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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Setting & Communicating Vision for your Talent Development Team

*Jargon alert*

Vision. Mission. Purpose. Core Values. Strategy. Goals. Business Drivers. Competencies…….what do they mean? How are these concepts similar? How are they different? Do they matter? How do they work together to move an organization forward? What do they mean to a Talent department?

It goes without saying that Talent leaders need to find a way to cascade these organizational aspirations, often proclaimed from the highest levels of the organization, down to their teams and help them establish and maintain a connection, a “direct line of sight,” to those top-level messages. It starts with making sure we understand the vision ourselves. But that’s really not enough….

We need to translate that organizational vision into an inspiring, realistic vision for our teams.

If it all starts with a vision, how do we create and communicate it? Unfortunately, not everyone is “visionary” by nature, but it is a necessary quality for effective leaders to possess and demonstrate. If this isn’t a strength for you, don’t fret…it is a LEARNABLE skill!

For years, I’ve been saying that measuring and evaluating the success of Learning & Development programs must include a deliberate blend of quantitative and qualitative data. Simply put, we need to balance “the head and the heart” to ensure that we are truly adding value. Setting and communicating a vision takes a similar mindset.

Sure, we need to consider HOW we achieve or realize our vision (the quantitative “head”), but it all starts by getting your team to feel, embrace and yearn for the vision (the qualitative “heart”).

It’s emotion. It’s passion. It’s in your gut. It’s what kicks us out of our complacent routines and makes us remember why we do what we do.

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts in the car today that really got me thinking about just how important this is. They shared an incredible quote from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (my high school French teacher would be so proud) that sang to me (so much that I rewound that bit of the podcast 3 times to listen to the quote again and again):

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Dang, that’s good.

How often do we get caught up in the details? The tasks? The budgets? The busy-ness? Without realizing it, that’s the message we send to our teams, which is about as UNinspiring as it gets, amiright?

We’re burning them out instead of setting them ablaze.

The podcast episode I was listening to, “4 Steps to Communicating Vision,” on the Lead to Win podcast with Michael Hyatt, went on to share these tips for creating a vision. I’ve added a few thoughts to how we, as Talent, HR and L&D leaders, can really make these come alive with our teams:

 

>>>A statement of culture

The podcast suggests that this statement (which may be more than a single sentence), answers the question, “Who are we?” For our teams, this should clarify the value we add to the greater organization.

Example:

“The Talent Development team at ABC company are professionals, serving professionals, helping all ABC employees learn, grow and succeed.”

 

>>>A description of product

Your team needs to have a really, really laser-focused understanding of what you do, and what you don’t do. If my years of experience have taught me anything, it’s that whenever there is an issue with the business, the “training team” is often on speed dial (whether or not it truly IS a training issue…can I get an “Amen”?). Start with your team, then evangelize across your organization.

Examples:
  • We assess business goals, needs and projects to identify the learning needs of all stakeholders.
  • We are skilled content creators and training facilitators, dedicated to developing top-quality programs, materials and resources that aid strategic, just-in-time learning.
  • We are experts in establishing, nurturing and maintaining an engaged, skilled workforce dedicated to our mission of serving customers.

 

>>>A concept of the market

Who do you serve? In some organizations or teams, this might be a relatively simple question to answer. But with today’s increasingly complex business landscape, this might be more of a challenge. Global, matrixed, disbursed companies = an even greater need to help teams understand the market.

A leader at a company I used to work for was often quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as an internal customer.” What he meant was, there was one customer. The person buying your products or services. (He referred to “internal customers” as “business partners.”)

Okay – I see his point. But in the Business of Talent, we are often (not always) a step removed from the true CUSTOMERS. So we need to understand how we align to and serve them, even if indirectly. I know that I can draw a connection to a customer, but can my team make the same association? Simplify this by articulating who you serve.

Example:

“The Talent Development team at ABC Company provides training, employee development programs, learning tools and resources to all employees.”

 

>>>A desired impact

I could come up with my own words, but the post from the podcast episode said it best, so I’m just going to take it and run with it….a desired impact answers the question:

“So what?”

By the time we’ve identified who we are, what we do and who we serve, it’s only fair to specify WHY we do it and what the result will be if we deliver on our promise.

Example:

“Through our programs and resources, all ABC Company employees may have the tools they need to be successful in their current or future roles, effectively serve our customers and drive tangible business results.”


 

Let’s stitch these 4 pieces together:

The Talent Development team at ABC company are professionals, serving professionals, helping all ABC employees learn, grow and succeed.

We assess business goals, needs and projects to identify the learning needs of all stakeholders. 

