Big-Box Onboarding

big box onboarding

Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of big-box stores.  That said, I am a suburban mom…so they do have a place in my life.  But as Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close, I’ve had holiday shopping on the brain…although this is the first year in recent memory that I did NOT brave the crowds on Black Friday.  It’s been a busy weekend of home improvement projects here at the abode, which right now can be referred to as Ground Zero. What. A. Mess.

(Okay, let’s change the subject before I start stressing about the unfinished master bedroom closet and how its contents are strewn about, waiting for new shelving to be installed.)

As we develop and implement onboarding experiences for our organizations, what can we learn from the big-box stores?  A few things, I believe:

1. There is always something for everyone.

Whether you are shopping for a new vacuum cleaner, a loaf of bread, or a DVD player; chances are, they’ve got it.  Instead of stopping at multiple stores around town to get what you need, you can easily find most (if not all) of the things you’re looking for under one roof.

Onboarding programs should be the same.  Regardless of the varied roles your new employees have been hired to fill, their onboarding experience should certianly be consistent, but also customized enough to include tools and resources that will be relevant for those different positions.  Make it meaningful.

2. You walk away with more than what you came for.

It happens all the time: You walk in for a gallon of milk.  An hour later, you’re wheeling a cart to your car, loaded with $200 of various sundries.  The convenience of having so much under one roof often means spending more than anticipated.  While this is definitely an annoyance, we can also take a lesson:

So many organizations have such lackluster orientation and onboarding experiences for their new employees.  Because of this, the bar has been set pretty low for most people.  When preparing to start a new job, many incumbents are (sadly) expecting a very minimal onboarding experience…likely paperwork and policies.  This is our opportunity to exceed expectations.  How can you do this in your organization?  What can you offer that will truly welcome your new hires to the company and team?  How can you enable new hires to find success in their roles?  Give them more than what they came for.

3. Needs and wants live together in harmony.

Impulse buys are abundant at the big-box store.  The big-box-big-shots are betting that you will spot that bag of M&Ms and the latest issue of Food Network magazine in the checkout line and toss them into your (overflowing) cart, thus contributing to the $200 total mentioned above.  (Not that I’d know anything about this.  Nope, not me.)

A moment ago, we covered the concept of exceeding expectations, but let’s take it a step further.  How can you go above the bare minimum?  Beyond the requisite paperwork, company history, and building tour?  How can new employees be woven into the social fabric of your organization?

– Maybe your new employee is an avid runner.  Connect him with those employees who do a group run every Tuesday at 5:00!

– Is there a local watering hole where employees converge for Happy Hour on Fridays?

– What about a carpool group for employees who live on a particular side of town?

It’s important to recognize that employees have needs that go beyond the basic workplace needs.  Human needs, belonging and acceptance go beyond the rigors of HR policy and procedures (for an earlier post that touches on this, check this out).  Balance the compliance-driven NEEDS with what your employees truly crave and WANT from their workplace.

Now, I’m going to take it yet another step further…

The thing that drives me crazy about the Big Boxes is the lack of personal attention. Poor customer service. The feeling that you are better off to wander the aisles and attempt to locate an item on your own than to ask an associate for assistance.  I’m sure you’ve been there.  Let’s take away one last lesson; this time from the Mom-and-Pop retailers that are quickly becoming extinct:

Personal service trumps convenience.

In a world of automated systems, checkboxes and workflows, it helps to have a link to a human being. This is absolutely true in the onboarding experience. During the first days and weeks of a new employee’s tenure with your organization, he may only know a small handful of people.  Be available to answer questions.  Check in on him.  Give him a quick call to see how he’s doing.  Be a trusted resource for all new employees during that critical “get settled” time.  They’ll appreciate the effort.

As you find yourself out and about during the holiday season, undoubtedly spending some precious time and money in one of the many big-box stores that pepper our cities, consider your organization’s orientation and onboarding program.  Good lessons or bad lessons…what will be your takeaway? As always, I’d love to hear about it.

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