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!





Top 10 Posts About Onboarding

Top 10 Posts About Onboarding

It’s summer vacation for phase(two)learning! For the next two weeks, please enjoy this recap of favorite phase(two)learning blog posts! Look for fresh, new content in July!

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you’ll know that onboarding is a topic that I could talk about all day. A solid onboarding program can have a tremendous impact on an organization – from understanding your customer to retaining talent to employee engagement. Whether you are an onboarding process owner, a facilitator of New Employee Orientation or a hiring manager, you play an important role in the new employee experience.

So, the question is: What are you bringing to your organization’s onboarding program?

For your reference, here is a curated list of the top 10 phase(two)learning posts about onboarding, according to the blog metrics. Enjoy, and share your favorites!

10. What Modern Family Reminded Me About Onboarding

9. A Few Words About Onboarding Jargon

8. What George Costanza Teaches Us About Onboarding

7. Pinterest for Onboarding: Part One

6. 5 Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers

5. 3 Onboarding Lessons from Fortune Cookies

4. 3 Misconceptions About Onboarding

3. An Open Letter to Hiring Managers

2. 20 Questions New Employees Should Be Asking Managers

…and the #1 phase(two)learning post about onboarding is…

1. 3 Onboarding Lessons from SNL


Bonus! Here’s an oldie but goodie you may have missed:

Big-Box Onboarding


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


Bring phase(two)learning to your organization!

Does your onboarding process need an update? Bring phase(two)learning onsite to conduct an Onboarding Audit or facilitate an interactive workshop! Send an email for more information!





A Few Words About Onboarding Jargon


I always get a kick out of articles that summarize the year’s most popular corporate jargon. Having worked in a corporate setting for many years, I have heard (and, admittedly, used) many of the terms at one point or another. Come on, you have too. Admit it!

Jargon isn’t limited to conference calls and status meetings, friends. Even the most prepared, knowledgeable, well-intentioned facilitators have used this lingo while delivering onboarding and training programs.  Here are a few to ponder:

Variations on “talent”:  Talent Management. Talent Acquisition. Talent Retention.  If I were to ask ten people what these terms mean, I’d probably get ten different answers.  Unless one is actually in the “talent” business (and I’m not referring to America’s Got Talent, friends), one does not necessarily care about understand the “talent” business.  If your organization has these roles, please make sure you explain to your new employees what they mean to your organization. Roles and functions and job descriptions and teams and objectives and priorities vary from company to company, from industry to industry.

Bootcamp:  When did everything become a “bootcamp”?  By definition, a true bootcamp should be an intense, über-structured program, as the military requires. I have seen light workshops, webinars and even team-building events, titled “bootcamp”.  Really?  A couple of years ago, at the day job, I was asked to develop a 2-day – you got it – bootcamp, for some employees who would then be delivering their own – yes – bootcamp to another group of employees. The smart aleck in me couldn’t resist, so I lovingly (and a little sarcastically) titled the session “Bootcamp Bootcamp”. Fortunately, my crew had a good laugh about it!

My point? Not everything is a bootcamp. Title your offerings accordingly.

Any internal terms or acronyms that new employees have no context to understand: In the first days on the job, your new employees are lucky to remember the first names of the people on his/her team, let alone understanding all of your internal systems, processes, projects or industry terminology. If you can’t eliminate all of these terms from your onboarding program, define them as clearly as possible. Even better? Create a glossary of terms as a quick, go-to resource for new employees to refer to in a pinch during their first weeks.

The term “onboarding” itself: Like “talent”, this is a made-up word that means little to those who are neither passionate nor involved in it. Many of our organizational stakeholders do not understand the difference between “orientation” and “onboarding”. HR systems refer to the automated paperwork process as “onboarding”, so it has morphed into this catch-all word that is used for pretty much anything related to the new employee experience.

If we can’t explain the process clearly, how can we expect our stakeholders to support, or get involved in, the process?

Communicate your program’s objective. Its purpose. The value it brings to your organization. Use clear language that anyone in your organization – entry-level to C-suite, new or tenured – will understand. If it’s been awhile since you’ve communicated the objectives of your onboarding program to your organization, maybe it’s time to have that conversation.

Your turn: What jargon is common around your organization? How do you clarify this jargon for your new employees?