We provide training, employee development programs, learning tools and resources to all employees.

Through our programs and resources, all ABC Company employees may have the tools they need to be successful in their current or future roles, effectively serve our customers and drive tangible business results.

 

This would be an excellent exercise to share with your fellow Talent/HR/Learning leaders for a team retreat or strategic planning meeting. Naturally, you’ll want to expand this with your own priorities, leadership qualities and behaviors that drive personal, team and organizational results. Play around with the concept and discover what fits for your culture, team and company! Check out the show notes from the podcast for some killer examples.


 

My challenge to you, friends, is to set a vision and use every opportunity to make your vision come alive with your team. Use it to showcase the value you bring to your organization!

Your turn: What are your thoughts on setting and communicating a vision with your team? Have you done this in the past? How will you use this information? Please share a comment, or share this post with a colleague!

Why Managers Need a “GPS” to Navigate the Employee Development Journey

Why managers need a GPS

Unless one is in the business of “talent,” it could be confusing to recognize what “talent” really means. After all, what differentiates talent management, talent acquisition, talent development, talent shows….okay, I’m kidding on that one. But kidding aside, it can be confusing to people who DO work in a talent-focused role, so it’s no surprise how complex it might seem for anyone else or to understand how their role intersects with the “business” of talent.

People managers, regardless of your industry or department, this one is for you: Your role in developing talent is critical. You are the linchpin. The one who is most likely to encourage – or stunt – an employee’s growth, development and ultimate success within your team and in your organization. And yes, it may be only one of many functions listed on your job description, but it is arguably the most important aspect of your role.

If the end destination is an engaged, successful long-term employee, how do managers navigate the career path – especially when every employee is unique and at different points along the journey, and there are so many different route options to follow?

 

Successful navigators, whether in travel or career, follow a roadmap or GPS.

Throughout the employment journey, a manager should be tuned into employee development needs at every turn:

  • When interviewing and hiring
  • During the onboarding period
  • While career planning
  • Through the succession identification and planning process
  • While promoting an employee (and re-onboarding after that promotion!)
  • When an employee prepares to leave the business

 

Lou Russell, Brittney Helt and I have spent the past several months diving into the manager experience during each stage of employee development and built a simple road map to guide managers’ paths. We are thrilled to launch our new book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to Navigating the Employee Development Journey, a practical guide for managers to chart their course through this complex process.

Talent GPS cover image 2

 

Remember, an employee’s success hinges on the support provided by his/her manager. Our job as Learning & Talent Development practitioners is to help managers navigate the journey.  

Whether you manage people, or support people who do, you will benefit from having this resource in your collection.

Learn more and order your copy today!

Why “Lean In” Made Me Step Back for a Moment

Over the past few years, the Lean In movement has become a highly influential, inspirational voice for professional women around the world. As a professional female, I appreciate the message and encouragement. As the mother of a teenage son (today, at the time of this writing, is actually his 15th birthday!) and a college-aged daughter, I appreciate that these conversations are happening, to hopefully provide an equal, empowering career experience for her, and that my son has an educated perspective as well. I’ve read the book and follow posts on social media. I would say that I’ve been in agreement with most of the points I’ve seen.

Until last week.

If you know me, you know that I am hardly a confrontational person. This blog, while sometimes a source of tough love for hiring managers and those who are responsible for creating learning experiences, is not typically a platform that seeks out debate because, quite frankly, it’s exhausting, it rarely yields change, and it’s just not my style. However, in defense of my passionate stance for the new employee experience, I was unsettled by a post and New York Times article I read the other day on the Lean In Facebook page:

lean-in-facebook-post

Specifically, this line from the post:

Office Housework.PNG

Please hear me: I am not disagreeing with the overall premise of this article. I fully believe that women often do more “office housework” than their male counterparts. I have seen (and experienced) it time and time again during my 20+ years in the workforce.

My issue, and what struck such a nerve with me, is that this post described “training new hires” as OFFICE HOUSEWORK, suggesting that it is an inconvenience. A mindless task. A chore.

Then I thought, “Okay, Michelle. Before getting all worked up over a Facebook post, maybe you should read the article and then form an opinion?” So I did.

And in the first paragraph, I read this:

lean_in_article

 

Right there, among suggestively trivial items like helping improve a presentation and planning a holiday party, I saw it: “trained several new hires…”

Now, I can accept that fact that whoever wrote the Facebook post, and the authors of this article probably did not intend to minimize the importance of onboarding. Of the thousands of people who read the post/article, I am probably the only one who is reacting so passionately to something that wasn’t even the main point (I could argue how sad that is, but I’ll let it slide). But since the Lean In organization has such influence over so many professionals in countless organizations and industries (and kudos to them for it), I am distressed over the notion that such cavalier word choices may cause readers to dismiss an organization’s need for intentional, results-driven onboarding.

