Phase(Two)Learning Encore: Assume Nothing

phase(two)learning is taking a week off…so for today’s post, please enjoy this encore of a favorite phase(two)learning post from 2012. See you next week!


This afternoon, I went to my friendly neighborhood convenience store for some caffeinated refreshment (if you’ve checked out my About tab, you’ll remember that I have a “wicked caffeine addiction”).  While I was in the store, I overheard one of the two cashiers (loudly) remarking that she “didn’t trust the guy at Pump 4.”  She was making a rather large spectacle about how people who drive that kind of vehicle (a white Jeep Cherokee) and wear camouflage are just the type that might drive off without paying for their gas.  Not exactly sure about her logic, and I was insulted FOR this guy, but intrigued nonetheless.  I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew the guy, or if he was a repeat offender.  I slowly milled around the store, getting my drink, and meandered to the cashier so I could see if this guy would come in to pay for his gas.  Of course, I really had no doubt, but I was even more curious to see how the cashier would treat the guy when he came in.

Fast-forward about 2 minutes:  The guy DID come in, of course.  And he promptly greeted the cashier with a friendly voice, paid for his gas, bought a lottery ticket, wished her a good afternoon, and left.  Hmmm.  I wanted to express my disappointment in her behavior – from both a customer service perspective and a DECENT HUMAN BEING perspective.  But I didn’t…I just paid for my drink and left.  It did get me thinking about how similar attitudes can plague a veteran trainer:

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Join phase(two)learning for a two-day, interactive workshop: Orientation Overhaul: Re-Imagining the New Employee Experience in Your Organization! Learn more and register today – space is limited!


Hiring Manager Tip: Start Building a Relationship Before the New Employee’s First Day


Picture this: A hiring manager is eager to fill a key role on his team, and finally finds the right candidate. An offer is made, and ultimately accepted.

(Cue the Hallelujah Chorus)

Been there, hiring managers?

As soon as that offer has been accepted, the clock is ticking. In many cases, you have about two weeks to prepare for the new employee’s arrival and craft an onboarding plan.

Yes, you. You have about two weeks, hiring manager. It’s not enough to simply plan for the new employee to attend New Employee Orientation through your trusty HR department. Oh, no. Hiring manager, you are the gateway to a positive, successful onboarding experience. 

In addition to ensuring the new employee has a workstation and appropriate equipment, you should be considering the ways you will introduce your newest team member to the company, team and role. It is also up to you to begin building a solid relationship with this quazi-stranger, who will soon be an integral part of your team’s – and let’s face it, your – success.

One of my favorite ways to accomplish this is to get to know your new employee on a personal level. This isn’t rocket science! You are not hiring a robot – you are hiring a person. Learn about this person, and use what you learn to make the new employee’s first days with your team special. After all, his/her first impressions of your company (and YOU as the manager) will impact how motivated s/he is to learn, grow and stay with your organization long-term. After all, according to 2013 research by Aberdeen, as many as 90% of organizations believe new employees make their decision to stay within the first year. The foundation set by the hiring manager is a key component to this decision.

So, the question is: “How do I get to know my new employee before the first day?”

My advice: It’s all about the communication you extend during the preboarding period – typically that two-week span of time between the offer acceptance and the new employee’s first day.

A few thoughts:

1. Make a point to let the new employee know how excited you are that s/he will be joining your team. 

Do this through an email, a phone call, or even a handwritten note via snail mail. It only takes a few moments and a small amount of effort, but the genuine, warm feeling the new employee will receive is undeniable. Make him/her excited for Day One!

2. Craft a plan for the first 1-2 weeks….and share it ahead of time.

Schedule a team lunch. Connect the new employee with key individuals s/he will be working with for informal meet-and-greet sessions. Do an office “drive-by” to make introductions to people who sit nearby. Schedule plenty of time with YOU to discuss the role, the onboarding plan, to set goals and establish expectations. Sharing this ahead of time helps relieve new-job jitters…s/he can relax, knowing you have it all under control.

3. Learn about the fun stuff.

Send an email, letting the new employee you have a very important task for him/her to complete ASAP. Attach a questionnaire for the new employee to complete, telling you about his/her favorite things.

Guess what? I’ve created one for you! Click on the image below to download!



