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!



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


5 Onboarding Challenges Hiring Managers Face (and how to overcome them)

5 challenges hiring managers face - and how to overcome them

Let’s face it, hiring managers: Onboarding a new employee is a tall order. Its importance is acknowledged by most, but busy managers often struggle with providing a solid experience for their newest team members.

I know, I can get a little preachy with hiring managers sometimes…like here, here and here (to name a few!). But today, I’m giving you all some love. I know you’re busy – I’m a manager at the day job, too. I know how many directions a manager is pulled. I know what challenges you face when bringing a new employee onboard.

Here are 5 of those challenges, and a few thoughts on how to overcome them:

1. Challenges with role clarity – both their own understanding and the new employee’s understanding.

When bringing a new employee to the team, it is important to review the job description with a fine-toothed comb. Is it current and accurate? If not, clarify the specific duties and responsibilities for the new employee so it can be clear during the interview process, and openly discussed upon hire. Ask the new employee questions about his/her understanding of the role, and engage in early, frequent dialog about it.

2. Challenges with setting expectations.

Over-communicate with your new employee. Devote ample time to meet with the new employee, and make an effort to discuss your expectations for everything – communication, meeting cadence/frequency, involvement, working hours, tasks, performance and results. But it doesn’t stop there – ASK your new team member what his/her expectations are for his relationship with you, the direct supervisor. It’s a two-way street – the sooner you start talking about expectations, the sooner you’ll find yourselves on the same page and in a partnership of trust and open communication.

3. Challenges with being too busy.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…there it is again. The Busy Excuse. In spite of the busy-ness, it is imperative that a manager spend plenty of time building a relationship with a new employee. If this doesn’t happen, the onboarding process (and ultimately the success of the new employee) is at risk.

The truth is, you don’t have time NOT to provide a sufficient onboarding experience for your new employee.

The good news? It doesn’t all have to happen in person. It doesn’t even have to fall entirely on YOU as the manager. Here are a few tips for busy managers:

  • Find a consistent, regular time to meet – during the first week, this should be at least once daily
  • If face-to-face meetings don’t always work, due to travel, remote locations or other reasons, leverage collaboration favorites like Yammer, Skype, conference calls, IM, or other tools to make connecting easy
  • Delegate some of the communication to others on your team – hook the new employee up to an “onboarding buddy” for the first few weeks
  • Use checklists or other job aids to ensure that important components of the process don’t fall through the cracks!

4. Challenges with the rest of the team embracing change.

Inevitably, when a new person comes onboard, the dynamic of the team changes. This can be particularly true if the new employee is in a leadership role, or if an existing team member interviewed for the position, but did not get the job. Stay ahead of the change from the moment the new position is posted – be communicative. Changes within an organization are more widely embraced when the team is built on a strong foundation. As the manager of the team, set the new employee up for success by creating a welcoming environment. Talk about the changes before the new employee arrives; discuss any apprehensiveness and answer questions, then involve the existing team in preparing for his/her arrival:

  • Enlist someone with organizing a team lunch or social activity during the new employee’s first week
  • Get assistance with training on job duties or department procedures
  • Ask someone to be the “onboarding buddy” or mentor for the first few weeks
  • Have everyone sign a welcome card or email a team “selfie” photo to the new employee prior to his/her first day…be positive about the change!

5. Challenges with communicating the company and department culture to the new employee.

As managers, we’re often really good at communicating the cut-and-dry topics: policies, procedures, tasks, projects. Step one, do this. Step two, do that.

The squishier topics are harder to explain: culture, vision, mission, values. The unspoken pulse of the organization.

How do you make those squishy topics come alive for a new employee? Simple. You live the squishy topics.

Be deliberate – tell the new employee, “This is HOW we impact the company mission statement,” “This is HOW we impact the customer experience,” — and ASK the new employee his opinion on how s/he thinks s/he can embody those characteristics in his/her new role. Make it an open conversation. And if you’ve never had that deliberate conversation with your existing employees, this would be an ideal time to initiate it with everyone!


There you go, hiring managers. 5 onboarding challenges, and some practical solutions for overcoming them. It’s your responsibility to provide a positive, nurturing environment for your new employees. Will you accept the challenge?

Your turn: Hiring managers, what have been your biggest challenges when onboarding a new employee? How have you overcome those challenges? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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


Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers….the workshop!

Bring phase(two)learning to your organization to deliver the Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers workshop! Partial and full-day session options are available. This workshop is the perfect supplement for any management training program…send an email to learn more!

One Hundred Thanks


This is a special, non-Wednesday post, but I simply couldn’t wait until next Wednesday to share it.

Why? This is my one-hundredth blog post. To some bloggers, this might be small potatoes. There are people who blog daily, or even multiple times per day, with new ideas constantly shaping into thought-provoking posts.

And then there’s me. So the sheer fact that I’ve reached this milestone is kind of awesome!

