Ad Ops Management: How To Train New Hires
by Matt Peck, on Dec 8, 2020 9:00:00 AM
Matt has been working in Ad Tech for over 8 years, with roles ranging from Media Ops to Ad Ops team management at companies like AOL, Oath and Millennial Media. He spent much of those 8 years focused specifically on leading, managing and growing thriving account management teams.
I know firsthand how hard it is training new members of your Ad Ops team, and specifically, striking the right balance between nurturing them and letting them walk on their own two feet. Knowing what kind of training sets them up for success, and when to let them fly free, is key to building a thriving team.
Over the years, I’ve definitely hit my share of speed bumps and learned many lessons the hard way. Hopefully, some of my lessons learned can help you build a straighter path to success.
Below are my 6 most important tips for training new Ad Ops hires. Hopefully, this will help you on your Ad Ops management journey:
- Set Your Own Expectations
- Foster Learning
- Let Them Fly
- Take Advantage of Your Team’s Expertise
- Measure and Monitor
- Be a Leader
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1. Set Your Own Expectations
The first, and most important, tip I can provide is for you to be patient.
One of the most challenging things about training a new team member, particularly those on the more junior side, is remembering that they won’t be able to do things as well as you. This is always the hardest thing to let go of in the training process.
Keep in mind that everyone learns at different speeds and in different ways. What comes easily to you may not to them.
I know it is a simple tip, but it's one that bears repeating: be prepared to be patient. Don’t expect everyone to be an expert out of the gate.
2. Foster Learning
As I mentioned in the first tip: everyone learns in different ways.
Your job as a trainer is to be prepared for all types of learners. Make sure you have pathways built for people with different learning styles and backups for “how you usually do it,” to support those different needs.
Most important, ASK people up front how they learn best. If you simply ask before diving in, you'll be able to structure a learning plan that fits their needs and avoids wasted effort. I’d also recommend asking some probing questions about what they usually do when they learn something new, or about a time they learned something very fast, to get clues to their learning styles.
There are numerous different models to represent types of learning, but this particular graphic sums up the best methods, and things that might affect learning, as a starting point.
And lastly, no matter their learning style, everyone will learn best if they get the opportunity to actually learn by doing.
Make sure your training program doesn’t just involve telling them or showing them what to do, but instead progresses them to actually doing the action while you watch. Otherwise, you’ll find out far too late that they aren’t capable of doing what you think they are… and then everyone has a bad experience.
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3. Let Them Fly
Part of being a great leader is knowing when to let go. It'll be harder than you think, and you'll have to try it before you feel ready to do it.
Just like a mother bird has to push her babies out of the nest at some point, you'll have to let your trainees fly.
Take a step back and let them do it. Let them fail from time to time. That is how we learn and grow.
My best advice for this phase of training is to have someone who is responsible for checking their work before it goes out the door, but let them do the work. Don’t jump in to save them or be a crutch.
As you see the work improve during the review, you can slowly let them move to a place where they don’t need review of every task.
If you now can't get “I believe I can fly” out of your head, sorry—not sorry.
4. Take Advantage of Your Team’s Expertise
The most important tactical piece in this puzzle is how you create mentor and mentee relationships. I’d recommend that every trainee is assigned a more seasoned mentor from within the team.
But, make sure you keep a 1-1 relationship with all new hires, and don’t have a mentor be responsible for more than one mentee or they will be spread too thin.
And then, foster the building of that relationship.
Have a budget set aside to support rapport building. I usually suggest at the beginning that mentors and mentees meet once per week, and I would actually set aside a budget so that the mentor can take the mentee out for coffee, drinks or lunch.
You’ll want to make sure your mentors are ready to take on the responsibility, and usually it will be part of their own career growth plan as well.
I always built my teams to be modeled after Star Wars (because who wouldn’t?). To become a Jedi Master, a Jedi must take on a Padawan to mentor. The same was true in our teams. To hit the next level of growth, our more seasoned team members had to prove they could teach their skills to new members.
5. Measure and Monitor
Like any good goal, you should regularly measure progress. You should monitor both the work produced by the new team member as well as how they are progressing along their training program.
Build in regular check-ins to make sure they are growing at the speed you expect. Have a documented training plan with skills they have to demonstrate at specific time-bound milestones to help make this actionable.
Sit in on a few of the meetings between the mentor and mentee to ensure their pairing is working well and the mentee is learning everything they should.
Most importantly (and most often overlooked) is the opportunity for you to learn from the new hire. Challenge them to provide feedback on how the onboarding and training process could be improved, or how the team could function better.
Take advantage of fresh eyes and use it as an opportunity to improve yourself as well.
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6. Be a Leader
In addition to ensuring that your new hires acquire the skills you want them to, it is your job to lead them. So the last tip on this list is to simply be a good leader to them.
Give your team the freedom to operate and make mistakes (yes they are going to happen). Help them learn from mistakes when they occur, and allow them to feel confident in recovering from said mistakes.
Make sure you have your team’s back. An old adage I like to follow is this: “Take all of the blame, and none of the credit.”
If someone outside of the team has praise, give all the credit to your team members (and take none of it yourself as the leader). If someone has complaints or issues, take the blame and protect your team, but make sure you—and they—learn from it, and work with them to improve.
The Bottom Line
Running an Ad Ops team, and training new members, isn’t that different from running any other team. The only difference is really the specific skill sets your new members need to learn.
So basically, be a great leader, and allow your more seasoned team members to help you spread the load of skill training.