Marketing and sales often speak of their “funnels.”

They take cold leads–and enter them into a system of interactions that are designed to make them warm leads.

Once warm, steps are taken to make them warmer still…

…and then finally into buyers.

Typical sales funnel. Image courtesy of

It’s a process. System. The funnel is laid out on paper beforehand.

Most marketing and sales departments don’t leave anything to chance, either.

They have sales call scripts & automated follow-ups.

We can do the same in people management.

We should not leave our employees development up to “chance.” We should have systems and processes in place to make SURE our employees get everything they need.

We cannot wait to address performance problems or identify employees who lack motivation and interest–until those have already been diagnosed. It might be too late by that point.

You can set up systems and schedules (i.e. a plan) for keeping employees motivated, happy, and on top of their game–without stressing over it 5 days a week.

Introducing the “Funnel Formula” for building up amazing teams

The formula is quite simple:

  1. Identify what your employees need and when
  2. Design an automated system and calendar
  3. Execute

If #3 sounds the most difficult to you–you’d be correct.

However, if step #2 is done properly, executing an employee development system should be 10x easier.

Step 1 – Identify what your employees need and when.

If you were to examine a truly exceptional employee–and trace their employment back to day 1, what would you see?

When were there breakthroughs? Month 3 when training ends? Month 12 once they’ve fallen “into the hang of things?” Later?

What was it along these breakthroughs? An annual training event? After their first quarterly one-on-one with you?

Step #1 in this formula is all about discovering what your employees need from you in order to grow–and when they need it to happen.

The best way to do this is to examine past performance, starting with your “rockstars.”

What has worked for communication?

  • daily check-ins?
  • weekly meetings?
  • monthly meetings?

What has improved morale?

  • taking individual employees out to lunch once a month to talk?
  • team bowling trips every quarter?

What has fostered the most growth?

  • letting other employees shadow other departments?
  • quarterly conference trips? (our guess is probably not)
  • frequent reviews?

Identify the “triggers” that have fostered employee development, growth, and combatted burnout or work fatigue. Map out precisely when in each employees timeline you can take action to “trigger” such events.

Map it out.

Step 2 – Leave nothing to chance. Set up an automated system.

Here’s a great illustration, taken directly from an email marketing sequence

This is a sequence of emails that are sent to a new customer over the course of the first 6 months!

every “touch point” of communication is automated

The automated communications begin when a purchased is triggered, spans the course of several months, and there’s even a built-in trigger to end the sequence if the customer opts-out or is issued a refund.

Replicate this and adapt it to developing your team.

Take the action items you discovered in step #1, and add them to some sort of automated system.

There are tons of tools for this, and we’ll highlight a few of them below.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you polled you current team members and found the following to contribute most to their continued improvement:

  • short (10 mins or less) weekly meetings
  • 1 Friday a month dedicated to team-building, morale, and just “chill time.”
  • individual one-on-one’s every month for 30 minutes.
  • an unofficial long employee performance review every quarter, as opposed to annually

The first three are easy. They are recurring–and not based on an employee’s start date, etc.

But what about #4?

You should not leave this meeting to chance, and it should be scheduled upon an employee’s hire date.

If there are more than one “things that need to be scheduled” upon gaining a new team member, it’s probably best to have a checklist of sorts for the scheduled emails and automation you need to set up.

Our recommendation?

  1. Physical binder & paper with an unofficial new hire checklist (specifically for these funnel steps
  2. A tool like IFTTT or an Email Service Provider like Mailchimp.

IFTTT = let’s you set rules for automation. (It’s totally free)


IFTTT can set automated outlook meetings, emails to your personal gmail, and way more

You could spend an hour right now setting up a few of your rockstar employee funnel “action,” and have them emailed to both you and your employee’s email address.

Then, when a new hire starts, you break out your checklist and simply duplicate the IFTTT automations, etc.

Depending on your level of technical expertise, you could use your company’s outlook to schedule meetings in advance, or use fancier tools like a dedicated team ESP (Mailchimp), IFTTT, Zapier, etc. Setting those up is a bit beyond the scope of this article, but it’ll be worth the time investment to set these systems in motion.

Step 3 – Execute

This is really just a continuation of step #2,

The goal of step #2 was to make training and nurturing your employees as pain-free as possible for all parties involved.

Schedule your funnel “steps” or “actions” in advance, and executing them should be relatively smooth, except for one quality.

It can be tempting to back out of long-standing commitments due to short-term “perceived needs.”

As in…

I know this employee started exactly 6 months ago, and needs this specific training right now in order to grow–but we had some “fires” this week.”

We can’t tell you how to run your company or department, but we encourage you to stick to your guns.

If you have truly taken action on trying to keep your employees learning and loyal–then almost nothing is worth breaking the system.

Sticking to your commitments to your employees also positions you as a role model leader.

The bottom line: Do you not leave your employees’ development to chance.

There are certain activities you can do with your team members to keep them motivated, happy, and growing.

That much is obvious.

Why then do so many managers and companies not set a dedicated system in place to make these activities happen?

And NOT on a company-wide basis, either. What works for the IT team might not work for the front-line employees.

If you want to be a rockstar manager, you need to put a system in place to create rockstar employees.

Make it happen.