TFYW#067: Prevent The 3 Failure Points Of New Hires

Dec 22, 2023

This week, I am diving into what new hires need from you in the first 90 days.

Expectations Vs. Reality

First and foremost, if we don’t calibrate our expectations, any result will seem inadequate.

A new hire will need more than two weeks to get up to speed. It might take up to 4 months.

When I made my few hires, I expected a steep drop in my workload around what the new hire would do.

But this is how it happened.

Most of us have experienced this reality but sometimes forget it when work is piling up and we ‘just need more bodies.’

Even the most seasoned hires need time to reach your expectations.

The ‘extra time’ ensures that they get past the three new hire failure points.

These points need to be reexamined due to decreased talent supply, remote work, changing employee expectations and evolving tech.

The Failure Points

The first failure point is knowledge.

At times, I thought the central knowledge failure point was when the hire’s credentials do not match their abilities.

Sometimes, it is hard to catch this in the hiring process, especially when you’re moving fast to scoop up good talent.

However, knowledge failure is more likely when you try to bridge too many roles (i.e., tasks and assignments) with one hire.

If their role is too broad, they either stretch beyond their current experience OR do work well below their interests and abilities.

The second point is processes.

This happens when the hire has the knowledge and skills but can’t apply them correctly because the internal processes and procedures are unclear.

Many firms train for their processes, but failure still occurs because we focus on explaining only the WHATS and the HOWS.

When there’s an outlier from the documented process, the team is not equipped with the WHY of the task, and employee’ performance decreases.’

The final failure point is culture.

Culture is a prevalent failure point for firms building remote or hybrid teams.

Isolation and disconnection decrease the effectiveness of new hires as their communication gets impaired.

Effective team communication is less about the tech and more about the underpinning relationship.

If the relationship is surface level, new hires will spin their wheels and avoid ‘disrupting’ their team or manager with ‘stupid’ questions.

They’ll end up blending in to avoid detection.

What To Plan For

Each failure point is not hard to anticipate. The hard part is getting a plan in place and executing it.


The first way to improve the knowledge requirement is in the hiring process.

The best hiring practices include either a paid trial day and/or a test to gauge general knowledge as well as tech know-how.

Sidenote: If you missed my webinar with Accountests in September, it’s worth checking out. Accountests offer easily deployed skill and personality tests, backed by 1000s of data points. (not a sponsored blurb)

After the hire has been made, mentorship is your best tool to measure and improve their knowledge.

Mentorship is the ongoing conversation to align the firm’s goals with those of the employee.

These conversations identify where the new hire may be failing with their knowledge or if there’s a misalignment of their skills and assignments.

Good mentorship conversations lead self reflection by the hire and to plans for improvement, if needed.

Within the first 90 days of a new hire, a new hire should be introduced to a mentor and have two formal meetings and a handful of check-ins.


Once you know that a new hire isn’t failing due to knowledge, training is the next step.

Training is required for processes at (1) the firm, (2) service line and (3) client levels.

I recommend using Loom Videos, Scribe documents and SOP to capture the WHATs and HOWs.

But again, it is more complex than showing how working papers are prepared and filed. Explain the WHY, the high-level goal of doing it the firm way, and workarounds or substitutes when exceptions pop up.

At the firm level, one big WHY I needed to explain in my firm was my file naming convention. It was unconventional but led to chronological and topical clarity.

Once I explained it, my team embraced it and was able to improve and build off of it.

At the client-specific level, each client had a unique living document. While I tried to standardize most things, client nuances need to be documented and explained. These documents made up the new hire bible.

Within the first 90 days, new hires should have scheduled time to complete the training. They should have scheduled time with a manager or you to go over the WHYs.


Often seen as the soft, fluffy stuff, culture can be the hidden dysfunction in why a new hire isn’t performing.

New hires must understand and get involved in the culture to feel comfortable communicating.

Communication goes beyond how fast they reply to emails or how detailed the working papers are.

Communication includes:

  • Asking for help when they don’t understand
  • Bringing up process deficiencies
  • Giving 360 feedback
  • Receiving criticism

An asynchronous communication tool will do none of the above.

Face-to-face check-ins (not meetings) with peers, managers and owners help the new hire get a feel for the culture. You should generally facilitate people meeting (even on Zoom) on a regular cadence.

These check-ins should focus on non-work items so team members can humanize each other.


If you don’t remember anything else from this week’s newsletter, remember this:


New hires, and teams in general, need to feel like they’re connected personally before they can perform at the highest level professionally.


It may be fluff, but if you want them to care about you, you have to care about them.

Within the first 90 days, expose the new hire to as many people as possible in a non-work capacity. For remote teams, try to get another team member to meet with them in person.

That may include a flight from a nearby team member so they can work for a half day together at a co-work space with a dinner in the evening.


Talent is an integral part of any successful team.

Don’t overestimate what it takes to help a new hire thrive.

Build The Firm You Want.


P.S. Email with something that you want me to talk about. I’ll add it to the list. 

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