Why “Lean In” Made Me Step Back for a Moment

working-women

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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5 Must-Capture Onboarding Metrics to Prove Your Value

onboaring-program-metrics
We all know the old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Our onboarding programs are no different. If our data doesn’t tell a story about our program’s success, how much value is truly perceived? 

At the day job, I’m currently in the throes of working on our 2017 Training Magazine Top 125 application. We were honored to be included on the 2016 list, and we’re using the valuable feedback we received to make our application even more compelling this time around.

I recently read Will Thalheimer’s terrific new book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets – if you haven’t read it yet, I’ll wait here patiently while you click on the link and ORDER A COPY RIGHT NOW. 

**cue hold music**

Okay, I’m assuming you took my word for it and ordered the book. When it arrives in a few days, clear your calendar…you won’t be able to put it down, and you will immediately want to start re-imagining your Level 1 evaluation process. Trust me on this one.

I digress.

The timing of reading Mr. Thalheimer’s book and beginning the arduous Top 125 application process have mind swirling over the importance of measuring the success of learning programs – beyond Level 1. Whether you are hoping to deepen the footprint of new employee learning or a training program, jockey for additional headcount or even position yourself for a promotion, you need data. Data becomes the plot of a page-turning story of how your program is making a difference – both quantitatively and qualitatively – in your organization.

And, friends, you need to tell that story in the language that resonates with your company’s decision makers. 

That language? Business results. Outcomes. Money. Even for you folks in a non-profit setting.

True, a comprehensive measurement (and any good story, for that matter) needs to balance “the head and the heart” – you need qualitative data (heart) to balance the quantitative (head). In order to prove tangible value to the company, you must look closely at WHAT your program can impact. HOW it can impact. WHO it impacts. Start with the end in mind.- why do you need this program?

If you are looking to develop a new onboarding program, or refine the processes of an existing program, here are 5 metrics that, depending on your organization’s priorities, can help you get started on your way to a data-driven success story:

1. Reduction in attrition – How long are employees staying with your company? We all know that it costs significantly more to recruit, hire, onboard and train employees than to retain, continually develop and (hopefully) promote internally. Partner with your Talent Acquisition/HR team to benchmark your current attrition rate and measure it over time. This can also be a springboard for more robust Employee Engagement metrics. Does your organization participate in a “Best Places to Work” program in your community? A solid onboarding program can certainly contribute to an engaged workforce.

2. Reduction in time to productivity – How long does it take a new employee to be “up to speed” on systems, processes and procedures? Time is money. Work with your hiring managers to identify the current timeframe for new employees to be fully productive, align your program accordingly and set a goal to shave some time off. Ongoing hiring manager surveys can be an easy way to capture feedback and needle-moving.

3. Increased sales in the first 30/60/90 days – Sales – whether new business, upselling or cross-selling, renewals, or whatever products or services that sustain your business, are the lifeblood. Enable and equip your new sales employees with the proper tools to be successful, and monitor their performance during the first months on the job.

4. Reduction in errors/accidents among new employees – It may be system errors, data entry errors, cash handling errors, shipping errors, customer fulfillment errors, on-the-job accidents or any number of other factors that impact employee safety and risk, business production, profitability and customer service. Everybody messes up once in awhile, particularly when navigating a new job. However, errors cost money (and remember…money is the native tongue of the decision makers). If you are able to meet with key leaders in your organization, this is a great topic to discuss. Ask them which employee errors keep them up at night – what has the most significant impact on the business? Seek opportunities to lower these erroneous incidents – this should be a priority during new employee training.

5. Improved customer satisfaction scores – This should be a given, but unfortunately it is often overlooked. If your new employees are customer-facing (heck, even if they’re not), are you helping them establish a direct line of sight to the customer experience from Day One? And are you providing managers with tools to help them maintain that line of sight with their teams beyond New Employee Orientation? It is critical that new employees know how they impact the customer experience, whether it is directly or indirectly. Clearly communicating your organization’s commitment to your customer, as well as setting service expectations and empowering new employees to take care of customers is essential for long-term success. Customer-centric organizations recognize, prioritize and measure this as part of their onboarding process. 
If you are not capturing this data, trust me – someone is. Make that person your new BFF. Find a link between onboarding and these a metrics.

