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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Are we still onboarding like it’s 1999?

prince-party-like-its-1999
As far as headlines go, Prince’s recent death is hardly breaking news at this point. Several weeks have now gone by since his untimely, tragic passing. Having grown up in the 1980s, Prince’s music was the soundtrack of my youth. It was such a shock to learn that this original, talented individual is no longer with us.

Recently, I was walking through a used bookstore and came across this little gem:
New-Employee-Orientation-book-circa-1988
I realize this hardly looks like a current resource, but I was intrigued and a little amused by my discovery of this relic. For $3.48, I was willing to find out if it was any good. SOLD.

What does this have to do with Prince? Well, let’s call this post a subtle nod to the Purple One himself. Based on this book, are there any recommended practices in this book that have stood the test of time? Is it all antiquated garbage?

Or are we still onboarding like it’s 1999? 

Disclosure: This book was actually published in 1988….so here are a few little nuggets from a time somehwere between Raspberry Beret and Batdance:


Page 6: “All members of the new employee’s ‘team’ should be encouraged to attend Orientation. They should be coached to go out of their way to make the new hire feel welcome. Nothing is worse than an insincere gathering where ‘veterans’ talk with each other and exclude the newcomer.”

Verdict: Stands the test of time (well, pretty much).

Clearly, the importance of making a new employee feel welcome is not new. And yes, co-workers and other stakeholders should all be coached in the importance of the role they each play in onboarding a new employee. The biggest difference to note here is the feasibility for EVERYONE on a new employee’s team to attend Orientation. While that would be awesome, distributed, global workforce often prevent this from happening. Advice? Take advantage of technology to connect the dots between global, remote and office-based employees.

Sidenote: Obviously, I used a direct quote from the book…I never, ever refer to a new employee as a ‘new hire.’ You may have read my thoughts on the subject, but in case you haven’t…here you go.


Page 32: “One mistake is to avoid trying to cram everything the new employee needs to know into the first day. Schedule the orientation over several days. Give each employee enough time to assimilate new information in a way that is meaningful.”

Verdict: Stands the test of time.

Orientation, in itself, is an event. Onboarding is a process. While this book focused solely on “New Employee Orientation,” it goes without saying that Orientation is an essential piece of the Onboarding puzzle. And no, all of the necessary information should not be thrown at new employees on their first day. On Day #1, even the smartest, quickest-learning professional is just trying to remember everyone’s name and where to find the restroom. For your 21st century Orientation program, introduce tech tools and other self-directed resources where applicable to extend the learning and discovery beyond the walls of your training room. Establish an assertive, yet realistic pace that meets both learner and business needs.

Page 34: “As a supervisor, you are responsible for getting things started during Orientation. It is not the responsibility of a secretary or another employee to do your job. They may be involved, but the new employee should not be assigned to anyone until you have made the initial contact and established a plan for the day.”

Verdict: Mixed feelings.

Yes. The relationship with the hiring manager is the single most important relationship that a new employee needs to establish and develop when starting a new job. And yes, that hiring manager should take ownership of the process. But logistically, this should be a partnership between a variety of stakeholders who bring something important to the onboarding table: Human Resources, Recruiting, IT, Learning/Talent Development, Executives and a host of supporting players impact a new employee’s early experiences with an organization. Leverage the perspectives of your onboarding stakeholders to enhance your program.
In summary, the book was actually pretty good. More relevant than I anticipated, and it even had some handy checklists that could easily be updated and repurposed. Not a bad $3.48, if you ask me.

Thank goodness for modern practices and technology! We’re able to start with a solid foundation for creating a welcoming experience for new employees, like outlined in this book, and build upon it with all the resources and amenities we have at our fingertips today. We don’t need to onboard like it’s 1988 – or 1999 – or even 2006 anymore.

Your Turn: What longstanding onboarding practices and traditions have stood the test of time at your organization? Leave a comment and share!

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!

The easiest tweak you can make to your training and orientation programs…

stocking-up-on-classroom-candy
How many of you put out candy for training attendees? I know we do at the day job…in fact, the photo above is a shot of my cart on a recent stock-up trip at my local Sam’s Club. Even when the cost of doing business continues to soar, this is an expense that we have curbed, yet kept.

Why?

Because people like candy.

Before the workplace health and wellness fans start to worry, we also provide fresh fruit and some considerably less-exciting snacks like granola bars and trail mix.

Until I attended a recent conference, however, I didn’t give much thought to the bowl of candy that graces our training tables. Then, a tiny little tweak transformed a simple snack into a learning tool.

I promise you now, whether you are a long-time phase(two)learning follower or this is the first post you’ve read, this is worth the price of admission. Which, frankly, is free…so what a deal, amiright?

Check this out:

tech-tip-on-candy-wrapper

Whoa! Mind. Blown.

