If you’re having trouble relating to new employees, do this…

A few weeks ago at the day job, I was meeting with a couple of people on my team, discussing two training programs that we are in the process of updating. One of the programs is part of our onboarding process; new employees participate in the program between 30-60 days post-hire.

The team member who is developing content for that particular program joined our team less than a year ago, but she has been with the organization for 9 years, starting in an entry-level, frontline customer service role (and let me just say, she has quickly shown us that she is an absolute rockstar!). She said to me, “I’m having a hard time relating to the new employees. I’ve just been here so long, it’s hard to put myself in their shoes.”

Hmmm. That made a lot of sense to me. We settle into our routines. We become familiar with people, processes and products. And after a few years, we often find ourselves (unintentionally) out of touch with exactly what those new employees are really feeling when they first walk in the front door to start their career with our organization.

This goes for the folks who are responsible for developing and implementing onboarding programs.

So, how did I respond?

I told her to go to Starbucks.

I suggested that she stop by Starbucks, pretending it was her first day as a new barista, and do the following:

  • Look at the different product offerings on the menu board, in the food cases and on the merchandise shelves,
  • Listen to the process the cashier follows when taking orders and payments,
  • Watch employees preparing food,
  • Watch the drive-through interactions……and
  • Watch how quickly the baristas can differentiate the different drinks and special orders and efficiently prepare them for waiting customers

If it was her first day on the job, how would she feel to take that all in? All of those precise details that seem so easy to existing employees are completely foreign to new ones. It takes time, training, support and coaching to build skills and familiarity when starting any new job.

The suggestion made sense to her – while we don’t sell coffee and pastries at the day job, we do have complex products, services and processes that employees need to learn and master to be successful on the job. And honestly, many of our new frontline employees came to us by way of customer-facing roles (including Starbucks). Those new employees might come to us being familiar with how to quickly prepare an obnoxious drink like this…

starbucks order

…but they don’t have a clue about all of the aspects that make our organization unique.

The end result of this little experiment? A better understanding of what it’s like to be the new kid on the block, and improved empathy and connection to the new employee experience.

So, if you or someone on your team need to reboot your understanding of how new employees feel….maybe it’s time to make a Starbucks run.

(That is, unless you currently work at Starbucks!)

 


 

Your turn: How do you stay in touch with the new employee experience? Share a comment below so we can learn from you!

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What are your existing employees telling your new employees?

A lot of my blog inspiration comes from casual observations as I’m out-and-about. Today’s post comes from a brief conversation I overheard while waiting for an elevator, between an existing employee (Brendon) and a new employee:

Brendon: Today was your first day, right? How did it go? I’m Brendon, I’m the Director of Client Experience.

New employee: Yeah! It was great, thanks! Nice to meet you!

Brendon: It all goes downhill from here…

New employee: Umm…(nervous laugh)…yeah…..

*end scene*

As I stood there, waiting for and eventually riding on the elevator, I’m not sure if I wanted to hug and encourage the new employee (whose name I didn’t catch), or smack Brendon for saying that to someone on her first day.

Maybe Brendon was trying to be funny and break the ice. Maybe he remembers what it was like to be a wide-eyed, naive new employee joining the organization (it was a tech startup). Yes, as the Director of Client Experience, he has some context to know that reality means hard work, dealing with sometimes-upset clients and probably leading a team (yes, that’s an assumption based on his “Director” title). The truth is, he was probably just making casual conversation while waiting for an elevator.

But Brendon….oh, dear Brendon…what you didn’t consider in that moment is that this new employee was walking to the elevator to leave at the end of first day, processing her experience and considering her decision to join your company, and your innocent comment may linger. Did her first day stack up to the promises made during the interview process? Maybe it did, and she was excited to come back for Day #2……but now, a dark cloud of uncertainty creeps in.

What if Brendon is right?

What if everyone was on their best behavior today, but the reality is different?

What if I won’t like working here?

Sure, I’ve taken a snippet of a conversation and escalated it to a dark place. But it gives us something to think about…..what are the messages your new employees’ peers are sending? Does the reality of the working environment match the picture you’re painting in the beginning? If your organization doesn’t deliver on those promises made, the relationship between that new employee and the organization will always be lacking in trust.

And trust is a key factor in nurturing loyal, productive, engaged employees.

A study by Aberdeen a few years back suggested that as much as 87% of new employees are not fully committed to a new job for the first six months. As early moments, conversations and experiences add up, are they building trust and commitment, or breaking it down?

As Talent leaders, we must keep a finger on the pulse of our organization’s culture, people and perceptions. Routinely review your data – engagement and exit surveys, questions that bubble up, time spent during meetings, and perhaps most importantly….get out of your office. Spend time with people across the organization and talk to them. On the surface, it may seem that these findings only affect your employee engagement efforts, but in reality it all connects to your people strategy….including onboarding and employee development.

To the Brendons out there….I hope you realize the impact you have on the new employee experience.

And to that new tech startup employee out there, I hope you’re finding success in your new role!

 

Your turn: How do you engage peers during the onboarding process? Share a tip, idea or strategy below!