On January 3, 2012, in some facet of a New Year’s Resolution attempt, I officially started the phase(two)learning blog, after chewing on the idea for a few months. I had no idea if I would ever find my “voice” or some cadence to my blogging habits. I also had no idea if anyone would even be listening. I really didn’t give it that much thought. All I knew was I had a few things to say about Onboarding, Learning & Development and Facilitation Skills, and I thought, maybe…just maybe…there would be a few other like-minded people out there who might appreciate it.

Two years, three months and one day later…

Thousands of followers and subscribers later…

Countless social shares later…

A number of really good friendships later…

An actual “once-a-week-on-Wednesday-mornings” posting schedule later…

We’ve arrived at one hundred posts.

You’ve let me ramble. You’ve read some of my goofy stories. You’ve shaken your fists at Status Quo with me when I’ve dished out some tough love. You’ve accepted my weird, yet enduring love for Mr. Sketch markers, analogies and slang. But most of all, you’ve listened and shared your own thoughts.

And for that, I thank you. A hundred times over.

Here’s to the next hundred,



Because I’m feeling sentimental, I have a gift for you. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on an eBook:

“Onboarding Tools for Hiring Managers: Tips, Tools & Rules to Set Your New Employees Up for Success.”

This eBook is a compilation of 7 popular phase(two)learning blog posts, all directed toward the unique needs of Hiring Managers during the Onboarding process. In addition to the written content, there are a number of additional reflection questions, checklists and helpful resources built in – it’s like a workbook for your hiring managers!

This eBook will be available for free download for a limited time. If you are interested in a print copy, or even bulk copies for your organization, please let me know and we can discuss pricing.

Are you ready to share this with the hiring managers in your organization? Simply click on the image to download your free copy!



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5 Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers


A strong relationship between a new employee and his manager is imperative to long-term success.

The End.

Shortest post ever.

Okay, just kidding…there’s more.

Something I’ve learned about hiring managers is, while they have good intentions about bringing a new employee on board, they often just aren’t sure about their role in the process. It’s really not that difficult. In fact, it can be broken down into 5 simple rules. Share these with your organization’s hiring managers, when they need a little onboarding guidance!

Rule #1 | Create Connections: The hiring manager is the gateway to many relationships across the organization. Seek out opportunities to introduce your new employee to key individuals and teams. Help him understand the value in these connections.

Strategic relationships to foster might include:

  • Hiring manager
  • Team
  • Department leadership
  • Organizational stakeholders
  • Supporting employees/departments
  • Key vendors

Rule #2 | Build Context: Even a seasoned professional is still “new” when starting with a new company. It takes time to understand the company, its products/services, customers, culture and people.  Help him understand the WHY.

How managers can help build context:

  • Provide briefings with the employee prior to strategic meetings
  • Share resources and other insights about the company, products and competitors
  • Include the new employee in relevant meetings where background knowledge will be helpful
  • At every opportunity, communicate!

Rule #3 | Provide Content: What resources are most helpful to your team? Make sure your new employee has access to them. Don’t assume that he knows where to find them.

Types of content to share with new employees:

  • Internal learning resources
  • Wikis, blogs, FAQs, internal drives/intranet sites
  • Industry associations
  • Competitors’ websites
  • Social sites – Notable Twitter pundits in your industry, LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages, Pinterest boards, Google+ hangouts

Rule #4 | Communicate: When your new employee starts his new role, he needs to know you’re there.  Be available. Daily. Over-communicate until the relationship is established.  Give – and receive – feedback. Often!

How to communicate with a new employee:

  • Create a formal onboarding plan with the new employee – this is in addition to the organization’s standard New Employee Orientation process, NOT a replacement for it
  • Set immediate, short and long-term goals…check for progress often
  • Set clear expectations about the role, responsibilities and preferences (yours AND theirs)
  • Let the new employee know what he can expect from YOU as his immediate supervisor
  • Check in, at least daily – whether in person, via email, phone, chat or other platform

Rule #5 | Focus on Your Customer: Who is your customer? Does your new employee know this? Establish, communicate and maintain a direct line of sight to your customers; keep a mindful focus on your team’s impact on the customer.

Keeping a Customer Focus:

  • Discuss how the new employee’s role impacts the customer
  • Regularly talk about sales, products and the customer experience. Make it part of the new employee’s experience from Day One.
  • Encourage the new employee to spend time really listening to your customer – whether in your customer service call center, in your stores or online.  Wherever customers are talking…listen.

Hiring manager, you are the link between your new employee and finding success in his new role. Not HR. Not the guy in the neighboring cubicle. Sure, those folks play a part, but the bulk of the responsibility falls on you. You are the link. And if you don’t work at it, you can also be the downfall. So, be the guide. Be the coach. Be the manager you’d want to work for. Build them up, Buttercup.

Your turn: Managers, how have you helped to build a solid foundation with a new employee? How do you enhance the onboarding experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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