If you treat onboarding like an inconvenience or a low-priority task, then don’t be surprised if your new employees aren’t feeling connected to your organization.

A study by Aberdeen has shown that as many as 87% of new employees aren’t fully committed to a new job for the first six months. Eighty-seven percent. Let’s put it this way: out of 100 newly-hired employees, 87 of them are still subscribed to emails from Indeed and Glassdoor and may still be following up about other submitted job applications or calls from assertive recruiters. Those talented employees that you have invested time and money to hire and train are not entirely sure that they want to stick around for the long haul. If your partners in the onboarding process don’t realize how important their job is, then it is your job to communicate it.

Who are your partners?

Regardless of who “owns” the onboarding experience for your organization, there are a number of key stakeholders who should be involved in the new employee experience. Just a few include:

  • HR/Talent Acquisition
  • L&D/Training/Talent Development
  • Hiring Managers
  • Peers and teammates
  • Support staff (IT, administrative roles, etc)
  • Executives and senior leaders
  • Clients and vendors

Everyone involved touches a new employee’s experience in some way. If they treat this responsibility like an inconvenience, an afterthought or a “nice-to-have” during a busy time, then your new employees feel it. It potentially stunts their development, performance, engagement, and connectedness. You must educate your organization on how onboarding impacts the bottom line of your business.

Wait, what? You don’t know how onboarding impacts your business?

Find out.

What story is your company’s data telling about your new employees’ performance, retention and engagement? 

Depending on your organization’s goals and priorities, some essential metrics could include:

  • Sales within the first 30-60-90 days of employment
  • Number of errors or accidents on the job
  • Reasons employees leave within the first year (exit interview data is a gold mine for this!)
  • Number of internal promotions within the first year
  • Productivity – particularly for those in a very metric-driven role (think call center data, customer service, assembly line, etc)

 

Onboarding and new employee training can make a significant impact on business results – during Orientation, in a training environment and through on-the-job experience. People, male or female, who are involved should know how THEY are contributing to the bottom line. Give them a chance to take ownership of their role and recognize onboarding as a need-to-have. To lean in to the privilege of serving and contributing to a new employee’s success (see what I did there?).

Am I going to stop following Lean In because of this? No, of course not. The mission and work of this organization is important; it invites productive conversation and adds immense value to our professional society. In fact, had it not been for confidence gained through the stories of passionate female leaders and influencers, maybe I would not feel comfortable sharing my opinion through this platform? Who knows…

As a champion of learning in the workplace, I firmly believe that we need to pay attention to the direct and indirect messages we are sending, and use our influence to shape learning experiences for employees in the organizations we support. This article was a powerful reminder.


 

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3 Learning Lessons from Sesame Street

learning-lessons-from-sesame-street

Like many kids who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I learned on the Street. Sesame Street, that is. Watching this show was a daily occurrence when I was a tot.

Sesame Street is celebrating its 45th birthday this week! To think of how many millions of children have been introduced to learning through this show is simply incredible. Today, as a tribute to the institution that is Sesame Street, here are 3 lessons that adult learning professionals can take away:

1. The show is real and relevant.

Throughout the run of the show, Sesame Street hasn’t steered away from introducing kids to tough topics. One that stands out to me is when the actor who played Mr. Hooper passed away in real life. Instead of replacing the actor and moving on with the show, they tackled the sad truth head-on.

The lesson: In our organizations, keep it relevant through times of incessant change (or even turmoil). Align your programs and messaging to your business objectives. There should never be a question of how your program connects to your organizational strategy.

 

2. Children interact with trusted adults. And celebrities. And puppets!

One of the most entertaining parts of the show is when children are involved – whether they are dancing and giggling with Elmo or singing a song with a movie star. The show (and learning) is at its best when everyone is engaged.

The lesson: Get people and teams out of their silos. Connect employees with leaders. Get new associates paired up with a buddy or mentor. What is your team doing to establish and maintain a collaborative environment?

 

3. Learning is fun, gosh darnit.

I highly doubt that I would have learned how to read, count, be a good friend, have empathy or accept people who are different than I am had the show not have been FUN to watch.

The lesson: Are your learning programs (whether through face-to-face, online or other methods) engaging? Are they – dare I say – enjoyable? If not, maybe 2015 is the year your team takes an honest look at your offerings!

