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.

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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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Having the Freedom to Share

statue-of-liberty

If you’re in the United States, today is Independence Day. While we are all celebrating our nation’s independence with parades, fireworks and lots of red, white and blue, I’d like to pause for a quick moment to think about personal independence.

This is a small blog. Tiny, compared to many. Yet it’s a platform where I am free to share my thoughts, ideas and explore topics that I am passionate about. You’re free to come along for the ride…to comment and weigh in with your own thoughts, questions, points and counterpoints. And I am thankful for each of you who choose to read, participate and share!

We live in a land where we are free to not only HAVE our own thoughts, but we can be so bold as to act upon them and elicit change in our lives, careers and within the organizations we support.

What a gift that is.

Today, as you kick off a long holiday weekend with friends, family and fireworks, please take a moment to reflect on those “certain unalienable rights” – how are you using those rights to make a difference?

Have a safe and happy 4th of July weekend!

5 Leadership Lessons from Peyton Manning

leadership-lessons-from-peyton-manning

Playoff time has arrived, my friends. Regardless of what team you might be rooting for, I don’t think anyone could argue that the Denver Broncos are having an impressive year. At the forefront of this franchise is the one and only Peyton Manning, QB extraordinaire.

You could say I’m a little bit of a Peyton Manning fan. I know I’m not alone. I live in Indianapolis, home of the Colts, where Manning led the team for well over a decade and brought our team back from near-obscurity.

But now he’s with the Broncos….sure, it was a sad day in Indy when he left, but I think a lot of Colts fans understood the succession-planning move by letting him go. And I’d have to say people are pretty pleased with the new kid on the line of scrimmage, Andrew Luck. (Sidenote: Did anyone see that Colts/Chiefs game the other night? What a win!)

andrew-luck-touchdown

But this one is about Peyton. Over the years, Peyton Manning has demonstrated impressive leadership qualities; both on and off the field.  Regardless of what your role is in the learning industry, or whether you are a even a football fan at all, there are 5 simple leadership lessons you can apply:

1. Know your craft, inside and out.

Who will go down in history as the “greatest QB of all time”?  There are a number of opinions on that one. But few players are students of the game like Peyton Manning. On the sidelines, you will see Peyton studying plays, reading the defense, anticipating what will happen next. Off the field, he watches film and studies his opponents to a degree that few match.

How well do you know your role? Your team? Your company? Your industry? Your customer? As learning professionals, I think we can all agree that there is always something to learn.

2. Be open to coaching and feedback.

I often wonder what a coach thinks about being Peyton Manning’s coach. Like a trainer leading a classroom full of SMEs, wondering, “What am I going to teach these people that they don’t already know?” But if you see Peyton on the sidelines with his coaches, you often see communication and dialogue. It’s a mutually respectful relationship.

Even after being in our field for many years, we should always be receptive to feedback – whether about how we facilitate, develop content or lead teams.

3. Don’t let setbacks or mistakes define you.

Peyton Manning will not go down in NFL history books, remembered for throwing the occasional interception. He won’t be remembered (negatively) for his neck injury, multiple surgeries or being released by the Colts. He will be remembered as a consistently impressive performer on the field. As a philanthropic member of his community. As an intelligent, well-spoken person who represented his team with class.

The point here? Even when your project or role doesn’t progress the way you anticipated, don’t let that define your career path. Learn from the mistakes and move past the setbacks.

4. Raise the bar.

Just like I wonder what it’s like to be Peyton Manning’s coach, I also wonder what it’s like to be a teammate. I mean – you’re out there with Peyton Manning. How does that NOT motivate a player to do his best?

How are you raising the bar on your team? Do you motivate others to do their best?

5. Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Let’s face it. He’s a funny guy. We cracked up watching him host Saturday Night Live, and he has been on more television commercials than I can list. The guy has a good sense of humor, and can poke a little fun at himself.

That’s important for a leader. Lighten up – have a little fun!

So whether you’re a facilitator, instructional designer or training manager…or maybe you’re not even in the learning field at all…consider these leadership lessons and what you can bring to your role, team and organization.

And while I’m certainly okay with Peyton and the Broncos doing well in the Playoffs, I must end with this:

Go Colts!!

A Lesson in Influence…from Ashton Kutcher?

are-you-an-influencial-trainer

Lately, I’ve been all about breaking the rules. Getting people to think outside the box. Trying new things in the classroom. And this week, I learned something:

If you don’t have influence, none of it really matters.

Over the past few days, in a social feed near you, you may have seen links to a video clip of an actor, Ashton Kutcher. Now, maybe you know of this guy…the guy from Punk’d. The guy from Two and a Half Men.  The guy from That 70’s Show.

Yeah, him.

At first glance, it’s not unusual to see him making headlines. After all, he’s a pretty popular guy. At the time of this writing, he has over 14 million Twitter followers, is getting ready to release a movie about Steve Jobs, and stars in a highly-rated TV show (I’ll spare you any post-Charlie Sheen “Jump the Shark” commentary). And let’s be honest, he’s not bad to look at either.

But what was THIS video clip all about? After seeing a couple dozen posts, I finally caved and watched it. I’m so glad I did. The video was from his acceptance speech after receiving a Teen Choice Awards (the program aired earlier this week). Not exactly a credible source for leadership development, eh? Once Ashton took the stage, and got past the eardrum-piercing screams of thousands of teenage girls, he started talking.

And what he said impressed the heck out of me.

