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!

 

Like it? Share it!

 

 

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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!

 

How to Overcome Conference Challenges

‘Tis that time of year again, my friends…the ATD International Conference & Expo (some call it “ICE”) is coming up soon (less than 2 weeks away as I write this!), and I am simply giddy with excitement. I’m not ashamed to admit that one reason I’m giddy is because this year’s conference is in San Diego…here in Indiana, we can’t seem to kick the winter doom-and-gloom to the curb, so the delicious SoCal sun is beckoning! I’m also giddy because every year, this conference exceeds my expectations. The speakers and sessions are terrific, and I get to spend a few days learning and geeking out with some really awesome, smart, creative people.

(Lucky me!)

Top-notch events like ICE also make me reminisce about some of the not-so-excellent conferences I’ve attended over the years. Sometimes, the content missed the mark or the speakers were sub-par. Other times, logistical issues have plagued the entire event. Occasionally, I’ve simply felt out of place or disengaged for one reason or another. Fortunately, in my experience, the “hits” far outweigh the “misses.”

So what do you do if you attend a conference, and it’s a dud? You make some lemonade out of those plastic conference buffet centerpiece lemons! Here are a few tips:

If the sessions are irrelevant, boring or otherwise underwhelming:

  • Have a backup plan. When there are multiple breakout sessions in each timeslot, I try to mark more than one that seems to be of interest. After a few minutes, if a session is not meeting my expectations or is shaping up to be different than the description indicated, I quietly slip out and make my way to my backup choice. For big conferences like ICE, it’s important to map out a game plan in advance – there are dozens of sessions from which to choose in every time slot. So a little preparation can help you with this!
  • Chat it up. Take an opportunity before the session begins, during a small group discussion segment or as the session wraps up, to say hello to someone new. Ask why they chose that session….even if the content being delivered isn’t the greatest, perhaps you’ll make a connection with someone who wants to learn the same thing and you can discuss it on your own terms.

 

If you’re an introvert and you don’t enjoy “mingling” during networking events or cocktail receptions:

  • Quality over quantity. Personally, I’d much rather have 2-3 meaningful conversations than blitzing around a room swapping business cards all night. Seek out a familiar face (or find someone who looks equally uncomfortable!) and say hello. If you’re not a master at small talk, prepare yourself with a couple of safe, open-ended questions to get a conversation started.
  • Continue a conversation from earlier. Did you start a conversation with someone earlier in the day, only to be interrupted by the next scheduled session? Wrap up by asking the person, “I’d love to learn more about that project (or whatever). Will you be at the cocktail reception later?” — then make sure to seek him/her out!

 

If you find yourself disengaged during keynotes or general sessions:

  • Viva la hashtag. Sometimes, the best conference a-ha moments aren’t delivered by a speaker at all. Follow the event hashtag on Twitter to discover fascinating people and learn interesting facts, quotes and insights. Share your own thoughts and retweet your favorites to fuel the conversation!
  • Seek out ONE USEFUL NUGGET to apply in your role/life. Even when I haven’t been completely engaged in the session itself, I make an effort to find something that I can apply somehow. Maybe it’s taking the topic back to my team to get their opinion and start a discussion. Perhaps I just really like the presenter’s slide deck design and want to try their technique. Maybe the presenter’s viewpoint is the polar opposite of my own, and I get a little fired up…don’t get me started about the time a keynote (and well-respected industry leader) was bashing on 70:20:10, and I was presenting a breakout session later that day on leveraging 70:20:10 in onboarding to engage new employees. No, he didn’t realize that, and it certainly wasn’t intentional. But man…awkward.

 

Bottom line: Even the “meh” conferences can be salvaged. At the core, all conferences are wonderful opportunities to connect with like-minded colleagues, so take advantage of these chances to learn, share and grow with others! Like most things, we reap what we sow. If you go into the event thinking it will be miserable, you will be miserable. If you look for opportunities to make the most of it, you certainly will.