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Improving Training Programs with Feedback


As learning professionals (or whatever hat we might be wearing at any given moment), it is our responsibility to assess a learning need and provide a solution. And, tipping my cap to my passionate learning cohorts around the world, I’d say we do a fine job.

But, you know what? We don’t always have the answers. Or the perspective. Or even the right questions to ask. So we need to engage others.

This might be a pow-wow with a SME or project manager, to learn more about a task, process or system. It might be meeting with a supervisor to better understand a team’s skill or knowledge gaps.

But what about the employees themselves? How often are we asking them what they want out of training? What they need? How we can help them become a stronger employee today…and maybe-just-maybe, help prepare them for future opportunities?

The same goes for orientation and onboarding programs…consider doing a brief survey to poll your workforce, and see what you can learn about your new employee experience. A few questions might include:

  • When you started with (company name), what was the most helpful part of your onboarding experience?
  • What was your biggest challenge when you started in your role?
  • What advice would you give a new employee starting with (company name)?
  • What tools and resources are the biggest help to you?
  • Who was your go-to person when you were getting started in your role?
  • How can we improve the new employee experience at (company name)?

These simple questions can give you perspective that can help you strengthen your process and program. You can use these questions as a foundation, and tweak or expand them based on the program – these examples focus on the new employee experience, but just imagine how a few strategic questions can help you evolve your other training initiatives, leadership development programs, employee transitions and more.

The important thing is to stay curious, friends. We should continuously seek out feedback and suggestions from our various stakeholders, from the executives to the end users, and from all cubicles in between.

Your turn: How do you engage your organization beyond the standard needs analysis or evaluation process? What information have you gained from employees that have impacted your learning programs?

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First Impressions…


I’d like to chat with my recruiting and hiring manager friends for a moment…

You are setting the tone for your relationship with your newest team member from the earliest points of contact. The first impressions you give, even in this embryonic stage, will remain etched in the employee’s mind long after your initial meeting.

Here are 4 times, recruiting and hiring decision makers, when you can significantly impact an incumbent’s experience…long before his first day:

Before the Interview:

A talented individual sees your job posting…maybe on a career website, maybe on your organization’s website, maybe he was referred by a colleague. Is that job posting well-written? Does it clearly specify the role, the minimum hiring requirements, and the desired skills and qualifications?

You need to have a hook. What will draw in that talented prospect, and intrigue him to the point of applying? Maybe it’s the strategic opportunity. Maybe it’s your company’s outstanding culture. Maybe it’s a solid compensation package. Whatever it is, make sure it is clearly communicated.

As you are setting up an interview, put yourself in the shoes of the interviewee. A little courtesy goes a long way! Make sure he knows how to find your office, where to park, and what to expect when he arrives. At my day job, our recruiting team does a fantastic job orchestrating an interview agenda. The incumbent receives an agenda in advance, letting him know who he will be meeting with, what their roles are, and how long to expect to be there. They make organized arrangements for out-of-town candidates. The experience is a positive one.

During the Interview

Several years ago, I had a job interview for a small but well-known, well-respected organization. I was drawn in by the job posting and knew it would be a great fit for my background. There was a bit of “phone tag” during the phone interview and onsite interview scheduling process, but I dismissed it. Everyone’s busy, right?

But then I arrived for my interview.

In a curt tone, the receptionist informed me that it was a very busy day, and the hiring manager would be out “shortly”. I was ushered to a lobby chair.

Where I sat. And sat. And sat some more.

For 90 excruciatingly long minutes, I waited in that lobby. The receptionist never acknowledged me again or gave me an update about why it was taking so long or even made eye contact with me. My opinion of that well-known, well-respected organization tanked in that lobby.

When the hiring manager finally came out, I did not receive an apology. What I did receive, however, was an eye roll and a passive-aggressive, snarky complaint about people double-booking things on her calendar. Nice, huh? The interview was rushed, the questions were not thought-provoking, and the hiring manager spent more time looking at her phone than at me.

I was actually offered that position, and the hiring manager was surprised when I kindly declined the offer. Even though I didn’t join that organization, I appreciate what I learned:

A candidate is interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing the candidate.

