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

Why managers need a GPS

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Talent GPS cover image 2

 

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

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

Learn more and order your copy today!

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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!

 

 

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!

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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The Lunchbox Evolution

Strawberry Shortcake Lunchbox

This was my lunchbox when I was in the first grade.  Well, not this EXACT lunchbox, but the one I faithfully carried to school each day looked exactly like this one. I used it to my pack my typical PB&J on Wonder Bread (cut into triangles!), carrot sticks and Twinkie (Rest in Peace, Hostess)…sometimes soup in the thermos when it was cold outside.  This was lunch, circa 1980.

I loved that Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox.  Rust spots and all.

My mom probably figured I needed a tetanus shot carrying that rusty thing around, so when it was school shopping time the next year, I got a new lunchbox that looked like this:

care bears lunchbox
Yep, those are Care Bears. Holla!

I loved my Care Bears lunchbox too. But another metal lunchbox yielded the same rusty results.  I’m sure that around this time, the lunch box people were realizing that there had to be a better way. Kids all over America were toting around rusty lunchboxes – expensive to manufacture, and quite frankly, they were disgusting.  So by the third or fourth grade, my lunchbox looked like this:

shirt tales lunchbox
Awww yeah. Shirt Tales, baby.

Enter the plastic lunchbox.  The rust problem was eliminated, as were the squeaky hinges and the awful clanking sound when the thermos would roll around the empty box on the way home from school.  Not to mention, from a business perspective (something that was entirely beyond my 8-year old comprehension) plastic was much more cost-effective to produce than their metal counterparts.

See where we’re going with this?  The lunchbox has evolved over time.  The lunchbox people couldn’t just rest on their laurels with the metal lunchbox.  Did it get the job done?  Sure.  Was it a cooler product than the lame brown bag?  Heck yeah.  But was there a better, more efficient, cost-effective alternative?  Absolutely.

L&D brethren, we need to manage our learning and development programs with the same mindset.

Maybe your training programs are solid.  Maybe your smile sheets are consistently…well, smiley.  That doesn’t mean you should leave well enough alone.  You should regularly audit your programs and take inventory of your materials, resources and even instructors.

If you’re wondering why you should be doing this, here are three things to consider:

1. Business objectives change.

If your business or departmental goals and priorities have evolved throughout the year, then you should be aware of those goals.  Partner with leadership and subject-matter experts to identify learning opportunities for employees. Be involved. If you don’t have a seat at the proverbial table, see that your boss does.

2. Job descriptions, tasks, and systems change.

Whether you are responsible for the learning function over a department or an organization, it is important to be mindful of what skills and knowledge your employees are responsible for knowing.  COPC recommends annual refresher training, as long as duties have not changed; otherwise, training should occur whenever job responsibilities change.  There are other theories and recommendations…but you know your business best. Stay close to processes and systems.

3. People, whether they are your trainers, employees, or SMEs, change.

As the human landscape of your organization evolves, your training program will be impacted as well.  Managing the transition of legacy knowledge when veteran employees leave. Ramping up new employees during a peak-season hiring frenzy.  Even the evolution of your own staff can be a factor…keep your instructors informed, prepared and perpetually developed.

I say this often: Change is inevitable.  It’s going to happen.  Businesses, at least the successful ones, don’t stay in one place.  They are constantly striving to be the best.  The most efficient.  The most profitable.  The most customer-centric.  What is your business striving to become (or remain)?  I’ll betcha my Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox that it isn’t “average” or “mediocre”.  As learning professionals, we need to find our sweet spot in our organizations, where we provide value and contribute to whatever “The Best” means in our worlds.

And the lunchbox people?  Well, look at lunchboxes today.  My 11-year old has a lunchbox that is not metal, nor hard plastic.  It’s a soft, insulated bag that zips.  He can pack his PB&J, carrot sticks, Nutter Butters (his current fave), and a juice box that will stay cold until lunchtime.  It’s lightweight. At the end of the day, he can easily shove it into his backpack. It’s a far superior product than even the coolest Gen X lunchbox from his old momma’s generation.

It’s just a lunchbox.  But it’s still evolving, still changing, still getting better.

And so should we, don’t ya think?.

Your turn:  Just for fun, I’d love to know what kind of lunchbox you carried to school when you were young! Was it Dukes of Hazzard?  The Fonz?  Smurfs?  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? ‘Fess up, kids.

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