The more connected your onboarding program is to your business processes and priorities, the clearer your data-driven story becomes, and the easier it is to demonstrate the value of onboarding. It becomes a competitive advantage for your organization, but also your competitive advantage as a leader and trusted advisor WITHIN your organization. 

>>> Your turn: How are you communicating the value of onboarding in your organization? Share your best tip in the comments below!

>>> AGILE ONBOARDING DESIGN: THE WORKSHOP – coming soon!

Is your organization planning to develop an onboarding program for the first time? phase(two)learning can help! In a 2-day workshop, learn how to utilize principles from agile software development to rapidly build the frameworkfor your new onboarding program!

Contact us to learn more!

When does onboarding become too much of a good thing?

paris-love-locks
Ah, c’est l’amour.

For several years, countless tourists in love made a pilgrimage to the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris to pledge their undying devotion by attaching a padlock, a “love lock,” to the metal grating on the bridge.

So. Many. Locks. 

The love lock tradition has spread to a number of other cities around the world. Like the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City:
love-locks-brooklyn-bridge
I saw the Brooklyn Bridge locks last summer when I was in New York with the family. Even enterprising street vendors were trying to capitalize on bridge-crossers in loooove by selling padlocks along the bridge. It’s definitely a thing.

The idea of love locks has brought mixed reactions among Parisian tourists and locals. Some saw it as a romantic gesture, an homage to everlasting love….others, including preservationists and city officials, saw it as a cluttered mess, ruining an otherwise historic landmark. Last year, an estimated one million locks were cut from the Pont des Arts bridge, thus ending the Love Locks tradition.

What started out as good intentions – a sweet gesture – quickly spun out of control.

If we’re not careful, the same thing can happen with our onboarding programs. We invest time, energy and resources into creating a memorable experience for our newly-hired employees – but without proper management, even a great “idea” can go awry.

Be aware of these red flags…does your onboarding program:

  • Focus on training, rather than on performance?  Spending too much time “teaching to the test,” or mastering hypothetical, simulated content, instead of preparation for real-world experience can be risky. Ensure that your content is aligned to the true working environment, and that there are ample opportunities for application and assessment.
  • Have too much show, but not enough substance?  We want our Orientation and onboarding experiences to be pleasant. We want our new employees to enjoy themselves and have them walk away feeling they made the right decision in joining our organizations. Free lunch! Scavenger hunt! More swag! All good things. Just ensure that the fun elements have purpose. 
  • Set unrealistic expectations of how amazing your organization is? Onboarding is a process that bridges the gap between the sometimes-idyllic first impressions set during the recruitment and pre-boarding process and the reality of everyday life in the company. If your new employees are pinching themselves because things are just too perfect, beware. Showcase your organization’s strengths, but keep it realistic.
  • Encourage long-term reliance on a training facilitator, rather than a supervisor, peers and resources?  In cases where “new employee training” lasts several days or even weeks, training participants often look up to their primary training instructor and view him/her as an expert. While that may be true, it is important for the primary focus to shift away from the training environment and move toward the job environment. Make an effort to enable new employees to utilize self-directed learning resources, leverage peer coaching, participate in on-the-job training and (most importantly) build a solid relationship with his/her direct supervisor.

Having a hand in the new employee experience is a privilege. Creating an experience that balances learning, engagement, immersion, relationship building and yes, fun, requires thoughtful planning and ongoing attention. Just like the locks prevented visitors from experiencing the beauty of the bridge, don’t let your organization’s heavy “locks” outweigh the value your program adds.

Your turn: What are you doing to make that experience a memorable one in your organization? Share your tips in the comments below!

Hiring Managers: These 5 Questions Are On Your New Employee’s Mind (so prepare for them!)

5 Questions On Your New Employee's Mind

During the interview and selection process, is can be easy for a hiring manager or company to forget that the new employee is interviewing the company, manager and team just as much as the company is looking for the best candidate for the job. Recruiters, HR leaders and managers spend so much time narrowing a competitive pool of applicants (many of whom look really, really good on paper) that by the time The One has been finally been selected, they immediately jump into Let’s Get This Rockstar Started mode.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing…it’s great to engage that incumbent right away. Does this sound familiar, hiring manager?

