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!


Using Stay Interviews to Enhance Onboarding


There is an abundance of research clogging the interwebs on the subject of onboarding; a credible whitepaper that I often reference is the Definitive Guide to Onboarding from Bamboo HR. In the report, the author includes a terrific stat from Aberdeen Research (another fantastic resource):

As many as 87% of new employees are not fully committed to a new job for the first six months.


This tells us that the vast majority of new employees may still be considering other options when they begin working at your company. They are still wondering if they made the right decision. They are still wondering if their skills, personality and expertise will be a “cultural fit” with your team.

And that’s unsettling.

Studies have proven that attracting, recruiting, hiring and onboarding a new employee is a pricey endeavor. REPLACING that new employee only adds to the hefty price tag, as well as reducing productivity with existing employees, lowering team morale from added workload and stress, preventing sales and other key business metrics.

Onboarding is a key opportunity for Talent and HR leaders to drive tangible business results in an organization. With effort, reducing preventable (regrettable!) turnover is certainly an attainable metric.

What if organizations, particularly hiring managers, had a decoder…a way to “check the pulse” of a new employee’s engagement and satisfaction during his/her first 30-120 days on the job?

It may not look like the decoder ring you found in your Fruity Pebbles box when you were a kid, but there is a decoder. It’s called a “stay interview.”

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines a “stay interview” as a conversation “conducted to help managers understand why employees stay and what might cause them to leave. In an effective stay interview, managers ask standard, structured questions in a casual and conversational manner.”

A stay interview is:

  • An informal discussion to encourage engagement and retention
  • A chance to discover strengths, growth and development opportunities
  • A strategy to prevent regrettable turnover
  • built on trust

A stay interview is NOT:

  • A job interview
  • A disciplinary conversation or corrective action plan
  • A performance review or replacement for one

It’s no secret that the hiring manager is the linchpin for success for a newly-hired employee, and building that relationship on a foundation of trust is crucial. Conducting regular stay interviews during the onboarding period (and beyond) is an effective way to establish trust, capture feedback, check the new employee’s pulse and ensure his/her needs are being met in those fragile early weeks and months.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

If managers spend time focusing on why a new employee is excited, engaged and energized, they will inevitably have an easier time KEEPING them excited over the long haul. As with anything, we don’t know what we don’t know. And waiting for that exit interview feedback is too late – when a talented employee becomes frustrated enough to seek greener pastures in a different job, or possibly return to a previous organization – they’re already out the door; feedback isn’t going to help you then!

Consider enabling your managers to incorporate questions like these into 1:1 meetings and coaching sessions with new employees:

  • What are you hoping I will deliver as your manager that others have failed to deliver in the past?
  • What makes you jump out of bed each morning since you’ve started your new job?
  • What makes you hit the snooze button?
  • How has your onboarding experience here compared with past experiences?
  • When did 5 hours feel like 5 minutes – what types of work do you enjoy most in your role?
  • What passions, skills or talents are being underutilized in your new role?
  • How can I support your learning during these first few months?
  • What areas of our department/organization do you want to learn more about?
  • When have you felt overwhelmed in your new role? How can I support you?

And yes, you should absolutely encourage managers to utilize stay interviews far beyond the onboarding period. This can be an effective method to maintain trust between managers and their direct reports, and a helpful tool during development discussions, coaching sessions and to break regular 1:1 meetings out of a rut.

Bottom line: STAY interviews can help prevent EXIT interviews!

Your turn: Do you use stay interviews as a talent retention strategy? If so, how have you enabled managers? What success have you measured? Share a comment below!


Big news from phase(two)learning!

Looking for a resource to enable managers? I’m very excited to announce my first book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to Navigating the Employee Development Journey, will be available in May 2017! Co-authored with Lou Russell and Brittney Helt, this straightforward, practical resource is a perfect tool to help both new and experienced managers take ownership of their employees’ development through every stage of employment.

Join the list to be in the know about launch info, webinars & special offers!



Did you miss these oldies but goodies?

Check out these “greatest hits” from the blog!