I learned this as a candidate, but the lesson rings true from an organization’s perspective. Recruiting friends, hiring managers, decision makers…what kind of impression do you leave on the talented candidates that walk through your doors? If you were sitting in that interview, would you want to work for your organization? Please think about that. Culture, personality, warmth and authenticity make a big impact, and can be the deciding factor between a fantastic candidate coming to work for you, versus working for your competitor.

Following the Interview

How long is the interviewing and hiring process? People like to act. People like to plan. People like to move on, when they don’t get the job offer they were hoping for.

Follow up. Make a phone call. Keep the candidate in the loop, if it’s taking longer than expected. It happens, and people are remarkably forgiving when you are honest with them. But cutting off communication and hoping they get the hint is simply not professional. Not cool.

Even if your system generates an automated “thanks-but-no-thanks” message, at least that’s something. Take a look at that message, however. Does it SOUND automated? Take a moment and craft a warm, genuine response. Most applicant tracking systems will allow you to customize the communication.

After the Offer has been Accepted

This is where learning begins.  Within days, your incumbent has likely put in his resignation at his current job, and is naturally looking forward to his new opportunity with your team.  An employee will never be as engaged as he is during this stage!  He is excited to get started, he is looking for anything he can get his hands on that will teach him about your organization and the people he will be working with. Many times, an employee will be on a vague, self-directed scavenger hunt to gather as much information as he can to learn about you, your team and the company. Don’t neglect your incoming employee during this time; you can set the stage for a successful start by employing a few simple strategies. I wrote this little piece awhile back about preboarding new employees…check it out for some ideas!

Remember, friends…a smartly-executed interview is an important tool for attracting talented individuals.  Like I said, they are interviewing you as well!  They want to know, just as much as you do, that they will be a good fit for the role, team and culture. Use that precious interview time wisely!

Your turn: Do you have any memorable interview “first impressions”?  Good or bad?  Did the impression you got from the interview sway your decision to take a job? Tell me all about it!

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Pinterest for Onboarding: Part Two


In my last post, I threw out this crazy little notion about incorporating Pinterest into employee onboarding programs.  I promised that there would be a Part 2…and here it is:

I’ve got 3 more board possibilities for you, so between last week’s post and this one, you’ll have 8…count ’em…8 ideas for boards you can easily create and utilize in your onboarding efforts.

Board #6: Leadership Profiles

Does your website have a page dedicated to your leadership team?  Your Board of Directors?  Other strategic leaders?  A board that links to an online bio (or even a video bio!) of these key individuals would be a great tool for educating an incoming employee on their career background and history with the organization.  Linking to videos or written works by these leaders also gives an insightful glimpse into their role and style.  For new employees who will be interacting with leaders at this level (or just working to build influence at this level), this is valuable material!

Board #7: Events & Conferences

Many companies host a user conference, symposium or other events throughout the year.  Posting videos, registration information, recorded webinars, photos, handouts and other resources from these events is a terrific way educate incumbents (not to mention prospects and customers!) on your products, services, and special events.  Additionally, if employees are featured presenters at other conferences throughout your industry, link to those resources as well!  This will both showcase the talent in your organization and provide excellent industry information to a new employee who is looking to educate him/herself.

Board #8: Campus-to-Corporate (Internship Resources)

If your organization has an internship program, having a visual board to link to specific resources that are relevant for these young professionals would be a value-add!  You can incorporate photos from your program, details about applying for an internship, and even link to helpful articles that would benefit young employees – topics like:

  • How to look professional for a job interview
  • Preparing for a job interview
  • Building professional relationships/networking tips
  • Resume building
  • Responsible social media use
  • Adjusting to your first post-college job

As I’ve researched this topic, I have found that Pinterest can be a wonderful playground for just about anything. So, why not learning?  Why not onboarding?  Why not leadership?  If it fits with your overall strategy and objectives….why not?

If you’re doing a little discovery, feel free to follow my own Learning & Development Playground board on Pinterest!

Your turn: Are you going to give Pinterest a try?  I’d love to hear your ideas and plans!

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Pinterest for Onboarding: Part One


Ah, Pinterest.  The (addicting!) social media darling. This site has opened my eyes to everything from new recipes, to travel inspiration, to shoes and handbags (swoon!) and home decor ideas…and about 1001 other things.  I even post links to this blog and other things that inspire me on a Pinterest board.  Such fun!

