Onboarding for Success

An inside look at how one company brings in and acclimates new hires to its way of doing business.

By Todd Hunter, CWD/PI

I was asked if I would be willing to share with readers some of the methods that my company uses for onboarding and training new hires. I quickly realized that identifying, defining, and best presenting those methods would prove to be perhaps much more difficult than the process itself.

I can only hope this little foray into that madness will allow others to benefit from what is often a difficult, demanding, and expensive endeavor.

Bringing new people up to speed who are often unfamiliar with an industry or organization requires a substantial amount of time and resources. Realizing those associated risks, while trying to bring good talent forward as a company, can be difficult to do in a measurable and productive way.

With any new hire, and with ongoing employment for that matter, we hope to utilize a skillset that is often very generally identified with resumes and interviews, yet still largely unknown at the time of hire. It’s in everyone’s best interest to quickly understand as much as we can about those unknown variables so we can all get up to speed with active and focused training and skills testing as we move forward.

I trust everyone has unique ideas that are often quite different in the way we choose to operate and present to the customer base.

That, for me at least, is the crux of the matter. I’m convinced that, with most any business, the question will always present itself clearly. How do we safely expose a new hire, actively train them, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and still manage representation in the field or office with a high level of professionalism and quality service to our customer?

Tailoring to the Individual Trainee

My initial focus is first to do no harm. We then try to tailor each specific activity or opportunity to the individual in training.

To accomplish those goals, we use a regimented list of tasks, tests, and checklists to provide better insight into the day-to-day operations in the business. Every new hire is required to write a resume and fill out a chart that includes a comprehensive list of activities—and then personally grade his or her own abilities in the process.

The list includes most everything one might encounter during our normal business operations—from the most basic of field and office functions to advanced system design. We ask that they score themselves with a rating that lets everyone quickly see any perceived or proven understanding or experience covering a broad range of activities.

Another task required of everyone who works for my company is watching a presentation that my friend and entrepreneur Mark Patey did at Utah Valley University several years ago (https://youtu.be/BNkJCEtaYDQ).

I have found most everyone takes a different view of the video. To determine which points are valuable to them, we ask for everyone to share specifically what they found useful. That insight, gleaned from a simple interpretation of talking points in a video, provides great value to better evaluate the person you have just taken on for training.

I have watched the video many times, and in my opinion, it’s one of the best discussions about business, and really about life in general, that I have seen. I encourage everyone to watch and share it with friends or coworkers. It’s amazing to see firsthand what Patey has managed to accomplish—coming from humble beginnings—and it certainly never hurts to bank that well of knowledge to draw from when needed.

I see each new hire as an opportunity to teach, and learn as well, about what we can all do to keep operating at a respectable level.

We begin simply with daily flow and getting basic functions down rote before moving on to expanded levels of operation. New hires can expect verbal reviews or critiques often daily and weekly, with 30-, 60-, and 90-day formal reviews as well.

At 90 days, our intention is to have talent capable of standalone on most of our daily projects and hopefully be able to provide real insight into accomplishing the more difficult or complex ones.

As a rule, we expect everyone to be able to pass tough written and oral tests and they must play at a high level to stay on. As you may imagine, this can be much more difficult than it seems, as finding people who will take that initiative is getting far more difficult.

Sadly, today, we will see at best one in 10 willing to do the work necessary to be successful. I see each new hire as an opportunity to teach, and learn as well, about what we can all do to keep operating at a respectable level.

That ongoing activity also helps us to continually task those around them to operate at a respectable level. We deliberately set the bar high and expect that it stays there. I have found if they can’t do the little things, then they certainly can’t do the big things, and we always try hard not to confuse efforts with results.

We are most likely all familiar with the scene from the movie Field of Dreams where the rookie is at bat and the veteran player is telling him what he might expect from the pitcher. With his most sincere gesture, to share his years of experience, he tells the rookie it’s most likely going to be low and outside but remember to always watch out for one in your ear.

When I learned to fly, we used an analogy that clearly spelled it out. We all begin with a full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. Every day we draw from the bag of luck and add to the bag of experience. With the proper guidance, training, and proven initiative, we can only hope to have the experience we need when the bag of luck finally runs out.

As you know, that mission is a never-ending yet noble cause that we should all appreciate and embrace. We are hopefully helping to build the future for those who will carry it forward.


Todd Hunter, CWD/PI, is owner of Boulder GWS LLC, Ground Water Pump Systems, in Boulder, Colorado. This company is a combined group of companies that has been in continuous operation in Colorado since 1969. Hunter has worked in the drilling industry for more than 40 years, was the 2017 president of the National Ground Water Association, and has served on various NGWA committees, including currently the Southwest Regional Policy Committee.