after either or both of those individuals have moved on.

The opportunity of consciously choosing and assigning someone into this third role is often over looked. Sometimes we refer to these buddies as mentors; however, that implies it must be someone more senior that the new hire. It can also be a peer or someone at a lower level (such as having an experienced manager spin up a new director).

4. The Team

Also, the joy, success and fulfillment an employee finds in their job directly impacts the joy, success and fulfillment of all their colleagues that work with them. So, the fourth most influential role is not played by a single individual but rather by the team an employee belongs to. It takes a village, and by enabling and employee to find joy, success and fulfillment the team finds itself in a symbiotic relationship – one that is truly mutually beneficial. Each employee themselves should not overlook their own responsibility here.

Spinning Up at IMVU

On my first day at IMVU, as with anyone joining engineering, the expectation was to make a change and push it to production on my first day. There are a few objectives with doing that… It verifies that everything was set up right in terms of your system, accounts etc. It ensures your mentor has a change ready for you. It allows you to see that it’s possible to make a change, add testing for it, run through a complete set of tests, and send out a change email. That change email goes to all employees, and the responses you get are a lot of “Welcome to IMVU!” emails from Execs and people across all functions. You essentially become an employee not when you show up at the office, but when you’ve made your first change to the product. This also sets the frame of mind that you’re there to work (not to do paperwork – that’s saved for after your first change).

I uncovered a few glitches in the spin-up process, and so I decided to improve the documentation and process. I then also decided that the first thing in the spin-up document should be a statement that it is your and your mentor’s responsibility to leave the spin-up process in a better state than you found it (the full spin-up went beyond the first day into other things you should learn). I’ve carried this notion of new hires improving the new hire process to Twitch and Pure Storage. After some time at Twitch, I suggested that we set the target for a mentor to have a new hire make their first production change on Day 1. There was some concern that this would end up as a disappointment for the new hire and the mentor, but folks didn’t realize that I’d been having new hires fine tune the process for some time. It proved to be a success (it also happened to be for an engineer that followed me from IMVU and expected it to just work, or he’d fix it). And so, my notion of framing this as Leave a Trace began:

Leave a Trace – as you go through the process described below please view it as your responsibility as a new hire learning how to become productive to make improvements to this process and/or wiki in terms of adding missing steps, correcting things that have change, or clarifying things that may be confusing so as to make the spin up for the next person to join Pure to have a better spin-up experience than you did. To this affect, please feel free to enlist your mentor.

The other quiet lesson this imparts is the expectation that whenever you encounter documentation, a process or code that could use improvement, you should just assume it’s your responsibility to leave in a better state than you found it.

Also, at IMVU, it’s the mentor’s primary task during spin-up to make the new hire completely self-sufficient and fully-functional as an engineer. That supersedes the priority of any other work. This may seem sub-optimal in terms of engineering resources, but in fact, it turns out that you that way much sooner have two fully functioning engineers instead of one. We have even had success with a mentor spinning up three engineers at the same time.

Spin-up work Buddies in Munich

When I started my job at Softlab  at Arabellastraße in Munich in 1983, I realized how influential the colleague I shred an office with was in determining how much joy, success and fulfillment I found in my job.
When I learned that the next engineer we hired was to sit alone in a two person office until we hired another employee, I decided to take it upon myself to move into that office with them to help get them started. 

Higher Productivity Work Environments

When Softlab achieved enough success that we could hire an architect to design a new building for us at Zamodorferstraße, we had several discussions around the configuration of that office space. One of the considerations was whether we should have one, two or three person offices. Despite initially most people feeling inclined toward having individual offices, We ultimately decided the best experience for all would be had by having pairs of employees working together.

Note, there we also other factors that went into designing that building to aid in creating the most productive work space possible – such as the width of the hallways, the location of the restrooms, the location of the raised floor computer room (we worked very close to the hardware of the the systems we were designing), …

Softlab became the second most successful independent software company at its time (behind SAP) to then get acquired by BMW.

My uncle, Carl Martin Dolezalek, made quite a nice living up until the 1970s by advising businesses and factories how to lay out work space so as to gain efficiency as he described in his book “Planung von Fabrikanlagen” first published in 1973. His income was derived from a minor percentage of any increases in output due to higher productivity that resulted from changes he suggested.

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