When Does Onboarding Become Too Much of a Good Thing?

3 Steps to Developing a Killer Onboarding Program

Onboarding Table Stakes for Hiring Managers


The Secret to Connecting With Training Participants

the secret to connecting with training participants

Waaaaaaay back in 1992, right about the time I was sporting my Hypercolor sweatshirt and teasing some very tall bangs, there was a study by Broad and Newstrom about training transfer. While some many elements of the workplace learning industry have changed – technology has certainly commanded much of that – there are still a number of things that hold true now, more than twenty years later. This study is a good example.

The Broad and Newstrom study looked at the 3 primary stakeholders in a training session – the facilitator, the participant and the participant’s manager. The involvement of these stakeholders is evaluated at 3 distinct points during the learning process: before training, during training and after training. In a simple grid, these roles are plotted and ranked, according to the impact on learning transfer (the lowest number indicates the highest level of impact):

2015-02-25 13_11_07-The Transfer of Training « elegantlearning

Unless you are completely new to the concept of training transfer (and if you are, I realize this is a very crude explanation), it’s probably no secret that the manager plays a key role in whether or not a participant is able to apply the skills and knowledge s/he acquires in a training session. As you can see from the grid above, the #1 and #3 most important components are tied to manager support.

So, the secret to connecting with training participants during a session?

Involve their managers.

Here are 10 – count ’em, 10 – creative ways to involve even the busiest manager:

1. Share the agenda with the manager ahead of time – be clear with the objectives so s/he knows exactly how the session will impact the participant’s job performance.

2. Provide talking points to the manager to use as a conversation starter when the participant returns from training.

3. Create an infographic with success stories/testimonials, stats and other interesting nuggets about the subject matter and its impact on the organization.

4. Survey managers about how the training will address specific performance gaps…then follow up.

5. Invite the manager to attend a portion of the training to observe and/or participate alongside their employee.

6. Offer a brief overview to all participants’ managers prior to the session – tell them what the participants can expect, how they can support their employee, and answer the managers’ questions.

7. Send a digest of links to supporting documents, articles, blogs and other resources for managers to read more about the topic or to share with their employee post-training to continue the learning.

8. Host a discussion forum for managers about their role in the learning transfer process, using the social features of your LMS, internal social platform (like Yammer, Socialcast, etc), or even a Twitter chat, if it works for your organization/culture.

9. Encourage participants to lead a “teach-back” when they get back to the job, to summarize their learning directly with their manager.

10. Utilize action planning for participants to create a plan – how they will apply what they learned and how they will involve their managers. Send a copy to the manager!

There you have it: 10 ways to engage managers – before, during or after a training session. The next time you’re implementing a training session, give one (or more!) of these strategies a try…and see if your connection to participants goes up a bit!


Your turn: How do you engage training participants’ managers to encourage or increase learning transfer? Use the comments section below to share your tried-and-true methods!

Know of someone who would appreciate this post? Please be kind and share it!

The Offboarding-Onboarding Connection

The Offboarding-Onboarding Connection

I don’t often write much about my “day job” on this blog, but today is a little different.

Today was the last day for a person on my team – she is relocating out of state for a new job opportunity. We certainly wish her the best!

Even though we’re happy for her opportunity, this exercise in the Employment Circle of Life leaves an obvious gap on our team that we’re looking to fill. This is where the offboarding process has a clear tie to the onboarding process, even if the exiting employee and the incumbent never meet.

Many organizations treat resignations as a transaction; bringing in HR to facilitate an exit interview or maybe launch an exit survey, and sending the employee on his/her merry way, mindlessly fulfilling the obligatory two-week notice…basically counting the minutes until s/he can begin the new opportunity. As managers, however, we need to see the resignation process as an opportunity to transition projects, tasks and responsibilities, while capturing the valuable, legacy knowledge the exiting employee possesses before it walks out the door.

Managers, this is a powerful learning opportunity for you, and a key piece of the onboarding puzzle for the new employee who will soon join your team.

