If you’re having trouble relating to new employees, do this…

A few weeks ago at the day job, I was meeting with a couple of people on my team, discussing two training programs that we are in the process of updating. One of the programs is part of our onboarding process; new employees participate in the program between 30-60 days post-hire.

The team member who is developing content for that particular program joined our team less than a year ago, but she has been with the organization for 9 years, starting in an entry-level, frontline customer service role (and let me just say, she has quickly shown us that she is an absolute rockstar!). She said to me, “I’m having a hard time relating to the new employees. I’ve just been here so long, it’s hard to put myself in their shoes.”

Hmmm. That made a lot of sense to me. We settle into our routines. We become familiar with people, processes and products. And after a few years, we often find ourselves (unintentionally) out of touch with exactly what those new employees are really feeling when they first walk in the front door to start their career with our organization.

This goes for the folks who are responsible for developing and implementing onboarding programs.

So, how did I respond?

I told her to go to Starbucks.

I suggested that she stop by Starbucks, pretending it was her first day as a new barista, and do the following:

  • Look at the different product offerings on the menu board, in the food cases and on the merchandise shelves,
  • Listen to the process the cashier follows when taking orders and payments,
  • Watch employees preparing food,
  • Watch the drive-through interactions……and
  • Watch how quickly the baristas can differentiate the different drinks and special orders and efficiently prepare them for waiting customers

If it was her first day on the job, how would she feel to take that all in? All of those precise details that seem so easy to existing employees are completely foreign to new ones. It takes time, training, support and coaching to build skills and familiarity when starting any new job.

The suggestion made sense to her – while we don’t sell coffee and pastries at the day job, we do have complex products, services and processes that employees need to learn and master to be successful on the job. And honestly, many of our new frontline employees came to us by way of customer-facing roles (including Starbucks). Those new employees might come to us being familiar with how to quickly prepare an obnoxious drink like this…

starbucks order

…but they don’t have a clue about all of the aspects that make our organization unique.

The end result of this little experiment? A better understanding of what it’s like to be the new kid on the block, and improved empathy and connection to the new employee experience.

So, if you or someone on your team need to reboot your understanding of how new employees feel….maybe it’s time to make a Starbucks run.

(That is, unless you currently work at Starbucks!)

 


 

Your turn: How do you stay in touch with the new employee experience? Share a comment below so we can learn from you!

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What are your existing employees telling your new employees?

A lot of my blog inspiration comes from casual observations as I’m out-and-about. Today’s post comes from a brief conversation I overheard while waiting for an elevator, between an existing employee (Brendon) and a new employee:

Brendon: Today was your first day, right? How did it go? I’m Brendon, I’m the Director of Client Experience.

New employee: Yeah! It was great, thanks! Nice to meet you!

Brendon: It all goes downhill from here…

New employee: Umm…(nervous laugh)…yeah…..

*end scene*

As I stood there, waiting for and eventually riding on the elevator, I’m not sure if I wanted to hug and encourage the new employee (whose name I didn’t catch), or smack Brendon for saying that to someone on her first day.

Maybe Brendon was trying to be funny and break the ice. Maybe he remembers what it was like to be a wide-eyed, naive new employee joining the organization (it was a tech startup). Yes, as the Director of Client Experience, he has some context to know that reality means hard work, dealing with sometimes-upset clients and probably leading a team (yes, that’s an assumption based on his “Director” title). The truth is, he was probably just making casual conversation while waiting for an elevator.

But Brendon….oh, dear Brendon…what you didn’t consider in that moment is that this new employee was walking to the elevator to leave at the end of first day, processing her experience and considering her decision to join your company, and your innocent comment may linger. Did her first day stack up to the promises made during the interview process? Maybe it did, and she was excited to come back for Day #2……but now, a dark cloud of uncertainty creeps in.

What if Brendon is right?

What if everyone was on their best behavior today, but the reality is different?

What if I won’t like working here?

Sure, I’ve taken a snippet of a conversation and escalated it to a dark place. But it gives us something to think about…..what are the messages your new employees’ peers are sending? Does the reality of the working environment match the picture you’re painting in the beginning? If your organization doesn’t deliver on those promises made, the relationship between that new employee and the organization will always be lacking in trust.

And trust is a key factor in nurturing loyal, productive, engaged employees.

A study by Aberdeen a few years back suggested that as much as 87% of new employees are not fully committed to a new job for the first six months. As early moments, conversations and experiences add up, are they building trust and commitment, or breaking it down?

