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!





What To Do With Those 2014 Professional Development Budget Dollars?


Believe it or not, 2014 is quickly coming to an end. It doesn’t seem possible, does it?

If you’re like many L&D leaders, now is the time you’re looking at your annual department budget, and quickly trying to spend some of your allocated dollars, so you don’t have to hear this:

“If you didn’t need the money in 2014, we’re not going to approve it in 2015.”

Been there, done that? I know I have!

So, if you’re looking for an affordable professional development opportunity for you or someone on your team, why not consider registering for the newest interactive workshop experience from phase(two)learning?

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

By popular demand, phase(two)learning is partnering with Brian Washburn, Managing Director with Endurance Learning and the voice of the popular Train Like a Champion blog, this 2-day workshop will provide participants with the opportunity to:

  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses in the design and delivery of your current New Employee Orientation program
  • Define success for your New Employee Orientation program
  • Identify the essential stakeholders across your organization who should be involved in your New Employee Orientation program
  • Incorporate strategies into your Orientation program proven to increase engagement and to make sure your new employees “get it”
  • Compare and contrast what you’re currently doing with successful practices from industry-leading organizations featured in a panel discussion
  • Differentiate between must-have and nice-to-have elements in your New Employee Orientation program
  • Use concepts learned in this workshop to immediately implement changes to your current Orientation materials in a unique Design Lab session

Is re-imagining your New Employee Orientation program on your 2015 agenda? Start planning now by registering for this session, and take advantage of early bird rates!

And just for you, Phase(Two)Nation…

Use promo code FRIEND to save an additional $200 on your registration (even with the discounted group rate)!

Seating is limited for this roll-up-your-sleeves event, so reserve your spot now!

Got questions? Check out the FAQ on the registration page, or send an email today to learn more.


Know of someone who plans to re-imagine their New Employee Orientation program in 2015? Be kind and share this post!

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!



If you enjoy this resource, please share this post with your network. I’d appreciate it!

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What “Modern Family” Reminded Me About Onboarding


Did you happen to catch Modern Family last week?

I know I did! It’s one of my favorite current shows. Usually, I tune in for the comedy and the great writing, but last Wednesday, I found myself taking notes. Yep – I’m a nerd like that.

One of the storylines in the episode featured Mitch – if you don’t watch, he’s the red-haired guy in the photo above. Mitch is an attorney and was starting a new job at a non-profit. His new boss was an old college friend (the woman in the photo above). In true sitcom fashion, there was a series of misunderstandings on his first day that made him question his decision to start the job.

Watch this part of the episode here. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

This storyline naturally got me thinking about real-life onboarding.

Starting a new job is just as much the new employee’s decision as it is the organization’s decision to hire the person. On a new employee’s first day, our job is to reaffirm his decision to join our organization.

Today’s post is a simple, quick reminder: Just like Mitch didn’t have the context to understand the office culture, dynamics, relationships (or even everyone’s name), neither do our new employees. During those crucial first days, we need to embrace our newest associates, provide them with the content they need to become integrated, but also the context to understand that content.

Your turn: How do you do this in your onboarding programs? Leave a comment to share your experiences!

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

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3 Easy Tips for a More Engaging New Employee Orientation Program


Deconstructing and revising an Orientation program is no small undertaking. Trust me, I’ve been there! I’m often asked for quick tips or best practices that can be quickly implemented to an existing New Employee Orientation program. Keeping in mind that every organization and program is different, there are some simple things that can be added to an Orientation program to make it a more engaging, robust part of the onboarding process.

Here are three tips:

1. Involve others in the program.

Maybe you’re the only person facilitating content throughout the Orientation session. If this is the case, the new employees are only meeting YOU. Which means, after the session, when they have questions, who are they calling? That’s right…you.

Even if you are not updating your content, provide opportunities to involve other people and teams in the Orientation process. A few examples might be:

  • Invite someone from your IT help desk provide a brief overview of how to set up computers, report or resolve issues, or connect email to personal devices.
  • Coordinate a panel discussion with key leaders (not necessarily executives) across your organization to share an overview of his/her role, history with the company and advice to new employees
  • Offer a catered breakfast or lunch, and include the employee’s hiring manager on the first day – use the opportunity to facilitate dialogue about how the new employees will be an asset to their respective teams!

2. Leverage templates and checklists.

If there are certain tasks that a new employee should complete during the first few days on the job, document them in the form of a checklist! This makes it easy for a new employee (who is likely overwhelmed by details) to stay on track with forms, tasks and other responsibilities during the transition time. Having clear instructions for during and after the Orientation session will put your attendees at ease, allowing them to focus on the content being delivered in the moment and make the most of the experience!

Additionally, from a facilitator’s point of view, using checklists, templates and other time-saving resources will only make the job easier, particularly when there is a tight agenda to which you must stick!