How can you harness offboarding to help prepare for a new employee? Here are 3 simple tips:

1. Provide resources and job aids.

If the exiting employee has accumulated a collection of helpful links, job aids, checklists or other resources, gather them and provide them to the new employee. Often, the best tools are the ones that are stumbled upon over time, not just the ones included in the standard orientation or new hire training period. Ask the exiting employee to answer this question: “I wish someone had told me _____________ when I started in my role.” — and share that information.

2. Identify the go-to people.

Ask your exiting employee who the go-to people are for various tasks. Make a note of it. As your new employee joins the team, introduce him/her to those key individuals. Be the connector, and be clear about how they will work together.

3. Recognize the differences.

Your yet-to-be-hired employee is a different person, with different strengths, experiences and behaviors than your exiting employee. As you transition projects and tasks, realize that the person who will fill the role will not be an identical replacement. Sometimes, it may make sense to not transition everything exactly as it was done before. As the new employee joins the team, provide guidance and resources, but allow for individuality and his/her own way of working and adding value.


There is much more to onboarding than simply hiring and training a new employee. It requires time and attention to successfully navigate this transition (and yes, I know the clock is ticking when an employee puts in his/her resignation!). As you manage the offboarding process, be mindful of your soon-to-be-hired employee’s needs and proactively plan for his/her onboarding.

Your turn: Managers, how do you offboard an employee…and how does it impact the onboarding process in your organization? Please share your thoughts, tips and strategies in the comments!


Know of a manager who would benefit from this post? Be kind and share it!


Bring phase(two)learning to your organization!

The calendar is filling fast! Only a few dates left for the Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers workshop! In this interactive workshop, participants will discover the hiring manager’s critical role in the onboarding process, create an action plan to utilize when bringing a new employee to the team and walk away with helpful tips, tools and resources. Partial and full-day sessions are available. Contact phase(two)learning today to learn more!



Too Busy for Onboarding?


Startups are interesting little things, aren’t they? Growing a product and company, often from nothing more than a whim:

“Wouldn’t it be cool if we……….” (and a startup is born.)

Before my current day job, I worked for a tech startup. The company was about 8 years old when I joined, so they weren’t exactly brand new, but still young, still entrepreneurial, still growing at an alarming rate. During my 3.5 years with that company, I learned a lot. I was surrounded by extremely smart, innovative people, and led training for some really exciting brands – Microsoft, Home Depot, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Spanx – just to name a few.

I also received quite an education on how many different types of organizations, including startups, view workplace learning. It’s often an afterthought (sigh). Somewhere between the “Wouldn’t it be cool if we……” stage and the “oh my gosh, we have 150 employees – now what??” stage is the “Maybe we should be training these people?” stage. As an advocate for workplace learning, it really kind of stinks, but it’s reality (queue the sad trombone).

Earlier today, I had a great conversation with a fellow learning professional who has been implementing an onboarding program at her company, another startup. Besides getting acquainted with someone I can only describe as an onboarding kindred spirit, I was reminded of my days at that former job. They have developed a terrific onboarding process. A process that involves hiring managers. A process that is championed by the CEO. A process that welcomes new employees to the company, team and role.

And it’s a process that many of their hiring managers claim to be “too busy” to follow.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that…

Managers, everyone is busy.

Trust me, I get it. I’m a manager too. I know how many directions we’re pulled. So, please know that I’m saying this with nothing but respect: Please stop using the “I’m too busy” excuse. The truth is, you are too busy NOT to provide a sufficient onboarding experience for your new employees.

I’ve directed several posts toward hiring managers – like this one, this one and this one. I know I can be a little tough, but only because coaching new (and seasoned) employees is part of your job. It’s the price of admission for a manager. Even if there isn’t a specific nugget on your job description that tells you to do it. This is a key distinction between an individual contributor and a manager…it’s not all about you anymore. You have people to look out for; people who are looking to you for guidance.