Pinterest is still relatively young, only being launched in 2010. In fact, I am still given a confused look by some people when I mention it.  The site has been widely embraced by women (a whopping 80% of its users are female, according to recent studies), but major brands are finding ways to leverage its simple visual model to generate leads, engage customers, and share content.  I came across this great article with some really interesting information on how marketers are using Pinterest.  Since we, too, are marketers within our organizations, this got me thinking….

What about us?  Is Pinterest something that we can adopt and make part of our onboarding programs?  Our Learning & Development programs?

I think yes.

So, this afternoon, as I watched my beloved hometown Indianapolis Colts end their season by losing to the Baltimore Ravens (pout), I sat down with my favorite pen and brainstorming notebook, and came up with a few possible ways to use Pinterest to share links and educate prospective employees, engage new employees and connect with current employees. We’re going to be jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon over the next couple of posts – are you ready?!

To get started, here are a few ideas:

Board #1: Recruiting Team Resources

Your recruiting team can share their expertise on this board…everything from current job postings to articles on acing a job interview or networking best practices. Include links to everything a candidate would need to know to feel at ease for an interview with your organization.

Board #2: We Give Back (Social/Corporate Responsibility)

Does your company have a foundation?  Do you support a charitable organization?  Maybe you have an annual canned food drive.  Maybe your company adopts families during the holidays.  Maybe you’ve built houses with Habitat for Humanity.  Well, put it out there!  Post links to the organizations.  Post photos of employees in action, doing good in your community.  Not only does this give your company some “good press”, but it also gives incumbents a glimpse into what your organization stands for.  If the company lives by its Core Values, as many companies do, this is a great way to introduce candidates (not to mention prospects and customers) to those values and show them in action.

Board #3: A Day in the Life

What better way to let potential employees see what life is like in your organization, than to give them a visual tour?  Upload photos of employees working, playing, collaborating, talking and laughing.  If your company prides itself on its dynamic, youthful, or even quirky culture, this is a great way to showcase it.  From casual dress codes to video game tourneys to Happy Hour gatherings, document them all and pin ’em.  Incoming employees can peruse the photos, learn about the culture, and get EXCITED to start their new job!

The key here?  Be real. Not staged.

Board #4: Wellness Initiatives

Wellness is certainly en vogue these days.  Many talented people are seeking employers who encourage and contribute to healthy living; if this is your organization, it’s a great selling point for prospective employees.  Show  it off!  Post information and photos of your onsite fitness center, healthy snacks, running groups, and other noteworthy features your company has to offer.  As incumbents begin to imagine how they will fit in your organization and culture, they can also think about fitting that Tuesday morning onsite yoga class into their new schedules!

Board #5: Our Place in the Industry

A Pinterest board is a fantastic place to upload recorded webinars, podcasts and videos to give incumbents a one-stop shop for learning about your organization’s contribution to your industry.  You can also include links to notable blogs, key individuals in your organization/industry to follow on Twitter, and other resources to educate a new employee.

The span of time between accepting a job offer and the incumbent’s first day is when his engagement level is naturally very high.  He is trying to absorb as much information as possible to learn about his new organization, team and role.  Many times, the incumbent will go on a vague scavenger hunt, scouting out the company website and random LinkedIn profiles to find out nuggets of information. Pinterest can make this very simple for your new employee.  In a visually appealing way, you are presenting information about your industry, processes, and culture in a way that allows incumbents to explore on his own terms, at his own pace.  And yes, you can even make sure there is nothing proprietary out there, if that’s a concern.

The thing to keep in mind as you develop an onboarding program is that when you bring a new employee on board, you are not just adding a “worker” to the team; you are welcoming a whole person, who has needs that go beyond the bullet points that make up his job description.

Make it easy.  Make it engaging.  Make it count.

I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve on this topic…enough that one post was just not enough…so we’re going to dig deeper next time!  Until then, take a look at this example of a company that is using Pinterest, and doing it well.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit biased, as I used to work for this company and have a soft place in my heart for the people and culture!  I’m proud to be an alum of this fantastic company, so enjoy the peek into their very Orange world (you’ll see what I mean when you check out their board!).

Your turn: Are you a Pinterest user?  For personal or professional use? Have you thought about using Pinterest for your onboarding or learning programs?  Tell me all about it!

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