3. Make Orientation an active experience.

As with most learning sessions, providing an active, collaborative environment will yield better results. Rather than lecture, information-overload sessions, can your content be delivered in an alternative method?

A few lecture alternatives might include:

  • Scavenger hunts
  • Reading and summarizing content
  • Case studies

The good people at Langevin created this helpful (free!) resource with 50 instructional methods. The “lecturette” techniques are particularly good options to try. Enjoy!
Hopefully, these 3 tips will spark some inspiration to energize your existing New Employee Orientation program. It doesn’t take a full program overhaul to add in some engaging elements. Give these ideas a try!

Your turn: How do you provide an engaging experience for your newest employees?  Take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Looking to establish or energize your onboarding program this year? Contact us to learn more about our Onboarding Audit package!

4 Tips for Onboarding Millenials


Those crazy Millenials are everywhere these days, aren’t they? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 50% of the workplace will consist of Millenials. As learning professionals, we’ve probably noticed the landscape of our organizations is changing. Are our programs changing to accommodate the generational shift? They should be. Consider your onboarding process. As more and more young professionals are entering the workplace, we need to engage them from the very beginning, to help set them up for success in their new roles.

Recently, I was able to attend a webinar facilitated by Brad Karsh, CEO of JB Training Solutions. Brad is the author of Manager 3.0: A Millenial’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management. Not only is Brad a witty, engaging presenter, but he also happens to be an authority on communication in the multi-generational workplace. As I listened to the webinar, (look for the recording on trainingmagnetwork.com), I found myself taking some notes about the content in general…but as I read through them afterward, I realized they also serve as really good reminders when developing an onboarding process, for employees of any generation, but particularly where Millenials are involved.

Inspired by that webinar, here are 4 tips for engaging Millenials during the onboarding process:

1. Give them structure, but help them be self-sufficient.

We all know that “sink or swim” isn’t exactly an effective learning method. But neither does constant hand-holding. Generally speaking, Millenials have grown up with constant support and structure. Throughout their childhood, they’ve constantly looking to a leader to help them – whether that’s a parent, coach, teacher or Scout leader. As they begin a new role, they will be seeking guidance. Provide support, tools and resources, but enable them to be self-sufficient. This goes for the general Orientation process and moving into a routine with a direct supervisor.

2. Tell them why.

Context is key, but context takes time. Regardless of one’s expertise, it takes time and experience to learn the processes, culture and nuances of an organization. Be the person who explains WHY things are the way they are. And even though I know NO ONE has EVER said this before, it bears repeating: “Because that’s how we’ve always done it,” is not a legitimate explanation.

3. Encourage and enable relationship building.

Millenials want to feel that they belong to something (and really, don’t we all?). They want to like their co-workers. They want to get to know them as people, not just as co-workers. Provide opportunities to become better acquainted, both socially and in collaborative settings. Keep in mind that not everyone wants what you want. Just because you’re not into Happy Hour or other social functions, doesn’t mean that others in the organization don’t rely on those opportunities to network and become more familiar with others.

4. Inform and educate.

According to a study quoted in the webinar (sorry, I forgot to write down the source), 74% of Gen Y workers say the future of success is in skill development.

I’m sure all of my L&D brethren are nodding and saying, “We’ve been saying this all along!” (shakes fist in the air!!!)

So, let’s do it. Let’s make sure people like us, the ones who get it, are providing learning experiences for our newest employees. Consider the 70-20-10 model, and know that learning isn’t just about formal classroom time. How can you provide coaching, mentoring and development opportunities to your new employees? Give your Millenials someone to look up to.  Provide training. Incorporate social learning. Learn what your people need, where your organizational gaps are, and fill them.

There you have it. 4 tips for onboarding Millenials. But guess what? These are good ideas for all new employees, regardless of generation. The key is, all new employees have inherent needs that should be addressed, to set them up for success in their roles.

Generations certainly have their unique traits, but no generation is better or worse than another…they’re just different. Do what you can to understand the people who make up your workforce, and provide a meaningful onboarding experience for all.

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7 Signs Your New Employee Orientation Program is an Epic Fail


When did everything become “epic”? Epic this, epic that.

It’s become the go-to adjective for just about anything lately. Recently I even saw a sign in my neighborhood, directing people to an “EPIC GARAGE SALE”.  (I never saw the sale, so I’ll just take their word for it).

Take the expression, “epic fail” – I’m not exactly sure where the line is drawn between a regular ol’ fail, and an “epic fail”, but you can’t deny that it’s a pretty popular catchphrase.

It’s safe to say that most organizations want their newest team members to have an epic new employee experience. But what happens when that experience doesn’t measure up? How is the organization impacted? How is the ultimate success of the new employee compromised?