So, back to being busy. Like I said, I understand. I really do. Here are 3 simple ways to incorporate onboarding into your daily routine, when a new employee joins your team:

1. Make him your shadow.

If you already have meetings to attend, bring your new employee along to observe (when it makes sense). At the start of the meeting, introduce your new team member and briefly explain how he will benefit from observing the meeting. Don’t expect him to participate (unless he has something to add); it’s okay if he just listens and takes notes. He is learning about the topic of the meeting, sure…but also about how meetings work in the organization, how teams and roles interact and other culture lessons.

2. Leverage lunch.

Chances are, you eat lunch most of the time. Whether it involves leaving the building or brown-bagging it, make an effort to eat with your new employee once in awhile. Invite others along. By doing this, you are building camaraderie and integrating your new employee to the team. During these informal moments, so many topics are discussed. It’s a great way to encourage dialog and open communication.

3. Always answer “why”.

Whenever you meet with your new employee, explain something, answer questions or provide information, make sure you explain WHY things are the way they are. It takes time for a new employee to gain context, and they don’t always know what or how to ask. We don’t know what we don’t know.  Pretend the new employee is asking “Why?” like a curious preschooler, and tell them.

There you have it – by doing these three things, you are immersing your new employee into your culture. You’re proactively communicating. You’re providing context. Three things that are absolutely critical in a new employee’s first weeks on the job.

And you don’t have to add a single item to your lengthy to-do list. Even better!

Like it? Share it!

Need to engage your hiring managers in the onboarding process? The “5 Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers” interactive workshop is now available! Download the brochure, then send a note to learn more about bringing phase(two)learning to your organization in 2014!


3 Little White Lies Your New Employee is Telling You


Have you ever attended a meeting or training session, when the leader or facilitator asked, “Does anybody have any questions?”

And you do, in fact, have questions. But you don’t ask.

I think we’ve all been there. For one reason or another, we don’t always speak up when we are unsure about something. Or maybe we don’t feel comfortable admitting that we don’t already know what we’d like to ask. Call it insecurity, or wanting to look like we’ve got it all together, but we walk out of those meetings and training sessions without clarity, lacking information that would make our jobs easier.

Now, friends, let me ask you. Has this ever happened to you when you were new on the job?

Chances are, at one point or another, it has. Have you misled your boss into thinking you understand something, when really, you’re full of questions? Put yourselves in their shoes, hiring managers. What question is your newest team member NOT asking?

The title of this post might have made you think I was going to write about lying on one’s resume…or a new employee leading you to believe he has “expert proficiency” with Microsoft Excel during the interview process, only to find out he’s a beginner. But that’s not where I’m going. I’m talking about little cues you can pick up on that might indicate your new employee is lacking knowledge, context or clarity. Here are three to consider:

1. “I don’t have any questions.”

Like I said before, sometimes a new employee just doesn’t want to admit weakness. That he isn’t fully understanding what’s going on. As hiring managers, co-workers and trainers of new employees, we need to see beyond the lack of questions and anticipate the questions that they might have…or don’t claim to have.

What’s the solution?

Offer an abundance of easy-to-use resources that will help new employees learn and locate information on their own. Create job aids, post FAQs, encourage dialogue through social platforms. Leverage channels that work for your team and organization. The key is to make it easy. The idea is to provide answers and clarity…not to add to the noise and confusion.

2. “I did the same thing at my last job.”

Even though people know that a new job will be different than their last one, we still compare experiences, tasks, resources, and even people, particularly when the role is similar. While this isn’t necessarily a lie, it does give us an opportunity…

That opportunity?

Provide context. It’s our job as facilitators of learning (that includes you, hiring managers) to help new employees understand the company. Understand the dynamics of the team. Understand the expectations of his role. It’s all about making it real and differentiating this job from the last one. In time, your new employee will put his past behind him. Until that day comes, you need to be there guiding his new path.

3. “I can do this on my own.” Productive autonomy sends a signal of competence. New employees want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to be be micromanaged, and they certainly don’t want to appear like they aren’t able to get the job done. It takes a leader who is tuned in to the needs of his team, to understand the balance of stepping back…and stepping in.

How can you offer support?

