Are we still onboarding like it’s 1999?

prince-party-like-its-1999
As far as headlines go, Prince’s recent death is hardly breaking news at this point. Several weeks have now gone by since his untimely, tragic passing. Having grown up in the 1980s, Prince’s music was the soundtrack of my youth. It was such a shock to learn that this original, talented individual is no longer with us.

Recently, I was walking through a used bookstore and came across this little gem:
New-Employee-Orientation-book-circa-1988
I realize this hardly looks like a current resource, but I was intrigued and a little amused by my discovery of this relic. For $3.48, I was willing to find out if it was any good. SOLD.

What does this have to do with Prince? Well, let’s call this post a subtle nod to the Purple One himself. Based on this book, are there any recommended practices in this book that have stood the test of time? Is it all antiquated garbage?

Or are we still onboarding like it’s 1999? 

Disclosure: This book was actually published in 1988….so here are a few little nuggets from a time somehwere between Raspberry Beret and Batdance:


Page 6: “All members of the new employee’s ‘team’ should be encouraged to attend Orientation. They should be coached to go out of their way to make the new hire feel welcome. Nothing is worse than an insincere gathering where ‘veterans’ talk with each other and exclude the newcomer.”

Verdict: Stands the test of time (well, pretty much).

Clearly, the importance of making a new employee feel welcome is not new. And yes, co-workers and other stakeholders should all be coached in the importance of the role they each play in onboarding a new employee. The biggest difference to note here is the feasibility for EVERYONE on a new employee’s team to attend Orientation. While that would be awesome, distributed, global workforce often prevent this from happening. Advice? Take advantage of technology to connect the dots between global, remote and office-based employees.

Sidenote: Obviously, I used a direct quote from the book…I never, ever refer to a new employee as a ‘new hire.’ You may have read my thoughts on the subject, but in case you haven’t…here you go.


Page 32: “One mistake is to avoid trying to cram everything the new employee needs to know into the first day. Schedule the orientation over several days. Give each employee enough time to assimilate new information in a way that is meaningful.”

Verdict: Stands the test of time.

Orientation, in itself, is an event. Onboarding is a process. While this book focused solely on “New Employee Orientation,” it goes without saying that Orientation is an essential piece of the Onboarding puzzle. And no, all of the necessary information should not be thrown at new employees on their first day. On Day #1, even the smartest, quickest-learning professional is just trying to remember everyone’s name and where to find the restroom. For your 21st century Orientation program, introduce tech tools and other self-directed resources where applicable to extend the learning and discovery beyond the walls of your training room. Establish an assertive, yet realistic pace that meets both learner and business needs.

Page 34: “As a supervisor, you are responsible for getting things started during Orientation. It is not the responsibility of a secretary or another employee to do your job. They may be involved, but the new employee should not be assigned to anyone until you have made the initial contact and established a plan for the day.”

Verdict: Mixed feelings.

Yes. The relationship with the hiring manager is the single most important relationship that a new employee needs to establish and develop when starting a new job. And yes, that hiring manager should take ownership of the process. But logistically, this should be a partnership between a variety of stakeholders who bring something important to the onboarding table: Human Resources, Recruiting, IT, Learning/Talent Development, Executives and a host of supporting players impact a new employee’s early experiences with an organization. Leverage the perspectives of your onboarding stakeholders to enhance your program.
In summary, the book was actually pretty good. More relevant than I anticipated, and it even had some handy checklists that could easily be updated and repurposed. Not a bad $3.48, if you ask me.

Thank goodness for modern practices and technology! We’re able to start with a solid foundation for creating a welcoming experience for new employees, like outlined in this book, and build upon it with all the resources and amenities we have at our fingertips today. We don’t need to onboard like it’s 1988 – or 1999 – or even 2006 anymore.

Your Turn: What longstanding onboarding practices and traditions have stood the test of time at your organization? Leave a comment and share!

When does onboarding become too much of a good thing?

paris-love-locks
Ah, c’est l’amour.

For several years, countless tourists in love made a pilgrimage to the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris to pledge their undying devotion by attaching a padlock, a “love lock,” to the metal grating on the bridge.

So. Many. Locks. 

The love lock tradition has spread to a number of other cities around the world. Like the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City:
love-locks-brooklyn-bridge
I saw the Brooklyn Bridge locks last summer when I was in New York with the family. Even enterprising street vendors were trying to capitalize on bridge-crossers in loooove by selling padlocks along the bridge. It’s definitely a thing.