As Talent leaders, we must keep a finger on the pulse of our organization’s culture, people and perceptions. Routinely review your data – engagement and exit surveys, questions that bubble up, time spent during meetings, and perhaps most importantly….get out of your office. Spend time with people across the organization and talk to them. On the surface, it may seem that these findings only affect your employee engagement efforts, but in reality it all connects to your people strategy….including onboarding and employee development.

To the Brendons out there….I hope you realize the impact you have on the new employee experience.

And to that new tech startup employee out there, I hope you’re finding success in your new role!

 

Your turn: How do you engage peers during the onboarding process? Share a tip, idea or strategy below!

 

3 make-or-break strategies for building a best-in-class onboarding experience

Today alone, in my work email – not even counting messages received in my personal email – I received over 30 solicitation emails (only a few were from organizations I know/like/trust and opted into at some point), telling me how I can improve the results of my (insert program) or how I can maximize efficiency with (insert process). You know the drill – your inbox probably looks the same way on any given day.

One commission-hungry, cold-email sender actually quoted THIS BLOG to me while trying to peddle his wares….that was interesting….

Another email promised me the key to unlock a better onboarding, and that if I did this, I could “finally set it and forget it.” Once the irritation subsided, it got me thinking…

There is so much subjectivity in any HR, learning or talent program. Every organization is unique: priorities, challenges, workforce, budget, customers, geography – and so many other factors – mean there isn’t one magic bullet that will ensure success.

This includes your onboarding efforts!

Regardless of the uniqueness of your organization, defining what these three strategies should look like in your world, and mindfully implementing opportunities to leverage them during your new employees’ first weeks and months on the job will set your program apart and encourage more rapid productivity and elevated job performance, which can be directly translated to tangible business results.

These 3 make-or-break strategies center around the sheer power of a meaningful WELCOME:

===> Welcome to the COMPANY: From their earliest moments interacting with your organization and brand, find ways to connect new employees to your:

  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Customer
  • Products & Services
  • Industry
  • Competitors

Every employee – new or experienced – should be able to establish a “direct line of sight” from their role to your customer. Help new employees make the connection immediately!

 

===> Welcome to the TEAM:  Relationships are at the core of the new employee experience, and “team” means both the entire organization and and the local department/business unit. New employees need to be provided with multiple opportunities to feel your culture in action. Make your core values come to life. Engage new employees in both formal and informal relationship-building activities to help provide context to organizational makeup and structure. For those employees teetering on the “Did I make the right decision to come work here?” fence (and there are more of those folks than you might realize!), feeling connected to a warm, inclusive team could make all the difference.

 

===> Welcome to the JOB:  Training matters. Providing a relevant, well-crafted learning plan is essential for all employees, regardless of role. The most effective learning happens over a period of time, through a variety of methods, including:

  • Instructor-led training (face-to-face or virtual classroom) on systems, processes and procedures
  • eLearning modules deployed via Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Mobile-friendly content
  • Job aids and other resources
  • Social tools – Slack, SharePoint, your intranet or other collaborative platforms
  • Peer mentoring
  • Giving/receiving feedback
  • Hiring manager coaching
  • Team meetings
  • Meet-and-greet sessions with cross-functional roles and teams
  • Introductions to key vendors, clients and projects

The most effective learning will happen through a deliberate blend of formal instruction, coaching and relationships and informal, on-the-job learning. Yep, 70:20:10.

 

Friends, you just can’t “set-and-forget” onboarding.

Sure, you can automate paperwork and build efficient processes. But the true mark of a successful program will fall in these three areas. Look at your organization’s unique factors, and make sure each facet of welcome is well-represented.

 

Your turn: How do you welcome new employees to the company, team and role? Share a thought, tip or strategy in the comments below!

 

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5 ways that “offboarding” can elevate your onboarding efforts

In my book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to Navigating the Employee Development Journey, my co-authors and I provided managers with easy-to-use processes throughout the entire employment lifecycle, from the initial interview through when an employee leaves the organization. While we typically focus a lot of our energy on developing employees in their roles or preparing them for a future role, there is something to be said for connecting the dots between an exiting employee and onboarding his/her replacement.

I’ve been thinking about that offboarding –> onboarding connection lately. Many organizations conduct an exit interview and/or deploy a survey (my opinion on this process is a post in itself) to solicit feedback when an employee has one foot out the door, and that’s it….sometimes (often?), that feedback is sucked into a black data hole, never to be reviewed or acted upon.

So, how can we better leverage an exiting employee’s perspective to set an incoming employee up for success, particularly when that employee is leaving the organization on good terms?