As a wise man once said, “Stop, collaborate and listen.” Take a lesson there, friends.  Listen to your employees. Connect them with others for projects, when it makes sense. When it’s more logical to work independently, encourage them to do so, ensuring they have the necessary tools and resources available. But all along the way, through collaborative and autonomous work, you should be communicating regularly with each of your employees, particularly your newest ones. Give context. Set expectations. Ask questions. Provide (and request) feedback. Keeping the channels open from the beginning will only lend itself to stronger relationships for the long haul.

Just like a parent must look beyond the “half-truths” their children dish out (as a mother of two, I know a thing or two about that!), leaders and facilitators need to look beneath the surface of what our newest team members are telling us. It’s not that they are actually “lying” to us. They are in a delicate position of proving themselves and demonstrating proficiency…when they are simply trying to figure it all out. Understand that. Accept that. And then do something about that!

Your turn: How else can leaders create an environment that enables new employees? Share your thoughts in the comments below…

Like it? Share it!

Let’s Get Philosophical


The other day, I had a really good conversation with a friend and colleague. At one point, the topic turned to adult learning philosophy. We waxed philosophic for a few minutes, and then the conversation moved on to something else. But that conversation got me thinking about my own philosophy of learning.

Now, don’t you worry, my friends. I haven’t forgotten what I said on my About page:

“I write the way I talk. The way I facilitate. I like analogies and metaphors; I dislike pompous-sounding writers who make things more complicated than they need to be.”

That is true – more than ever – so don’t think I’m going to start spouting off jargon or theories from Bloom or Kolb or any of those other smarties, although I do give those folks plenty of credit and refer to them often. But for today, here is my common-sense, real-world, chat-over-a-cup-of-coffee view on adult learning:

1. Keep it real and relevant.

Adults are seeking learning opportunities that are based in practical, real-world experience. Save the textbook, hypothetical hullaballoo (umm, did I just say hullaballoo?) for the university. Adults need to know that they can apply what they’ve learned to their jobs. To their daily tasks and projects. They have chosen to spend their valuable time in training…well, some of them have chosen. Regardless of whether they made the choice to attend training or whether it was required for their job, they need to know that this is time well spent.

2. Keep it timely.

Adults need to know that the material they are learning is pertinent to what they are currently experiencing, not something that may or may not be helpful months down the road. Technical trainers, make sure that your participants will actually be using the skills they learn in training right away so they can transfer the classroom experience to the job. I could keep going about learning transfer and improved performance, but I’ll spare you today. Another post, perhaps!

3. Keep it engaging and inclusive.

I wrote a piece awhile back about similarities in teaching adults versus teaching children. While it was a little tongue-in-cheek, there was some truth to it. Check it out here if you’d like.

While there are some fundamental similarities, the truth is, adults simply learn differently than children do. Think back to when you were a kid…you sat at your desk, your teacher stood at the front of the room and presented a lot of content to you. She might have used a textbook, an overhead projector, a map, a chalkboard or a smelly, purple-ink ditto page as her vehicle, but the message was clear: “I am the adult. I am the expert. Your learning goes through me.”

And maybe that was fine when you were 8 years old, learning about long division or Magellan or possessive pronouns for the first time.

But, like I said, adults are different.

Adults bring a variety of experiences, baggage, bias, ideas, motives, likes, dislikes, opinions, fears and needs to each and every training session, regardless of how its delivered. It is our job to meet those needs by creating an inclusive, welcoming environment that allows participants to learn, be challenged and take something applicable and relevant back to the job.

We also need to be engaging. Most adults learn best in an interactive setting. It is critical that we leverage the techniques, tools, resources and industry know-how that we have accumulated to develop and deliver engaging learning experiences for our participants. Allow them to contribute. Encourage them to participate. Ask them to share their experiences.

And, for the love of all that is righteous, don’t read them a PowerPoint and think that they’ve “learned” something.

So, there you go. A few thoughts on my philosophy of adult learning. Maybe it’s similar to your own philosophy. Maybe you have a different viewpoint. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts! As always, feel free to comment, email or hit me up on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Like it? Share it!