The idea of love locks has brought mixed reactions among Parisian tourists and locals. Some saw it as a romantic gesture, an homage to everlasting love….others, including preservationists and city officials, saw it as a cluttered mess, ruining an otherwise historic landmark. Last year, an estimated one million locks were cut from the Pont des Arts bridge, thus ending the Love Locks tradition.

What started out as good intentions – a sweet gesture – quickly spun out of control.

If we’re not careful, the same thing can happen with our onboarding programs. We invest time, energy and resources into creating a memorable experience for our newly-hired employees – but without proper management, even a great “idea” can go awry.

Be aware of these red flags…does your onboarding program:

  • Focus on training, rather than on performance?  Spending too much time “teaching to the test,” or mastering hypothetical, simulated content, instead of preparation for real-world experience can be risky. Ensure that your content is aligned to the true working environment, and that there are ample opportunities for application and assessment.
  • Have too much show, but not enough substance?  We want our Orientation and onboarding experiences to be pleasant. We want our new employees to enjoy themselves and have them walk away feeling they made the right decision in joining our organizations. Free lunch! Scavenger hunt! More swag! All good things. Just ensure that the fun elements have purpose. 
  • Set unrealistic expectations of how amazing your organization is? Onboarding is a process that bridges the gap between the sometimes-idyllic first impressions set during the recruitment and pre-boarding process and the reality of everyday life in the company. If your new employees are pinching themselves because things are just too perfect, beware. Showcase your organization’s strengths, but keep it realistic.
  • Encourage long-term reliance on a training facilitator, rather than a supervisor, peers and resources?  In cases where “new employee training” lasts several days or even weeks, training participants often look up to their primary training instructor and view him/her as an expert. While that may be true, it is important for the primary focus to shift away from the training environment and move toward the job environment. Make an effort to enable new employees to utilize self-directed learning resources, leverage peer coaching, participate in on-the-job training and (most importantly) build a solid relationship with his/her direct supervisor.

Having a hand in the new employee experience is a privilege. Creating an experience that balances learning, engagement, immersion, relationship building and yes, fun, requires thoughtful planning and ongoing attention. Just like the locks prevented visitors from experiencing the beauty of the bridge, don’t let your organization’s heavy “locks” outweigh the value your program adds.

Your turn: What are you doing to make that experience a memorable one in your organization? Share your tips in the comments below!

Hiring Managers: These 5 Questions Are On Your New Employee’s Mind (so prepare for them!)

5 Questions On Your New Employee's Mind

During the interview and selection process, is can be easy for a hiring manager or company to forget that the new employee is interviewing the company, manager and team just as much as the company is looking for the best candidate for the job. Recruiters, HR leaders and managers spend so much time narrowing a competitive pool of applicants (many of whom look really, really good on paper) that by the time The One has been finally been selected, they immediately jump into Let’s Get This Rockstar Started mode.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing…it’s great to engage that incumbent right away. Does this sound familiar, hiring manager?

Related post: An Open Letter to Hiring Managers

As you are preparing for the arrival of your newest employee, it’s important to know that she probably has a number of questions bubbling beneath the surface. Questions that she might be holding back, for one reason or another. As the hiring manager, anticipate these 5 questions and incorporate them into your preboarding and onboarding plans:

1. Will I fit in with the team?

Do what you can to make introductions early. Start getting your new employee acquainted to the existing team. Encourage your team to connect with the new employee on LinkedIn or send a quick, friendly email. Create a “Who’s Who” document with photos of the team, their roles and contact information – include any key individuals the new employee will be working closely with. And be sure to organize a team lunch or social event shortly after the new employee starts!

2. Will the reality of the job/company match what I was told during the interview?

During your new employee’s first days, it is important to clear your calendar to spend ample time with the new employee. Discuss the job description. If anything has changed since the interview, or if there were any “gray areas” about the role, be sure to clarify and set expectations right away. Your new employee deserves to have a clear understanding of what is expected of her.

3. What kind of training will I receive after I start?

Prior to her first day, share an onboarding schedule with your new employee. By communicating any organization- or team-sponsored events, training or meetings upfront, you are alleviating possible stress or “fear of the unknown” that may be on her mind. It also sends a clear message to the new employee that her manager has an organized plan in place. This sets a foundation of trust: something that is easy to build, but difficult to RE-build if broken.

4. How will I contribute?

In addition to reviewing the job description and discussing the role, projects and responsibilities, take a moment to identify a few quick wins. Provide opportunities for the new employee to work independently and showcase the strengths for which she was chosen. This makes both the new employee and her manager (read: you) look good!

