3 make-or-break strategies for building a best-in-class onboarding experience

Today alone, in my work email – not even counting messages received in my personal email – I received over 30 solicitation emails (only a few were from organizations I know/like/trust and opted into at some point), telling me how I can improve the results of my (insert program) or how I can maximize efficiency with (insert process). You know the drill – your inbox probably looks the same way on any given day.

One commission-hungry, cold-email sender actually quoted THIS BLOG to me while trying to peddle his wares….that was interesting….

Another email promised me the key to unlock a better onboarding, and that if I did this, I could “finally set it and forget it.” Once the irritation subsided, it got me thinking…

There is so much subjectivity in any HR, learning or talent program. Every organization is unique: priorities, challenges, workforce, budget, customers, geography – and so many other factors – mean there isn’t one magic bullet that will ensure success.

This includes your onboarding efforts!

Regardless of the uniqueness of your organization, defining what these three strategies should look like in your world, and mindfully implementing opportunities to leverage them during your new employees’ first weeks and months on the job will set your program apart and encourage more rapid productivity and elevated job performance, which can be directly translated to tangible business results.

These 3 make-or-break strategies center around the sheer power of a meaningful WELCOME:

===> Welcome to the COMPANY: From their earliest moments interacting with your organization and brand, find ways to connect new employees to your:

  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Customer
  • Products & Services
  • Industry
  • Competitors

Every employee – new or experienced – should be able to establish a “direct line of sight” from their role to your customer. Help new employees make the connection immediately!

 

===> Welcome to the TEAM:  Relationships are at the core of the new employee experience, and “team” means both the entire organization and and the local department/business unit. New employees need to be provided with multiple opportunities to feel your culture in action. Make your core values come to life. Engage new employees in both formal and informal relationship-building activities to help provide context to organizational makeup and structure. For those employees teetering on the “Did I make the right decision to come work here?” fence (and there are more of those folks than you might realize!), feeling connected to a warm, inclusive team could make all the difference.

 

===> Welcome to the JOB:  Training matters. Providing a relevant, well-crafted learning plan is essential for all employees, regardless of role. The most effective learning happens over a period of time, through a variety of methods, including:

  • Instructor-led training (face-to-face or virtual classroom) on systems, processes and procedures
  • eLearning modules deployed via Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Mobile-friendly content
  • Job aids and other resources
  • Social tools – Slack, SharePoint, your intranet or other collaborative platforms
  • Peer mentoring
  • Giving/receiving feedback
  • Hiring manager coaching
  • Team meetings
  • Meet-and-greet sessions with cross-functional roles and teams
  • Introductions to key vendors, clients and projects

The most effective learning will happen through a deliberate blend of formal instruction, coaching and relationships and informal, on-the-job learning. Yep, 70:20:10.

 

Friends, you just can’t “set-and-forget” onboarding.

Sure, you can automate paperwork and build efficient processes. But the true mark of a successful program will fall in these three areas. Look at your organization’s unique factors, and make sure each facet of welcome is well-represented.

 

Your turn: How do you welcome new employees to the company, team and role? Share a thought, tip or strategy in the comments below!

 

Like it? Share it!

 

 

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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 During Times of Organizational Change

I don’t often talk about happenings at my day job, but I have an interesting case study to share. We have recently completed a major system conversion, a project that has taken nearly 3 years from inception, but particularly the past 18 months. My team was tasked with enabling the entire organization through training, on-the-job practice, working with SMEs and communication. Since this was such a meaty endeavor, and a change that literally affected nearly every area of the business, we had a hiring freeze during the final months of the implementation.

Our first orientation class since we’ve migrated to the new system began this week. As in many facets of organizational change, there was apprehension floating in the air about bringing new employees so quickly after the proverbial switch had been flipped. It got me thinking about onboarding new employees throughout times of change….here are a few quick tips if you are in (or approaching) a season of change in your organization:

Believe it or not, your newest employees have the upper-hand. They lack the context of how things used to be, the crutch of comparing old and new processes or a brain full of outdated system knowledge. They come in with a fresh mindset and can actually bring helpful perspective to the team.

Get your house in order. When new employees leave the secure nest of Orientation and head to the job, they won’t have a true Subject Matter Expert on hand to show them the ropes. Depending on how “new” systems and processes are, they may find that even seasoned, tenured employees are still learning. Ensuring that you have well-designed job aids and other resources are essential for just-in-time learning.

Training new employees is very different than training existing employees. To the earlier point, new employees don’t know how the previous system or process worked. Existing employees need to be ready to jump right into their existing role after the change takes place. Attempting this with a new employee is akin to the old fire hose approach………new employees need to balance learning content consumption with the context to understand and apply it.