Your turn: What are your strategies for making the most out of conferences? Share a comment below – your advice can help your fellow conference-goers, rookies and seasoned attendees alike!

Fortunately, ICE is sure to be a killer event. Will I see you there? Drop me a note, connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn so we can catch up!

 


 

Looking for a few other conference-related posts? Check out these oldies-but-goodies!

3 Ways to Have a Really Bad Time at a Conference

How to Combat Inspiration Overload After a Conference

 

 

Talent Marketing Essentials: The Welcome Email

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In this second installment of the Talent Marketing Essentials series, we’re exploring the power of a warm welcome.

 

Regardless of your reason for the welcome, we should all be able to relate to being on the receiving end of a well-executed welcome strategy (as well as the feelings we’ve experienced as a result of a poorly-executed campaign or non-existent welcome), both in a Business-to-Business (B2B) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C) environment. When you express an interest in something – purchasing a product, enrolling for a conference, signing up to receive blog or email updates, accept a job offer – you typically have a natural curiosity about it and are eager to learn more.

 

Now let’s put this into a Talent program framework. Think of a program you lead. Maybe it’s:

 

  • Welcoming incoming new employees as part your onboarding experience upon offer acceptance
  • Introducing matched pairs in a formal mentoring program
  • Setting expectations for participating in a long-term leadership development program
  • Providing helpful information and resources after registering for a conference, retreat, instructor-led training or other event

 

Got a program in mind? Great!

 

If you read the first installment of this series, you may have accessed the free workbook and learned how to create an email sequence that focuses around a welcome series for onboarding. Be sure to check out that post for some additional inspiration! Because of that, I’m going to step outside my typical onboarding wheelhouse today (gasp!) and use a different example that could trigger a one-time welcome email campaign. Let’s dig into the opportunities to think like a marketer in this way…

 

Example: Welcome an employee who enrolled (self-enrolls or is auto-enrolled by a company leader, supervisor or administrator) in an internal leadership development program.

 

Possible challenges with this example:
  • System-generated emails, when left at default settings, are ugly and often ignored
  • Uninformative emails get lost in the shuffle or just add to inbox chaos
  • Participants really don’t understand what they’re signing up for (or what they’ve been signed up for by someone else)
Opportunities:
  • Give your program participants a reason to get excited!
  • Set clear expectations about what will take place, time commitments and content to be covered
  • Share logistics, pre-work and helpful resources
  • Invite participants to join pre-program discussion online
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Is this an example that is relevant for your organization? Add this sample email text to your swipe file!

Hi *insert participant name*!

Thanks for registering for the Leadership Academy! We’re so excited that you’ll be joining the group for our upcoming 12-month cycle – we hope you’re excited, too!

To get started, here is some helpful information:

  • The group will consist of 10-12 manager-level employees from different divisions across the organization. It will be a great opportunity for you to connect and learn from peers that you may not interact with regularly. Visit our discussion portal on the HUB (**include link**) to get acquainted with the other participants!
  • This program will meet in person on the first Tuesday of every month from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. in the ABC conference room.
  • There will be assigned reading before each session – you will be responsible for preparing for a group discussion.
  • There will also be a mentor and charitable service component to the program, as well as a self-paced curriculum that consists of online modules, short videos and curated resources. 

 Got questions? Feel free to contact us anytime at email@email.com

See you at the first meeting! 

Your friend in learning,

Michelle

 How to personalize it:

  • Use your company or program logo
  • Use your LMS or email software tools to personalize as appropriate (first name, etc)
  • Include calendar invites so people can easily save key dates to their schedule
  • Link to external content, discussion portals and other resources – make it easy for people to participate!

A thoughtfully-crafted welcome email is an easy-to-execute communication strategy to get people excited, connected and prepared, and encourage deeper participation within your program. I hope you were able to walk through that example with your own learning programs in mind, and imagine how a warm, authentic welcome could make your programs come alive!

Your turn: How do you “think like a marketer” with your learning programs? Share a comment below so others can learn from you!