Related post: An Open Letter to Hiring Managers

As you are preparing for the arrival of your newest employee, it’s important to know that she probably has a number of questions bubbling beneath the surface. Questions that she might be holding back, for one reason or another. As the hiring manager, anticipate these 5 questions and incorporate them into your preboarding and onboarding plans:

1. Will I fit in with the team?

Do what you can to make introductions early. Start getting your new employee acquainted to the existing team. Encourage your team to connect with the new employee on LinkedIn or send a quick, friendly email. Create a “Who’s Who” document with photos of the team, their roles and contact information – include any key individuals the new employee will be working closely with. And be sure to organize a team lunch or social event shortly after the new employee starts!

2. Will the reality of the job/company match what I was told during the interview?

During your new employee’s first days, it is important to clear your calendar to spend ample time with the new employee. Discuss the job description. If anything has changed since the interview, or if there were any “gray areas” about the role, be sure to clarify and set expectations right away. Your new employee deserves to have a clear understanding of what is expected of her.

3. What kind of training will I receive after I start?

Prior to her first day, share an onboarding schedule with your new employee. By communicating any organization- or team-sponsored events, training or meetings upfront, you are alleviating possible stress or “fear of the unknown” that may be on her mind. It also sends a clear message to the new employee that her manager has an organized plan in place. This sets a foundation of trust: something that is easy to build, but difficult to RE-build if broken.

4. How will I contribute?

In addition to reviewing the job description and discussing the role, projects and responsibilities, take a moment to identify a few quick wins. Provide opportunities for the new employee to work independently and showcase the strengths for which she was chosen. This makes both the new employee and her manager (read: you) look good!

5. What set me apart from the other candidates?

In an earlier post, I shared a piece of advice for hiring managers to connect with their new employee and build her confidence. Remember, she has chosen your organization (and YOU) just as much as you have chosen her among the other candidates. Remind her of WHY you chose her for the role and what value she brings to your team.  If you remind the new employee of this from the beginning, she will be more likely to spend every day proving it to you.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…but it bears repeating: Be the manager you would want to work for.  Prepare for and answer these 5 questions, regardless of whether your new employee asks them.

Because chances are, they’re on that new employee’s mind.

 

Your turn: What conversations do you have with a new employee, either before or after the start date? Share your go-to talking points in the comments below!

 

Know of a manager who would appreciate this post? Please be kind and share it!

 

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Onboarding Should be Relational, not Transactional

onboarding-soapbox

Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that get under a person’s skin and drives. them. absolutely. crazy.

For me, it’s the term “new hire.” Seems innocent, right? I’m sure about 99.2% of people in the free world wouldn’t think twice about the expression, but it’s one I simply cannot stand.

In fact, I told my friend Brian the other day that “I die a little bit inside every time someone says ‘new hire’.” Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but hear me out:

Onboarding should be relational, not transactional.

“Hire” is a verb. It suggests transaction, or something that you do. When I hear someone referred to as a “new hire,” I immediately think that person isn’t an official part of the organization yet. In fact, when we look at the top definition for hire, this is what we see:

onboarding-should-be-relational-not-transactional

Am I saying there is no “transaction” involved in the process? Not at all. I get it, there is paperwork to complete, processes to follow, content to share. But that is not the end-all-be-all to onboarding a new employee.

onboarding-should-be-relational-not-transactional

Onboarding is a process that immerses a new employee (noun!) into an organization.

I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, of us want our newest employees to feel welcomed, nurtured and included when they join the organizations we support. Your new employees are people, with needs and emotions and questions.

There is so much more to onboarding than the simple act of “hiring” a person.

When building a culture that welcomes, nurtures and includes new employees (particularly when there hasn’t been much of a process in place), an easy place to start is with the language you are using. It may be subtle – maybe even unnoticed – but being intentional with a detail as seemingly tiny as “new hire vs. new employee” sends a message to your organization that you are committed to building relationships with your newest employees.

Want to blow people’s minds? Tell them about it.

Tell your onboarding stakeholders and company leaders about your decision to use intentional language. Tell them that your team is committed to making onboarding a relational process, rather than a transactional one. This can be a huge value-add for your program.

Guess what? The benefit of intentional language goes beyond onboarding. Consider your language for learning, development and succession planning programs as well.

 

Your turn: Am I crazy? Is this just being a little too nit-picky? Tell me about it. Or tell me that this is brilliant, and it will revolutionize your program. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Know of someone who would benefit from this article? Please take a moment to share it!