5. What set me apart from the other candidates?

In an earlier post, I shared a piece of advice for hiring managers to connect with their new employee and build her confidence. Remember, she has chosen your organization (and YOU) just as much as you have chosen her among the other candidates. Remind her of WHY you chose her for the role and what value she brings to your team.  If you remind the new employee of this from the beginning, she will be more likely to spend every day proving it to you.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…but it bears repeating: Be the manager you would want to work for.  Prepare for and answer these 5 questions, regardless of whether your new employee asks them.

Because chances are, they’re on that new employee’s mind.

 

Your turn: What conversations do you have with a new employee, either before or after the start date? Share your go-to talking points in the comments below!

 

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

 

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Hiring Manager Tip: Start Building a Relationship Before the New Employee’s First Day

we're-glad-you're-here

Picture this: A hiring manager is eager to fill a key role on his team, and finally finds the right candidate. An offer is made, and ultimately accepted.

(Cue the Hallelujah Chorus)

Been there, hiring managers?

As soon as that offer has been accepted, the clock is ticking. In many cases, you have about two weeks to prepare for the new employee’s arrival and craft an onboarding plan.

Yes, you. You have about two weeks, hiring manager. It’s not enough to simply plan for the new employee to attend New Employee Orientation through your trusty HR department. Oh, no. Hiring manager, you are the gateway to a positive, successful onboarding experience. 

In addition to ensuring the new employee has a workstation and appropriate equipment, you should be considering the ways you will introduce your newest team member to the company, team and role. It is also up to you to begin building a solid relationship with this quazi-stranger, who will soon be an integral part of your team’s – and let’s face it, your – success.

One of my favorite ways to accomplish this is to get to know your new employee on a personal level. This isn’t rocket science! You are not hiring a robot – you are hiring a person. Learn about this person, and use what you learn to make the new employee’s first days with your team special. After all, his/her first impressions of your company (and YOU as the manager) will impact how motivated s/he is to learn, grow and stay with your organization long-term. After all, according to 2013 research by Aberdeen, as many as 90% of organizations believe new employees make their decision to stay within the first year. The foundation set by the hiring manager is a key component to this decision.

So, the question is: “How do I get to know my new employee before the first day?”

My advice: It’s all about the communication you extend during the preboarding period – typically that two-week span of time between the offer acceptance and the new employee’s first day.

A few thoughts:

1. Make a point to let the new employee know how excited you are that s/he will be joining your team. 

Do this through an email, a phone call, or even a handwritten note via snail mail. It only takes a few moments and a small amount of effort, but the genuine, warm feeling the new employee will receive is undeniable. Make him/her excited for Day One!

2. Craft a plan for the first 1-2 weeks….and share it ahead of time.

Schedule a team lunch. Connect the new employee with key individuals s/he will be working with for informal meet-and-greet sessions. Do an office “drive-by” to make introductions to people who sit nearby. Schedule plenty of time with YOU to discuss the role, the onboarding plan, to set goals and establish expectations. Sharing this ahead of time helps relieve new-job jitters…s/he can relax, knowing you have it all under control.

3. Learn about the fun stuff.

Send an email, letting the new employee you have a very important task for him/her to complete ASAP. Attach a questionnaire for the new employee to complete, telling you about his/her favorite things.

Guess what? I’ve created one for you! Click on the image below to download!

these-are-a-few-of-your-favorite-things

 

It’s not enough to just have him/her share his favorite things with you….USE the information you gather to:

4. Make the first day special.

Have a fresh bouquet of her favorite flowers waiting on her desk. Fill a candy jar with his favorites. Treat him to lunch at his favorite restaurant. Show up with her favorite Starbucks order. Determine what works best for your style, your team and culture, and go for it!

Make that new employee ridiculously excited to work on YOUR team. Be the manager you’d like to work for!

 

Your turn: Managers, how do you start building a relationship with your newest employees as they join your team? Share your ideas in the comments below!

 

Know of a hiring manager who could benefit from these tips? Be kind and share it!

 


 

So, what’s this BIG NEWS we keep talking about?

On November 1st, registration will be LIVE for a new public workshop!

Orientation Overhaul: Re-imagining the New Employee Experience in your Organization

Seating will be limited for this interactive, roll-up-your-sleeves session, so stay tuned for more details in just a few days! Join the mailing list and be among the first to know!

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Just can’t wait? Send an email to learn more! 

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!

 

 

One Thing a Manager Can Say to Build a New Employee’s Confidence

one-thing-hiring-managers-can-say-to-build-a-new-employees-confidence

Onboarding is a big responsibility, hiring manager. It’s not enough to make sure a new employee has completed her paperwork and her direct deposit set up – you need to think about a number of other things:

Training her for the role…integrating her with the rest of the team…introducing her to key stakeholders and vendors…showing her around…setting expectations…providing feedback…making sure she has the tools necessary to do the job…sharing helpful industry resources…goal-setting…communicating frequently…involving her in relevant meetings and projects…assigning tasks…(deep breath)

…and then turning her loose to do the job.