How simple is this? All that is needed is candy or snacks, a package of printable adhesive labels and some tips or ideas to share to your participants.

Granted, I’m sure I’m not the first person to “discover” this little nugget, but in over 20 years of teaching and facilitation, somehow it’s new to me. Regardless, it got me thinking….how else could we use this easy tip in training or Orientation programs? Here are 8 beyond-simple ideas:

  1. Provide the URL for your organization’s intranet, wiki, or other learning sites.
  2. Share the Twitter handles for influential, must-follow people in your organization or industry.
  3. Post can’t-miss dates – like when your benefit paperwork is due.
  4. Distribute your company’s IT Help Desk email or phone number.
  5. Share interesting trivia about your organization’s history. (Bonus: Have participants piece together the trivia into a timeline!)
  6. Introduce your company’s mission or purpose statement. 
  7. Solicit simple, one-sentence quotes from other employees – tips on how to be successful at your organization
  8. Share “Fact or Fiction” statements about your industry, organization, products/services, etc. Have participants stick (literally!) the wrappers under one of two columns on a flip chart (“fact” or “fiction”). As the candy is consumed throughout training, the columns will grow. On the last day of training, see how accurate everyone’s guesses are!

Honestly, I could probably come up with a dozen other ideas…there are so many creative possibilities for this one!

Your turn: Have you used this type of interactive element in your training sessions? What tips have you communicated? And most importantly, what is the must-have candy in YOUR candy bowl?

ANNOUNCEMENT: Does Your New Employee Orientation Program Need an Overhaul?

Orientation Overhaul Logo JPEG format cropped

 

We’ve been hinting around at a big announcement for the past few weeks, and here it is!  By popular demand, we are excited to announce the newest public workshop offering from phase(two)learning!

Join us March 9-10, 2015 for Orientation Overhaul: Re-imagining the New Employee Experience in your Organization!

New Employee Orientation is often a lackluster rite of passage for new employees – consisting of little more than paperwork, policies and procedures. Unfortunately, many programs fail to grasp this unique opportunity to connect with their newest associates, harness their natural new-employee excitement and ignite their passion for your organization…which fuels employee engagement, learning and long-term retention.

So, let’s give it an overhaul! By the end of this workshop, you will be able to:

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

Who should attend?

  • HR & Talent Acquisition leaders who are responsible for their organization’s New Employee Orientation program
  • Learning & Talent Development professionals who are involved in developing or delivering New Employee Orientation content
Learn more and register here

If your New Employee Orientation could use a reboot – we can assure you, this session is for you. And trust us, it will not be a passive, boring, lecture-laden session…this will be an intensive, roll-up-your-sleeves opportunity to immediately work on your own Orientation materials. The workshop will conclude with a unique Design Lab, which will allow you to take advantage of ideas from other participants, as well as receiving coaching and feedback from your facilitators to begin your own overhaul before you leave – and before you get distracted back in the office!

Seating is limited…reserve your spot today!

Yes, I keep saying “we” – so, who’s helping me with this?

This workshop is a joint venture between myself and Brian Washburn, the voice of the popular Train Like a Champion blog. Brian has been working in instructional design and workshop facilitation for over 16 years. He is the co-founder and managing director of Endurance Learning, an organization whose vision is for every presentation to be engaging and lead to change. Brian has worked with organizations across North and South America, Asia and Africa in order to help improve the engagement and interactivity of their training programs. He has served as the national training director of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (CASA) and the Global Learning & Development manager for SightLife, the world’s largest eye bank. In 2011, Brian was named a Top Young Trainer by Training Magazine in recognition of his contributions to the training field before the age of 40. You can read more about his philosophy on training design and delivery at his blog, and you can connect with him on Twitter at @flipchartguy.

 

Register NOW to reserve your seat and take advantage of Early Bird savings! 

Use up those 2014 training budget dollars, or start making plans for 2015 by registering today! You’ll save $100 per person, or even more if you take advantage of the group discount or table sponsor opportunity. Check out the registration page to learn more.

 

Here’s what we need from you, Phase(Two)Nation:

  • Please take a look at the registration page and consider attending the workshop on March 9-10, 2015
  • Share this post with colleagues and friends who are involved with their organization’s New Employee Orientation program
  • Join the phase(two)learning email list so you are in the loop about other upcoming events and updates!

Subscribe to receive email updates from phase(two)learning

 

Got any questions about this event? Reach out to Michelle anytime to learn more.

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!

 

Not putting people before process with your onboarding program? phase(two)learning can help!

Bring phase(two)learning to you – now scheduling workshop dates for December 2014 and beyond! Send an email to learn more about customized workshops that can help your organization align onboarding with what matters to your business. Get your free quote today!

 

 

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!