 

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3 Steps to Developing a Killer Onboarding Program

the-first-step-to-developing-a-killer-onboarding-program

As much as I wish I could tell you that successful onboarding just happens, I’m afraid it doesn’t.

A well-crafted onboarding program sets new employees up for success during the vulnerable first months on the job. Implementing this requires thought. It requires planning. It requires knowing your audience and stakeholders. But most importantly, it requires a keen understanding of the business you are supporting. So that’s today’s thought:

The first part of developing a killer onboarding program is to know your organization’s pain points, and how onboarding will address them.

How do you discover those pain points, especially when you are handed the “simple” task of putting together an onboarding program (with or without a seat at the proverbial table)? Well, let’s make it really, really simple and break this down into 3 smaller, more tangible steps:

1. Capture feedback from multiple points across the organization.

Different groups within your organization have different perspectives on the subject of onboarding that will benefit you in your quest to develop a killer program. Depending on the makeup of your organization, consider surveying audiences such as:

We can’t be everywhere, and we don’t know what we don’t know. View onboarding through the lens of your key stakeholders.

2. Define your program objective, and how onboarding will accomplish it.

What are you hoping to achieve through your onboarding program?

(Hint: Address those organizational pain points!)

Determine the objective; as you develop program content, ensure that it is clearly aligned to those objectives. Based on the feedback you receive, particularly from your company leaders, you should have a road map to navigate – think of your program objective as your onboarding GPS.

3. Determine your success metrics from the beginning.

If you know what your objective is, your success metrics will help you tell the story and meet that objective. Determine those metrics as you build your case, prior to building content. Use them as an internal “check-and-balance” to assess the relevance of your program, both at the individual and organizational level.

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Too often, organizations skip ahead to a program’s aesthetics (I get it – that’s the fun part, right?) before establishing a solid foundation. Don’t skip these crucial first steps. Anything that matters – be it a home, a relationship or yes, even an onboarding program – must have that solid foundation to be successful.

If you’ve been handed the task of developing an onboarding program for your organization, keep these 3 steps in mind…and make it a killer experience for your newest employees.

Your turn: How have you captured feedback, defined objectives and determined success metrics when developing an onboarding program? Share your lessons learned in the comments!

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Take the guesswork out of developing your onboarding program – contact phase(two)learning to learn more about our Onboarding Audit package!

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In My Opinion, The Most Important Part of Onboarding is…

Most-Important-Part-of-Onboarding

Yesterday, I was asked this question: “In your opinion, what is the most important part of onboarding?”

Naturally, I had an opinion, and I wanted to explore the topic further here.

My answer to the question – the most important part of onboarding (in my opinion) is connecting the new employee to the organization.

Notice I didn’t say getting paperwork filled out correctly. Or ensuring that policies are adequately covered. Or that the boxes are all checked. I believe the human component of onboarding trumps all of that.

What do I mean by “connecting the new employee to the organization?” Depending on your organization, this could mean a few different things, such as:

  • How can the new employee establish a “direct line of sight” to the customer?
  • How does the new employee impact the customer experience (directly or indirectly)?
  • How can the new employee embody the company vision, mission or core values?
  • What is the company culture? How can the new employee get involved?
  • Who are the key individuals with whom the new employee can connect up, down and across the organization?

Simply put, it’s about putting people before process.

Chances are…the paperwork – online or hard copy – will get filled out. Those policies will be covered. The proverbial boxes will be checked. But what if no one helps the new employee connect to the organization? That vulnerable new employee, left alone to navigate with uncertainty, will inevitably stumble.

Will he be able to establish that “direct line of sight” to your customer?

Will he know how his role impacts the customer experience – particularly in a non-customer-facing role (such as accounting)?

Will he truly understand your company’s vision, mission or values?

Will he “get” the culture? Will he feel comfortable enough to get involved?

Will he be able to identify those key individuals and be empowered enough to reach out and make those connections?

Maybe…but not likely. That’s where all of the stakeholders involved in the onboarding process come in. Just as it “takes a village to raise a child,” it also takes a village to nurture and engage a new employee. Whether you are an HR manager, a Talent Development practitioner, a hiring manager, a teammate or someone in a supporting role, you have an opportunity to make a difference when connecting a new employee to your organization.

Because after all, it is the most important part of onboarding. In my opinion, anyway.

 

Your turn: How does your organization’s new employee experience put “people before process?” Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

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