New Employee Orientation is a rite of passage when joining an organization. This experience is the gateway for an employee to gain knowledge about the company, to become acquainted with the team and to learn any specific skills needed to do the job. How do you know if your Orientation program is missing the mark? These 7 signs might indicate your program could use some work:

1. There is no clear tie to the company’s mission, vision or core values.

Your new employees need to know what the company stands for. What the purpose is. If you’re not giving those new employees more to strive for than getting a paycheck every 2 week, then you’re not likely to turn them into raving brand ambassadors.  And shouldn’t your employees be some of your strongest advocates?

2. There is no mention of your customer, whoever that may be.

Everyone – let me repeat, EVERYONE – should understand their direct path to your customer.  Sometimes, it’s tough to illuminate that path. For example, how does the guy in the mailroom know how he impacts the customer experience? That’s your job. Make him aware of how his job matters. How the customer experience can be influenced by him doing his very best. When you have the customer at the core of everything, you can’t lose.

3. New employees walk away with more questions than answers.

Obviously, some questions will arise over time. There simply isn’t enough CONTEXT to absorb everything on Day One.  But if your Orientation participants walk away confused, or you end up with a dozen seemingly “basic” emails from them in the days following your session, maybe you need to look at your content and ensure that it is appropriate. Make sure any provided materials or online resources are clear and accessible. Consider your “lowest common denominator” – the person who walks in on his first day, without understanding of your business or processes – and make sure that person can grasp what you’re presenting.  It’s not much of a “resource” if no one can find it or understand it!

4. The sole focus of your session is policies, procedures and paperwork.

I get it. A certain element of “compliance” needs to occur during Orientation. It’s important  to make sure that I-9 forms are completed, direct deposit forms are turned in, and that Oscar-worthy sexual harassment video has been watched…yada-yada-yada. But let’s be honest – covering “policy-related” topics is merely a fraction of how you should be spending your day/s with new employees.  There is so much more to Orientation than that.  Let’s face it, Orientation is your ONE opportunity to engage new employees before they are riddled with work, bombarded with meetings and biased by office politics. Make the most of that precious time.

5. Your program is boring.

Snooze. Don’t read them a PowerPoint and expect them to have learned something. Make it interactive. Make it engaging. Make it relevant. Think of every awful, boring Orientation or training session you’ve ever attended, and then vow to never, ever do that to someone else. If you need ideas or resources on how to make your sessions more creative or engaging, there are countless online resources. Langevin has a great blog. There are a number of discussion groups for training professionals on LinkedIn. There are other blogs out there like mine or Train Like a Champion. Or, you know what? Just drop me a note sometime. I’ll brainstorm with you. I’ll give you advice. If you want some tough love, I’ll even smack you around a little bit give you some constructive feedback. If you need an entire program audit or overhaul, we could even talk about that.

6. Your executives have no idea what happens in Orientation.

If the ultimate decision-makers don’t know what’s happening, or what value your program brings to the organization, how can you expect them to support it? Getting “executive buy-in” is not a new topic, but it bears repeating. Engage your leaders – get them involved in the program, or at the very least, keep them updated on what your program offers and the benefit it provides.  If you, personally, do not have the ear of an executive, your boss (or maybe your boss’ boss) does. Encourage your own departmental leadership to be your program sponsor.

7. You have no partnership with hiring managers during the Orientation/Onboarding process.

Some people might think I have it in for hiring managers. After all, I tend to call them out a lot about their role in the onboarding process. But it just so happens that building relationships is key when starting a new job. And I can’t think of a relationship that is more critical to the success of a new employee than the relationship s/he has with a direct supervisor. Conversations must be initiated. Alliances need to form….certainly between the new employee and the supervisor, but also between the “owner” of the Orientation process and that supervisor. Those hiring managers need to know what is included (and NOT included) in Orientation, how long you will be spending with the new employee and certainly some guidance on how to promote learning transfer from Orientation to the new employee’s role. Because after all, Orientation is an event. Onboarding is a process.

I hope you read those seven signs and laughed. And told yourself that your Orientation program is incredible – epic, even – and you can’t possibly make the new employee experience any better than it is right now.

I hope.

But, if you read those seven signs, nodded, maybe gave a little sigh…just know there is so much potential. New Employee Orientation, thankfully, isn’t a program that needs a huge budget to be successful. It’s all about the welcome. The impression of your organization that you are bestowing upon your newest team members. It’s a huge responsibility, but it isn’t complicated.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a TEDx event, here in good old Indianapolis. (It definitely fit the “epic” bill, but that’s another story.) One of the presenters was Kristin Wright, whose story really spoke to me. Her talk was titled, “The Power of Welcome” – look for it next month when the video is available on the TED website. Kristin is involved with local immigrant families and refugees; her talk encouraged us to embrace these families as they arrive in our cities and neighborhoods. Her comments about “building a community of welcome” apply to the new employee experience, just as much as welcoming immigrants and refugees to our communities.

You are part of someone’s crucial first moments, friends. Make it epic.

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