A few thoughts:

Tie up loose ends: When an employee leaves mid-project, his/her replacement often inherits the project….and could use a decoder ring to figure out fragments, manual processes or key stakeholders. Create an action plan to tighten up incomplete projects while the exiting employee is working through his “two week notice,” and consider creating a simple transition template to capture helpful information to pass along to a new employee.

Transition tasks and projects ahead of time: Don’t wait until the exiting employee has departed…create a plan in advance for who will be assuming projects and responsibilities. That allows the exiting employee to…..

Share legacy knowledge with others: Document processes. Make introductions with vendors or other stakeholders. Create checklists, templates and job aids to simplify tasks and processes. Discuss challenges, solutions, tips and other helpful information that will serve new employees (and other team members who will absorb work!) effectively.

Get feedback: Ask your exiting employee about his role, tasks, projects and responsibilities. Look for inefficiencies, communication gaps and other pain points that could be addressed before your new employee joins the team. Taking action, particularly on quick wins, will help set your new employee up for success.

Show respect – both ways: Recognize effort made and results delivered by the exiting employee during his/her tenure with the organization. Then, respect the endeavor your incoming employee will make to quickly jump in and become a productive team member. A little mutual respect goes a long way.

 

Your turn: How do you “offboard” your exiting employees? What strategies have you found successful to bridge exiting employees with new (or internally transferring) employees? Share an idea, thought, tip or comment below so we can learn from one another!

Onboarding During Times of Organizational Change

I don’t often talk about happenings at my day job, but I have an interesting case study to share. We have recently completed a major system conversion, a project that has taken nearly 3 years from inception, but particularly the past 18 months. My team was tasked with enabling the entire organization through training, on-the-job practice, working with SMEs and communication. Since this was such a meaty endeavor, and a change that literally affected nearly every area of the business, we had a hiring freeze during the final months of the implementation.

Our first orientation class since we’ve migrated to the new system began this week. As in many facets of organizational change, there was apprehension floating in the air about bringing new employees so quickly after the proverbial switch had been flipped. It got me thinking about onboarding new employees throughout times of change….here are a few quick tips if you are in (or approaching) a season of change in your organization:

Believe it or not, your newest employees have the upper-hand. They lack the context of how things used to be, the crutch of comparing old and new processes or a brain full of outdated system knowledge. They come in with a fresh mindset and can actually bring helpful perspective to the team.

Get your house in order. When new employees leave the secure nest of Orientation and head to the job, they won’t have a true Subject Matter Expert on hand to show them the ropes. Depending on how “new” systems and processes are, they may find that even seasoned, tenured employees are still learning. Ensuring that you have well-designed job aids and other resources are essential for just-in-time learning.

Training new employees is very different than training existing employees. To the earlier point, new employees don’t know how the previous system or process worked. Existing employees need to be ready to jump right into their existing role after the change takes place. Attempting this with a new employee is akin to the old fire hose approach………new employees need to balance learning content consumption with the context to understand and apply it.

 

All in all, the team is excited to jump back into a new chapter of our award-winning onboarding program and welcoming our newest team members!

 

Your turn: What strategies have you found successful during seasons of major organizational change? Share your challenges and tips in the comments below!

 


 

Launch time is coming SOON! Be among the first to grab the online course & DIY kit!

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Get on the waiting list today!

Onboarding is not a “Nice-to-Have”

I had a brief conversation with a consultant and business owner at a networking event a few months ago, where the topic drifted to the new employee experience. We were discussing a few general best practices and he probed why onboarding is the niche market I choose to serve in my consulting practice. Trying not to bore frighten overwhelm him with my exuberance and sheer geekdom on the topic, I simply replied that there are so many well-meaning organizations who really miss the mark with their onboarding efforts…and there are numerous opportunities for onboarding to make a measurable impact on an organization’s bottom line and to drive engaged, productive employees and teams.

To which, he replied:

“Yeah…but onboarding really is a ‘nice-to-have,’ not a ‘need-to-have.’ Why waste your time on something that isn’t essential?” 

And Michelle was kicked out of the networking event for causing a scene.

The End.

Just kidding.

But I did quip back with, “That mindset is exactly what I’m committed to changing.” He laughed and told me to give him an example. I rattled off a quick case study about an organization I worked with who updated their onboarding program and resulted in a significant decrease in employee turnover among new employees and leaders and a reduction in errors by new customer service reps in the first 30 days. I connected that back to a financial win for that organization, and watched his eyes widen as he processed my 30 second, Cliff’s Notes-style summary…

I couldn’t help but smile when he said, “I had no idea. You’re absolutely right.”