I’m not going to write about it; I encourage you to take a moment and just watch the video yourself at the end, but I will say a few words:

As learning professionals, we talk about being advocates for learning in our organizations. Assessing needs. Sharing recommendations and best practices. Being a trusted advisor to the business. But none of that means a darn thing unless we have influence. Whether your audience is one person, or in Ashton’s case, a room of thousands, we need to recognize and leverage the opportune moments we are given to influence up, down and across our organizations, to bring learning experiences to the workplace.

Watch the video here:

Your turn: How have you used your expertise to influence people and programs in your organization?  What challenges have you faced…and how did you overcome them?

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In Learning, It’s Okay to be a Rule-Breaker

learning-rulebreaker

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When it comes to developing learning programs, I’m a bit of a rule-breaker. There are smarties out there who have developed complex models on how adults learn, where adults learn and why we should follow these rules.  I respect them. And sure, they have merit. But the rigidity is where I’m left shaking my head. Every organization is unique. People, industries and priorities vary. How can we expect this one-size-fits-all approach to be effective?

Today, my mind goes to the humble training session.  Namely, mind-numbing training sessions, where PowerPoint reigns supreme. Tell me, how can a facilitator believe that spewing dozens of wordy slides at participants equates a learning experience?

Not long ago, I was talking to a colleague about this very topic. He told me about some creative things his team was doing, which sent my mind spinning. At the day job, we had been considering some “different” learning events to shake things up in our new leadership development program.  It left me thinking…

Who says we can’t do something different?

That “something different” meant hosting a leadership development discussion. Nothing new, right? Well…

We’re hosting it in a bar. A local brewpub, to be exact. Who says people can’t talk about leadership over some microbrews?

The proprietor of this brewpub will be joining us, and giving a brief talk about the evolution of their brand. Their commitment to their customers, particularly as advocates for their brand. Their involvement in the community. What their brand meant to him in the beginning…and what it means to him now. And then, we’ll draw some comparisons to our organization, and what lessons we can take back to our world.

I could easily gather a roomful of participants in the office, throw a few slides up on the screen, and talk leadership. Brand advocacy. Customer awareness. And we might have a pretty darn good discussion about it. But, a year from now, will those participants necessarily remember it? Maybe. But then, maybe not.

Will they remember the time the L&D team hosted Leadership Happy Hour, where we met at the brewpub and sampled some drinks and talked candidly about our brand? You betcha. Creating memorable, meaningful, relevant learning experiences is our job, friends. It’s okay to think outside the box and try something new.

Your turn: How do you facilitate meaningful learning experiences in your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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3 Questions Every New Manager Should Ask

new managers need to build a foundation of trust

When people think of “onboarding”, many people often think of “orientation”.  Even the most seasoned learning professionals are guilty of this!  If you’ve read this earlier post, you’ll remember that we explored this topic, but it bears further exploration…

Orientation is part of onboarding, but not all onboarding is orientation!

So, let’s think beyond the basics…what happens during a new manager’s first few weeks?  After he goes through any standard orientation activities, and he is settling into his role?  While he is trying to make connections and learn about his team and manager?

During the first week, the new manager is being introduced to the company, the team, and the expectations of his new role.  Once the pleasantries are exchanged, it’s time to start doing something about the team structure! With his team, a manager needs to explore these three questions:

1. Where have we been?

There are a number of questions that the team can answer to provide clarity and context to a new manager.  2-3 days prior to a team meeting, the manager can submit questions like these to the team and encourage them to ponder the topics.  They can bring answers or just be prepared to discuss at a team meeting.

  • What words can describe our team’s history?
  • What are some major achievements our team has accomplished?
  • How was our team “born”?
  • What are some challenges the team has faced in the past?
  • How did the team overcome those challenges?

Before a new manager can adequately assess his team, he needs to know the origin of the team and gain understanding to “why we are the way we are”.

2. Where are we today?

Unless the manager is coming in to develop and lead a brand-new team, he needs to gauge where the past has brought the team and consider the current state of the team, individually and collectively, as well as projects and initiatives that are currently in progress.  Some questions the team can discuss include:

  • What are the team’s strengths?
  • What are the team’s weaknesses?
  • How do we bring value to the organization?
  • Who are our customers?
  • How do we bring value to our customers?
  • What are the organization’s top priorities/objectives right now?
  • What are OUR top priorities today?
  • How do our priorities align with organizational objectives?  Or do they?

A new manager needs to know how his team is perceived in the organization.  As he gains context about these perceptions, only then can he craft his strategy to move forward.

3. Where are we going?

Making progress.  In the book, The First 90 Days, the author states the importance of diagnosing the team’s current situation, and determining what immediate challenges should be addressed right away.  It is crucial to deliver results in the first few months on the job!

Once the manager has gathered relevant info from the team, through both team and individual meetings, he can work with his own manager to determine priorities, obstacles and outcomes.  When executed efficiently, these outcomes will build early credibility for the new manager and for the redefined team.  This also sets a precedent for open communication, proactive leadership and trust.

Where are we, and where are we going?  It’s something that every new manager needs (and deserves!) to know when he takes the reins of a team.  Is there a way you can build something into your onboarding program to enable new managers to facilitate these conversations?  Can you provide the tools, resources and encouragement?  I’d love to hear your ideas, and how you have worked with new managers in your organization.

On a personal note…

In the spirit of the holiday season, I hope you have been enjoying a wonderful season with those dearest to you, full of love and laughter.  Thank you for your continued comments, shares, emails and creativity.  Here’s to a successful, prosperous 2013!  Cheers!

– Michelle

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