That’s a lot to throw at a new employee, even a seasoned professional. Your new employee is getting acclimated to a new company, new people, new processes, new procedures, new computer systems, new expectations, new routines. All new. Even with an abundance of communication, tools and support, it’s easy for her to become discouraged – maybe even doubt her decision to join your team in the first place.

So, let’s add one more item to your lengthy to-do list, hiring manager. One thing that you can say to encourage your new employee when she’s feeling overwhelmed. One thing to strengthen your new manager-employee relationship:

“You were the right person for this job, because_______________________.”

Think back to the moment you made the decision to hire her. What experience did she bring to the table? What set her apart from the other candidates? Remind her of this. This simple statement will boost her confidence and energize her to keep moving forward, soaking in all of the new-ness of the role, team and company.

One simple statement can make a big, big difference. Try it!

 

Your turn: Hiring managers, how do you encourage your new employees when they are feeling overwhelmed? How do you provide a positive environment as they adjust? Share your tips in the comments!

 

Be kind and share this post with all of the hiring managers in your life…please and thank you!

 

Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers…the workshop!

Bring phase(two)learning to your organization! The Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers workshop is now available in a partial or one-day format. Provide this standalone workshop for your hiring managers or as a supplement for your existing manager training program. Get your managers thinking about their role in the onboarding process…send an email to learn more!

What George Costanza Teaches Us About Onboarding

onboarding-according-to-george-costanza

My all-time favorite television show is Seinfeld. I own the DVD collection and have probably seen every episode at least a dozen times, but that doesn’t stop me from stopping on it in a channel-surfing face-off. In fact, the name of this blog is, in part, a subtle homage to the show. With April 29th being Jerry Seinfeld’s 60th birthday, I thought today was a fitting day to post a Seinfeld-related piece, but I wouldn’t call this “a post about nothing”…I do have a point.

The other night, I was watching an episode and found myself cracking up at one of the storylines where George Costanza was interviewing for a new job. When he left the interview, it wasn’t clear whether or not he actually got the job. So, in true George Costanza fashion, he just decided to show up and act like he had the job.

When George showed up on his presumed “first day”, it was clear no one was prepared for his arrival. He was handed a client file (for you Seinfeld fans, of course I’m referring to the Penske File!) to begin working on. With no context around the account or company, nor any motivation to actually learn, he obviously didn’t get much accomplished.

What does this teach us about onboarding? A few things, actually:

1. Clarity matters. Obviously, as in most sitcoms, the confusion is exaggerated. Chances are, the Seinfeld writers weren’t trying to create an “what NOT to do when onboarding a new employee” example in this episode; but in this case, the simple undertone is my takeaway: New employees need you to be clear. Ensure that your expectations and instructions are easy to understand. Even a seasoned expert is still “new” on the first day. Your products, processes, policies, procedures, people – and all the other Ps you can think of – are foreign to a new employee. Always remember that, and be mindful with your communication.

2. Provide a warm welcome. No one was prepared for George’s arrival; I wish I could say this never happens in real life, but sadly, it does. Prepare your team for the new employee’s first day. Prepare an office or workstation and ensure that supplies and equipment are ready. Introduce your new employee to others. Coordinate a group lunch or other event to help the new employee get acquainted with the team. The more you do to welcome and nurture your new employee, the faster s/he will feel connected.

3. Set your new employee up for success. Within moments of his arrival, someone handed George the Penske File to work on. George had no idea what to do, so he just went to his office, closed the door, and sat. His big success of the week was migrating the Penske File from a manilla folder to an expandable accordion-style folder. Provide your new employees with manageable, relevant tasks that will provide a quick win, a learning opportunity or a chance to showcase the new employee’s existing experience as s/he begins the new position.

To sum it up, if you are a hiring manager bringing a new team member on board, be clear. Don’t just hand your new employee the Penske File and disappear. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Be the manager you’d want to work for.

Just for fun: Want to watch the episode in its entirety? Check it out here. It’s a good one! (Hint: George’s interview is at the beginning, but jump to where he starts the job around the 5:10 mark)

Your turn: How do you prepare for and welcome a new employee? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Bring phase(two)learning to your organization!

Now scheduling dates for the 5 Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers workshop during Winter 2014-15! This partial- or full-day workshop engages new or seasoned supervisors and enables them to take an active role in the onboarding process. Participants walk away with an awareness of the unique needs their newest employees have and challenges them to create an atmosphere that sets the new employees up for success.