 

Onboarding is not a “Nice-to-Have”

I had a brief conversation with a consultant and business owner at a networking event a few months ago, where the topic drifted to the new employee experience. We were discussing a few general best practices and he probed why onboarding is the niche market I choose to serve in my consulting practice. Trying not to bore frighten overwhelm him with my exuberance and sheer geekdom on the topic, I simply replied that there are so many well-meaning organizations who really miss the mark with their onboarding efforts…and there are numerous opportunities for onboarding to make a measurable impact on an organization’s bottom line and to drive engaged, productive employees and teams.

To which, he replied:

“Yeah…but onboarding really is a ‘nice-to-have,’ not a ‘need-to-have.’ Why waste your time on something that isn’t essential?” 

And Michelle was kicked out of the networking event for causing a scene.

The End.

Just kidding.

But I did quip back with, “That mindset is exactly what I’m committed to changing.” He laughed and told me to give him an example. I rattled off a quick case study about an organization I worked with who updated their onboarding program and resulted in a significant decrease in employee turnover among new employees and leaders and a reduction in errors by new customer service reps in the first 30 days. I connected that back to a financial win for that organization, and watched his eyes widen as he processed my 30 second, Cliff’s Notes-style summary…

I couldn’t help but smile when he said, “I had no idea. You’re absolutely right.”

Friends, onboarding is an essential component to your people and operations strategy. It’s a “need-to-have,” because:

It is more than paperwork.

It is more than getting their desk and computer set up.

It is more than a lengthy PowerPoint and a building tour during Orientation.

 

Onboarding is a strategic, competitive advantage that can yield tangible business results for your organization:

It’s about welcoming a new employee to the company, the team and the role.

It’s about setting new employees up to be successful over their first several months on the job, not hours.

It’s about building connection and community.

It’s about moving your business forward.

 


 

Is your organization one of the well-meaning ones who are simply missing the mark? Perhaps your leaders and decision makers don’t see the value….well, as I shared in a previous post, Why do leaders care about onboarding?, leaders care about onboarding when we tell them to care. Give them a reason. Build your business case and make it irresistible.

There is still time to make this happen in 2018! Download this free tip sheet to help you get started:

5 Steps for Getting Leader Support for Onboarding

In my annual State of Onboarding survey earlier this year, I discovered an overwhelming interest in courses, webinars and workshops that enable professionals on developing and implementing onboarding strategies. Thank you for the feedback….because friends, I listened, and I’m thrilled to be launching a self-study course and DIY kit in the coming weeks:

BBOC banner image

Whether you are a team of one or on a team of many, this course and DIY kit will give you everything you need to identify your unique opportunities to drive business results through onboarding, and build a compelling case to get your decision makers on board.

Want the inside scoop when it’s available?  Join the list to be the first to know!

Let’s Make Onboarding Better….together!

 

4 Tips for Increasing Authenticity in your Onboarding Program

 

For several years now, I have had the (insanely fun) opportunity to consult with organizations and speak at conferences about the need for strategic, impactful onboarding and improving the new employee experience. I’ve had conversations over countless cups of coffee with HR leaders, training facilitators, talent development professionals and other industry friends about how to develop or reshape their organization’s onboarding program. Inevitably, the question arises:

I just want our onboarding program to be like yours! Can you just share your materials so I can use them?

(“Yours”  = the day job)

It’s true, our team has implemented an award-winning, internationally-recognized, results-minded onboarding program that has been the cherry on top of our Organizational Development sundae. And, yeah….I suppose I COULD just hand over our agenda, slide decks, templates and resources for you to plug-and-play at your day job.

But you would be lacking something. Something important. Something that your new employees and stakeholders would surely feel.

Your program would lack authenticity. 

Sure – imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, or so the saying goes. And perhaps certain elements of one company’s program could be integrated seamlessly into yours. I don’t claim that any of our organization’s onboarding program is unique by itself, but rather the intention, support and consistent execution coupled with innovative methods and a laser-focus on driving results are what truly determines our program’s long-term sustainability and success.

But as a longtime Talent Development geek professional (maybe I had it right the first time?), I know perfectly well that we all beg-borrow-and yes, steal ideas from each other all. the. time. The concept of idea-sharing is the very backbone of this blog, and so many others! So, how can you leverage some awesome ideas from other programs while ensuring yours is authentic? Here are 4 tips:

>> Don’t force it.

Maybe you learned about a super-cool idea that a colleague has implemented, and want to include it in your own program. Before jumping in immediately based on the cool factor, consider these factors to ensure relevance for your audience:

  • What is your colleague’s industry?
  • What are the employee demographics, schedules, geography, age and skill level?
  • What size is their organization?
  • Is it realistic for your program?

Ensuring that activities, events or other onboarding elements are a good fit are necessary to prevent content from feeling forced or misaligned with the audience.

>> Showcase what’s special.

What is unique about your organization or culture? Help your new employees forge a connection to the company, the team and their new roles. Maybe it’s the end-of-quarter Mimosa Monday celebrations, the annual Habitat for Humanity build or a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Find ways to share what your organization is doing, and how new employees can jump in and get involved.

And while you’re at it….

>> Who are your storytellers?