 

All in all, the team is excited to jump back into a new chapter of our award-winning onboarding program and welcoming our newest team members!

 

Your turn: What strategies have you found successful during seasons of major organizational change? Share your challenges and tips in the comments below!

 


 

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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:

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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!

 

3 Foolproof Ways to Blow New Employees Away on their First Day

Another new year is upon us, friends! 365 blank calendar squares where we can make a difference, add value, build connections and drive results. The promise and possibility of that is motivating to me, despite years and years of abandoned new habits and rarely worn gym clothes, since I’m not much of a “resolution” kind of gal.

If your team is like my team, the new year also means gearing up for the first New Employee Orientation of the year. Will you be kicking off 2018 with the same-old-same-old orientation experience, or is this the year you make some changes?

If you are looking to ease into some changes to your organization’s onboarding program, something that will generate a positive reaction (without breaking the bank!), a simple place to look is the welcome experience your new employees receive on their first day. Here are 3 incredibly simple….like, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” simple…tactics to make your new employees’ first day memorable and make them excited to return for Day #2.

Foolproof Tactic #1: Roll out the red carpet…..literally.

When you make a hiring decision, it is crucial to remember that the decision is two-sided. Your new employee is also choosing YOU, including the hiring manager, the team he will be working alongside, the role/title, the organizational culture and the work itself – only having seen or experienced a tiny bit of it before his first day. Help put his mind at ease from the moment he steps foot in your lobby, and confirm that he made the right decision by accepting your offer.

The concept of “rolling out the red carpet” may be cliche, but it is long-associated with top tier events – movie premieres, high society galas and other glamorous gatherings. Giving your new employees the VIP treatment is a fun way to ease first-day jitters and bring a smile to his face.

And the best part? You can order one on Amazon today and have it rolled out before the new year! Check it out:

https://www.amazon.com/Hollywood-Themed-Carpet-Runner-Decoration/dp/B006U3ZRPE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1514579129&sr=8-2&keywords=red+felt+carpet+runner

 

Foolproof Tactic #2: Involve your C-suite (a little or a lot)

Even the busiest executives should have some face time with your newest team members. Even a 15-minute meet-and-greet session sends a message to new employees that your leaders support onboarding, are committed to their immersion and success and are eager to get acquainted with them, which is an important factor in new employee engagement.

Granted, in our global culture, remote onboarding may prevent some, perhaps all, face-to-face encounters. Here are several ways to involve your senior leaders, both in person and from afar:

  • Kick off new employees’ first day with coffee and/or breakfast with your CEO while s/he shares his career story and provides a welcome and company overview.
  • Record a short video of your CEO or other key executive in advance welcoming new employees to the team and text it to them one hour before their official start time. Update the video annually or as specific initiatives/goals/success stories evolve.
  • Have your executive hand-deliver a name tag, uniform, or fun swag items with a handshake and a warm welcome.
  • With permission, include a stop in your executive wing on a building tour.
  • Invite the CEO to participate in a Google Hangout/Skype chat with new remote employees on their first day.
  • Leave a handwritten card on the new employee’s desk (or mail it to a remote employee’s home to arrive on his/her first day).

 

Foolproof Tactic #3: Make a game of it.

Interactive learning games can be an extraordinary way to engage new employees, build connections and create a memorable environment. Here are a few ideas, based on simple mainstream games, that might jump-start your creativity. Need more inspiration or want to develop something more customized? Check out the book Play to Learn by Sharon Boller and Karl Kapp…so good!

  • Was it your CEO, in the Employee Lounge, with the candlestick? Turn a ho-hum scavenger hunt into an interactive take on the game Clue! Distribute clues/company facts on cards throughout the day – new employees can use the clues to solve a mystery, identify company employees and learn helpful information.
  • Poker, anyone? As leaders and other employees participate in Orientation on the employees’ first day, they can distribute one playing card to each new employee. At the end of the day, the best “poker” hand wins a small prize!
  • Make your org chart come alive! Attach headshots of company leaders and other key employees on cardstock with clues about their name, characteristics and role. Asking yes-or-no questions, players identify which employee is on the card, à la Guess Who?.

 

Whatever your onboarding goals may be for 2018, hopefully these simple, foolproof tactics will serve as inspiration to help you achieve them and truly blow your new employees away! Need assistance developing a results-driven onboarding strategy for your organization? Let’s talk!

Cheers to your organization’s success and prosperity in the new year!

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!