Training new Content and Online PR Execs is a big part of my job, and although I don’t like to admit it or anything – I think I’m pretty good at it.
Due to the significant growth this company has achieved in the last couple of years, there’s always a monthly intake of fresh blood walking through the Old Chapel doors, ready and eager to learn! This means training is something I spend a lot of time on.
Cue the training, the most important part of new employee development, where we spend time crafting new members of the family into fully fledged SEO disciples.
You can imagine my delight when I was asked to take on a new challenge in the form of a fresh team of new starters. I of course, jumped at the chance. Taking on a brand new team is always going to be a challenge, but certainly not one to be passed on.
With all new challenges, there is always doubt. What if I don’t have enough time for them all? What if I can’t train them to the same level as the other execs? What if it takes our team longer to become established and start getting those great links for our clients?
All this is solved by taking a step back and planning a course of action.
Recruitment – what I was looking for
This involves interviewing the candidates who have shown interest in the Content & Online PR role. A certain skillset is needed, but our needs also go deeper, we need team players and people that we can manage and develop towards their full potential. Much like a great recipe, we need the right ingredients that we can then combine to create the ideal employee.
From the outset if the right balance of skills, attitude and personality can be illustrated by a candidate then I’m already on my way to picturing them as part of the Search Laboratory collective. It’s a case of matching up the teams collective goal with what the individual can bring to achieve them.
Each candidate might have the same job title as other members of the team but they also need to be comfortable in sharing techniques, tips and case studies with the team rather than demonstrate their individual examples of success. They also need to identify their own strengths and utilise them to fuel personal development and then allow other employees to feed off these skills through working as part of a team.
Candidates who were successful were individuals that matched these criteria. Sometimes you can tell from the moment the interview starts that the perfect candidate is sitting across from you, other times it can be a candidates great potential and desire that becomes the deal breaker.
The six new starters experience ranges from fashion, recruitment, PR and even to previous SEO work; I had chosen a team with many talents and with matching desires to forge a career within the company using their skills. My team was ready to start, but was I?
The next step was to arrange the intense training sessions for the first week. As a company, we kept to the original plan: one full week on training workshops covering everything from SEO history, required skills such as content, research and outreach, as well as an overview on theory and technique in regards to how we perform work for our clients.
All tasks and discussions are group-based, which allows the team to form relationships, allows management to establish character types and also allows for an understanding of how we will function as a team. For me, it’s satisfying to notice the immediate increase in their knowledge level after just a few sessions. We keep it fun yet informative, meaning that the first week is just as enjoyable as it is intense.
Training lasts for four weeks for all our new Content and Online PR Executives, with the second week seeing my new team create a strategy for one of our clients each. This was a perfect opportunity for me to identify parts of the training that needed to be covered again, and to pick up on individuals who might be struggling with the concepts that are presented. I made sure that briefing sessions were done in two parts: firstly as a group, and then individually so that they are given a chance to ask any questions without other members of the group being present.
The last two weeks of the training saw the execs tackle real client work while supporting other more experienced execs. Briefing and feedback was given to the whole team on a daily basis and no stone was left unturned throughout the training. The team became my only priority, and in the long run the focus and attention they received successfully converted into results.
Reviews and performance management
My team, now three months old, all have their own clients. It was startling to see how quickly the team had progressed in the brief time since they joined the company and I was excited to conduct individual three month reviews to receive their feedback.
During one-to-one sessions and personal development plan catch ups with the individual team members, I made sure I asked them for feedback on my management style. How would they like to be managed? Do they respond to directness? Are they capable but need reassurance? This helped a great deal when managing their performance. If you know what drives a person and what really motivates them, it’s not hard to work out where they want to be, and then it’s simply a case of putting a plan in place and nurturing talent.
A smarter person than me once said, “Nothing is perfect”. This is true in most cases, so my plans are focused on improvements and moving forward as a team. I’m more than happy with my team but to discontinue improvements would be a firm step in the wrong direction (and a slap in the face to every member of the team).
This involves strategy creation, effective briefing and boosting motivation through encouraging individuals to strive for greater things. Bi-weekly one-to-ones are scheduled in and personal development plans are introduced for help with talent management. This all contributes towards helping the team to achieve their goals within the company.
Overall, this has been the most exciting experience I have had the pleasure of being involved in while working here at Search Laboratory. Im proud of the team, and I want to make them feel that they are on the best team in the world.