Whether it is your CEO personally welcoming your new employees on their first day, engaged employees sharing their personal experiences or hearing success stories from loyal customers, identify your raving fans and make their stories come alive during new employees’ crucial first days and weeks on the job. Deepen their attachment to the organization through a balance of relationships and results.

 

>> Align to your values

Someone once told me, “The only mission statement that matters is, ‘Have fun and make money.'” While a shred of that may hold true for most organizations, there are typically core values that serve as a compass for how organizations do business and make decisions. Aligning the content of your onboarding program with those unique drivers will help new employees embrace those values in their daily performance – both in those early weeks and months on the job, but also throughout their tenure with your organization.

 

There you have it, friends….beg, borrow and steal all the ideas you want, but make sure they make sense for your organization and people, and then make those ideas your own. Like spotting a bad toupee or a knockoff handbag from a street vendor, new employees can tell when a message isn’t genuine. And if they don’t figure it out in their first days on the job, they’ll discover it soon enough, which could put their long-term engagement and potential success on shaky ground.

Now, it’s your turn:

How do you ensure your new employees receive an authentic experience during their early days, weeks and months on the job? Please add a comment to share your ideas!

 


 

Wanna work together in 2018?

Between the launch of my book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to the Employee Development Journey, speaking engagements and consulting projects, 2017 has certainly whizzed by in a blur….and things are quickly ramping up for 2018. If an onboarding overhaul is on your to-do list for the coming year, let’s talk.

Now booking onsite workshops, retreat facilitation, conference sessions and more – availability is limited, so reserve your spot now!

 

 

 

Why do leaders care about onboarding?

Why do leaders care about onboarding - blog header image

It’s one of many million-dollar-questions in the business of “talent” these days. Why do our leaders and executives care about onboarding?

I attended a conference session last week led by Tamar Elkeles, Ph.D., a former Chief Learning Officer of the Year during her longtime tenure with Qualcomm. Dr. Elkeles had some no-nonsense insight into the ever-evolving role of a Chief Talent Officer. While the session itself wasn’t necessarily focused on onboarding, but rather the position and challenges of talent leaders in general, there were some parallels I took away that are highly applicable:

Key Talent Challenges Facing Global Organizations:

  • Forecasting the future…and developing people for jobs that don’t even exist yet
  • Creating a company culture that maximizes employee growth and engagement
  • Retaining talent to drive business success
Source: Tamar Elkeles, Ph.D.

(If those challenges don’t directly correlate to onboarding, I don’t know what does.)

If our job is to find a solution to these challenges and address them through onboarding, then we need to have a seat at the table to better understand the underlying drivers:

  • To learn about jobs that don’t exist yet, we need to understand the industries we support, the products and services our organizations deliver and new innovations that require us to evolve.
  • To contribute to company culture, growth and engagement, we need to create onboarding programs that embrace and immerse new employees and help them feel connected.
  • To effectively retain talent, we need to enable new employees up to learn, perform and be successful, quickly.
Getting started with onboarding? Check this out: 5 Must-Capture Onboarding Metrics to Prove Your Value

Perhaps the most provocative statement that Dr. Elkeles stated during this session, and possibly the sentence that resonated with me more than anything during the entire conference was this:

“Executives care because we tell them to care.”

(This quote is paraphrased a bit, because I was in the middle of an “a-ha” moment when she said it, and didn’t write it down fast enough!)

But please let the point resonate as loudly with you as it did for me…

Many (not all) of our executives and senior leaders fail to recognize the value in developing talent, or providing a rich onboarding experience for new employees. Only when we claim a seat at the table (or contribute in our role in a way that our department leaders can claim that seat on our behalf) and TELL THEM how onboarding impacts these challenges, will the impact our programs are making “bubble up” and be:

Seen. Heard. Felt. Measured.

Providing an intentional onboarding experience is the necessary foundation and logical starting point for a results-driven talent engagement, development and retention strategy. It’s a competitive advantage that will set your organization apart, and be YOUR professional advantage, if you are looking to build influence among leaders.

Take some action: Find what matters in your organization, what drives business, and what keeps your leaders up at night…and discover how onboarding will make a positive, measurable impact.


Talent GPS is here! 

Talent GPS cover image 2

I’m thrilled to have co-authored the book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to Navigating the Employee Development Journey, with Lou Russell and Brittney Helt. If you manage people or support those who do, you’ll want to grab a copy!

Buy now


Are you ready to Make Onboarding Better in your organization?

We are nearing the halfway point of 2017 already! Is updating (or starting) your onboarding program on your list of goals this year? How’s that going?

Based on overwhelming feedback from our annual onboarding survey this winter, we are getting ready to launch an exclusive online community, completely focused on making onboarding better. Whether you are just getting started with developing and implementing an onboarding program, or you are committed to improving the new employee experience at your organization, this community is for you.

Be one of the first to learn more and to get pre-launch access to the community.

Subscribe today and be in the know!

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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Don’t miss a thing! For tips, ideas and yes….an occasional rant, simply complete the form below. Be sure to connect on Twitter too – @MichelleLBaker. You’ll be glad you did!

 

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!