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!

 

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5 ways that “offboarding” can elevate your onboarding efforts

In my book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to Navigating the Employee Development Journey, my co-authors and I provided managers with easy-to-use processes throughout the entire employment lifecycle, from the initial interview through when an employee leaves the organization. While we typically focus a lot of our energy on developing employees in their roles or preparing them for a future role, there is something to be said for connecting the dots between an exiting employee and onboarding his/her replacement.

I’ve been thinking about that offboarding –> onboarding connection lately. Many organizations conduct an exit interview and/or deploy a survey (my opinion on this process is a post in itself) to solicit feedback when an employee has one foot out the door, and that’s it….sometimes (often?), that feedback is sucked into a black data hole, never to be reviewed or acted upon.

So, how can we better leverage an exiting employee’s perspective to set an incoming employee up for success, particularly when that employee is leaving the organization on good terms?

A few thoughts:

Tie up loose ends: When an employee leaves mid-project, his/her replacement often inherits the project….and could use a decoder ring to figure out fragments, manual processes or key stakeholders. Create an action plan to tighten up incomplete projects while the exiting employee is working through his “two week notice,” and consider creating a simple transition template to capture helpful information to pass along to a new employee.

Transition tasks and projects ahead of time: Don’t wait until the exiting employee has departed…create a plan in advance for who will be assuming projects and responsibilities. That allows the exiting employee to…..

Share legacy knowledge with others: Document processes. Make introductions with vendors or other stakeholders. Create checklists, templates and job aids to simplify tasks and processes. Discuss challenges, solutions, tips and other helpful information that will serve new employees (and other team members who will absorb work!) effectively.

Get feedback: Ask your exiting employee about his role, tasks, projects and responsibilities. Look for inefficiencies, communication gaps and other pain points that could be addressed before your new employee joins the team. Taking action, particularly on quick wins, will help set your new employee up for success.

Show respect – both ways: Recognize effort made and results delivered by the exiting employee during his/her tenure with the organization. Then, respect the endeavor your incoming employee will make to quickly jump in and become a productive team member. A little mutual respect goes a long way.

 

Your turn: How do you “offboard” your exiting employees? What strategies have you found successful to bridge exiting employees with new (or internally transferring) employees? Share an idea, thought, tip or comment below so we can learn from one another!

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!

 

One sentence that will make new employees fall in love with your organization

It’s human nature to have a deep-seeded desire to be needed. Wanted. Valued. In several talks and workshops, I’ve used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as an example of how we should be considering the needs of our new employees as we develop and implement onboarding strategies. Of course, it is critical to focus on the business needs in our programs, but when we focus all of our energy into driving business results, we are blind to the relationships that we might be neglecting; relationships that must be nurtured if we expect to drive any results whatsoever.

Old Abraham Maslow would be so proud to know that I’m getting so much mileage out of this…let’s take a look at a simple version of his famous Hierarchy model:

Hierarchy of Needs

Now, let’s think of it in terms of a new employee’s first experiences with your organization:

Hierarchy of Needs - onboarding

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I like to joke and be silly, but you might be surprised how many times I’ve heard stories from people who started new jobs, and no one told them where the restroom was…or where to park…or where to sit….or any number of basic tasks.

For the sake of this post and how lengthy it could become, let’s assume that you cover the first two rungs of the Hierarchy, and your goal is to create an environment that nurtures your new employees and truly welcomes them into your culture. If the ultimate goal is to achieve the top level of the Hierarchy….self-actualization, where the new employee can affirm that s/he made the right decision to work for your organization (because remember, that decision is a two-way street – sure, you may have chosen that candidate, but s/he chose your organization, too!), your new employee needs to feel connected to your organization, the culture, the customer, the hiring manager and his/her immediate team from Jump Street.

Let’s repeat that:
Your new employee needs to feel connected to your organization, the culture, the customer, the hiring manager and his/her immediate team from Jump Street.

(No small task!)

Here is one simple sentence that all hiring managers should say to every new employee on his/her first day that will instantly bond a new employee to the organization, the team and the role:

You were brought here for a reason.

It can be said casually over lunch or coffee. Maybe as the new employee is getting settled at his/her new desk, or in a debrief at the end of the first day. But it needs to be said. Instead of letting a new employee wonder what made him/her stand out against other candidates, or sift through vague interview feedback, just say it. Tell that outstanding new team member exactly what s/he brings to your team, and how much the team is looking forward to his/her contributions.

What this will do for your new employee:

  • It will capitalize on the new employee’s already-high level of excitement about starting the new position and help create an early bond.
  • It will help the new employee understand that even though s/he doesn’t know the ropes yet, his/her perspective, past experience and potential will add value to the team.
  • It will give a warm-fuzzy feeling….and most will admit, it’s just nice to hear.

 

Bottom line: When studies suggest that as much as 87% of new employees are not fully committed to an organization for the first 6 months, and the costs of recruiting, replacement and retraining are excruciatingly high, shouldn’t you use every available opportunity to weave that employee into the fabric of your team and organization?


 

Will you be at the ATD International Conference & Expo in San Diego next week? If so, I’d love to connect with you! Drop me a note and let’s find a few minutes to chat!

 

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 “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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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!