 

This week, I’m celebrating Sesame Street. I’m thinking back to the lessons I learned as a kid…and the lessons the show continues to teach today. Happy 45th birthday, Sesame Street!

Your turn: Did you watch Sesame Street when you were a kid? What lessons did you learn? Who were your favorite characters (people or puppets)? What else can we take away from the show that can help us develop as learning professionals? Use the comments to share your thoughts and memories!

 

Know of someone who fondly remembers the Street? Be kind and share this post!

 

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Onboarding Should be Relational, not Transactional

onboarding-soapbox

Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that get under a person’s skin and drives. them. absolutely. crazy.

For me, it’s the term “new hire.” Seems innocent, right? I’m sure about 99.2% of people in the free world wouldn’t think twice about the expression, but it’s one I simply cannot stand.

In fact, I told my friend Brian the other day that “I die a little bit inside every time someone says ‘new hire’.” Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but hear me out:

Onboarding should be relational, not transactional.

“Hire” is a verb. It suggests transaction, or something that you do. When I hear someone referred to as a “new hire,” I immediately think that person isn’t an official part of the organization yet. In fact, when we look at the top definition for hire, this is what we see:

onboarding-should-be-relational-not-transactional

Am I saying there is no “transaction” involved in the process? Not at all. I get it, there is paperwork to complete, processes to follow, content to share. But that is not the end-all-be-all to onboarding a new employee.

onboarding-should-be-relational-not-transactional

Onboarding is a process that immerses a new employee (noun!) into an organization.

I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, of us want our newest employees to feel welcomed, nurtured and included when they join the organizations we support. Your new employees are people, with needs and emotions and questions.

There is so much more to onboarding than the simple act of “hiring” a person.

When building a culture that welcomes, nurtures and includes new employees (particularly when there hasn’t been much of a process in place), an easy place to start is with the language you are using. It may be subtle – maybe even unnoticed – but being intentional with a detail as seemingly tiny as “new hire vs. new employee” sends a message to your organization that you are committed to building relationships with your newest employees.

Want to blow people’s minds? Tell them about it.

Tell your onboarding stakeholders and company leaders about your decision to use intentional language. Tell them that your team is committed to making onboarding a relational process, rather than a transactional one. This can be a huge value-add for your program.

Guess what? The benefit of intentional language goes beyond onboarding. Consider your language for learning, development and succession planning programs as well.

 

Your turn: Am I crazy? Is this just being a little too nit-picky? Tell me about it. Or tell me that this is brilliant, and it will revolutionize your program. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Know of someone who would benefit from this article? Please take a moment to share it!

 

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#OneSimpleThing – Who Ya Gonna Call?

#OneSimpleThing - Who Ya Gonna Call

(Admit it, you’ve got the song running through your head now, don’t you? #SorryNotSorry)

Happy Monday! Here is the second installment of the #OneSimpleThing series. In case you missed last week’s post, the purpose of this series is to spark creativity, kickstart new ideas, overcome burnout and focus on your own development. Whether you’re a trainer/facilitator, an instructional designer, HR professional, manager or in an entirely different field, I hope you find value!

This week’s focus: From whom can you learn something?

There is always a part of our role, company or industry that is a bit of a mystery. Maybe you just haven’t had much exposure to a certain part of your business. Maybe you’re curious about how another department operates, or how you can partner cross-functionally. Maybe you want to break down those dreaded silos. Maybe you’d like to get acquainted with your company’s CEO. Maybe there’s an industry leader in your area whose brain you’d love to pick.

The point?

We all know someone who knows something we’d like to learn more about. 

So, reach out! What’s stopping you? I promise, it’s not as tough as asking your 6th grade crush to the Valentine dance. Unless the person you have in mind is a total jerk, the chances are good that s/he will oblige your request to meet for coffee, lunch or just to sit down at the office to chat one day. Advice? People are busy (I’m sure you are too!), so be patient and mindful of others’ schedules. More advice? Pick up the check. Money well spent, I promise.

Through casual breakfasts, lunches, coffee runs and other meetups, I’ve become acquainted with some pretty incredible people. Some I’ve initiated, others have been requested by others. Regardless of who reached out first, I always walk away with a renewed energy for what I do. An idea that I want to implement or a topic I want to write about. I learn something. And the best part? I’m building stronger relationships with awesome people.

So your #OneSimpleThing challenge this week is to reach out to someone you know (or know from afar) who you could help you learn something. Ask that person to meet up sometime in the next few weeks.

 

Your turn: After you reach out to someone, check in by posting in the comments below. Who did you contact? What are you hoping to learn? And after you met with the person, how did it go?

 

Be kind – please share this post with your friends and followers!

 

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