Friends, onboarding is an essential component to your people and operations strategy. It’s a “need-to-have,” because:

It is more than paperwork.

It is more than getting their desk and computer set up.

It is more than a lengthy PowerPoint and a building tour during Orientation.

 

Onboarding is a strategic, competitive advantage that can yield tangible business results for your organization:

It’s about welcoming a new employee to the company, the team and the role.

It’s about setting new employees up to be successful over their first several months on the job, not hours.

It’s about building connection and community.

It’s about moving your business forward.

 


 

Is your organization one of the well-meaning ones who are simply missing the mark? Perhaps your leaders and decision makers don’t see the value….well, as I shared in a previous post, Why do leaders care about onboarding?, leaders care about onboarding when we tell them to care. Give them a reason. Build your business case and make it irresistible.

There is still time to make this happen in 2018! Download this free tip sheet to help you get started:

5 Steps for Getting Leader Support for Onboarding

In my annual State of Onboarding survey earlier this year, I discovered an overwhelming interest in courses, webinars and workshops that enable professionals on developing and implementing onboarding strategies. Thank you for the feedback….because friends, I listened, and I’m thrilled to be launching a self-study course and DIY kit in the coming weeks:

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Whether you are a team of one or on a team of many, this course and DIY kit will give you everything you need to identify your unique opportunities to drive business results through onboarding, and build a compelling case to get your decision makers on board.

Want the inside scoop when it’s available?  Join the list to be the first to know!

Let’s Make Onboarding Better….together!

 

One sentence that will make new employees fall in love with your organization

It’s human nature to have a deep-seeded desire to be needed. Wanted. Valued. In several talks and workshops, I’ve used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as an example of how we should be considering the needs of our new employees as we develop and implement onboarding strategies. Of course, it is critical to focus on the business needs in our programs, but when we focus all of our energy into driving business results, we are blind to the relationships that we might be neglecting; relationships that must be nurtured if we expect to drive any results whatsoever.

Old Abraham Maslow would be so proud to know that I’m getting so much mileage out of this…let’s take a look at a simple version of his famous Hierarchy model:

Hierarchy of Needs

Now, let’s think of it in terms of a new employee’s first experiences with your organization:

Hierarchy of Needs - onboarding

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I like to joke and be silly, but you might be surprised how many times I’ve heard stories from people who started new jobs, and no one told them where the restroom was…or where to park…or where to sit….or any number of basic tasks.

For the sake of this post and how lengthy it could become, let’s assume that you cover the first two rungs of the Hierarchy, and your goal is to create an environment that nurtures your new employees and truly welcomes them into your culture. If the ultimate goal is to achieve the top level of the Hierarchy….self-actualization, where the new employee can affirm that s/he made the right decision to work for your organization (because remember, that decision is a two-way street – sure, you may have chosen that candidate, but s/he chose your organization, too!), your new employee needs to feel connected to your organization, the culture, the customer, the hiring manager and his/her immediate team from Jump Street.

Let’s repeat that:
Your new employee needs to feel connected to your organization, the culture, the customer, the hiring manager and his/her immediate team from Jump Street.

(No small task!)

Here is one simple sentence that all hiring managers should say to every new employee on his/her first day that will instantly bond a new employee to the organization, the team and the role:

You were brought here for a reason.

It can be said casually over lunch or coffee. Maybe as the new employee is getting settled at his/her new desk, or in a debrief at the end of the first day. But it needs to be said. Instead of letting a new employee wonder what made him/her stand out against other candidates, or sift through vague interview feedback, just say it. Tell that outstanding new team member exactly what s/he brings to your team, and how much the team is looking forward to his/her contributions.

What this will do for your new employee:

  • It will capitalize on the new employee’s already-high level of excitement about starting the new position and help create an early bond.
  • It will help the new employee understand that even though s/he doesn’t know the ropes yet, his/her perspective, past experience and potential will add value to the team.
  • It will give a warm-fuzzy feeling….and most will admit, it’s just nice to hear.

 

Bottom line: When studies suggest that as much as 87% of new employees are not fully committed to an organization for the first 6 months, and the costs of recruiting, replacement and retraining are excruciatingly high, shouldn’t you use every available opportunity to weave that employee into the fabric of your team and organization?


 

Will you be at the ATD International Conference & Expo in San Diego next week? If so, I’d love to connect with you! Drop me a note and let’s find a few minutes to chat!