It’s not enough to just have him/her share his favorite things with you….USE the information you gather to:

4. Make the first day special.

Have a fresh bouquet of her favorite flowers waiting on her desk. Fill a candy jar with his favorites. Treat him to lunch at his favorite restaurant. Show up with her favorite Starbucks order. Determine what works best for your style, your team and culture, and go for it!

Make that new employee ridiculously excited to work on YOUR team. Be the manager you’d like to work for!


Your turn: Managers, how do you start building a relationship with your newest employees as they join your team? Share your ideas in the comments below!


Know of a hiring manager who could benefit from these tips? Be kind and share it!



So, what’s this BIG NEWS we keep talking about?

On November 1st, registration will be LIVE for a new public workshop!

Orientation Overhaul: Re-imagining the New Employee Experience in your Organization

Seating will be limited for this interactive, roll-up-your-sleeves session, so stay tuned for more details in just a few days! Join the mailing list and be among the first to know!

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Just can’t wait? Send an email to learn more! 

Too Busy for Onboarding?


Startups are interesting little things, aren’t they? Growing a product and company, often from nothing more than a whim:

“Wouldn’t it be cool if we……….” (and a startup is born.)

Before my current day job, I worked for a tech startup. The company was about 8 years old when I joined, so they weren’t exactly brand new, but still young, still entrepreneurial, still growing at an alarming rate. During my 3.5 years with that company, I learned a lot. I was surrounded by extremely smart, innovative people, and led training for some really exciting brands – Microsoft, Home Depot, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Spanx – just to name a few.

I also received quite an education on how many different types of organizations, including startups, view workplace learning. It’s often an afterthought (sigh). Somewhere between the “Wouldn’t it be cool if we……” stage and the “oh my gosh, we have 150 employees – now what??” stage is the “Maybe we should be training these people?” stage. As an advocate for workplace learning, it really kind of stinks, but it’s reality (queue the sad trombone).

Earlier today, I had a great conversation with a fellow learning professional who has been implementing an onboarding program at her company, another startup. Besides getting acquainted with someone I can only describe as an onboarding kindred spirit, I was reminded of my days at that former job. They have developed a terrific onboarding process. A process that involves hiring managers. A process that is championed by the CEO. A process that welcomes new employees to the company, team and role.

And it’s a process that many of their hiring managers claim to be “too busy” to follow.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that…

Managers, everyone is busy.

Trust me, I get it. I’m a manager too. I know how many directions we’re pulled. So, please know that I’m saying this with nothing but respect: Please stop using the “I’m too busy” excuse. The truth is, you are too busy NOT to provide a sufficient onboarding experience for your new employees.

I’ve directed several posts toward hiring managers – like this one, this one and this one. I know I can be a little tough, but only because coaching new (and seasoned) employees is part of your job. It’s the price of admission for a manager. Even if there isn’t a specific nugget on your job description that tells you to do it. This is a key distinction between an individual contributor and a manager…it’s not all about you anymore. You have people to look out for; people who are looking to you for guidance.

So, back to being busy. Like I said, I understand. I really do. Here are 3 simple ways to incorporate onboarding into your daily routine, when a new employee joins your team:

1. Make him your shadow.

If you already have meetings to attend, bring your new employee along to observe (when it makes sense). At the start of the meeting, introduce your new team member and briefly explain how he will benefit from observing the meeting. Don’t expect him to participate (unless he has something to add); it’s okay if he just listens and takes notes. He is learning about the topic of the meeting, sure…but also about how meetings work in the organization, how teams and roles interact and other culture lessons.

2. Leverage lunch.

Chances are, you eat lunch most of the time. Whether it involves leaving the building or brown-bagging it, make an effort to eat with your new employee once in awhile. Invite others along. By doing this, you are building camaraderie and integrating your new employee to the team. During these informal moments, so many topics are discussed. It’s a great way to encourage dialog and open communication.

3. Always answer “why”.

Whenever you meet with your new employee, explain something, answer questions or provide information, make sure you explain WHY things are the way they are. It takes time for a new employee to gain context, and they don’t always know what or how to ask. We don’t know what we don’t know.  Pretend the new employee is asking “Why?” like a curious preschooler, and tell them.

There you have it – by doing these three things, you are immersing your new employee into your culture. You’re proactively communicating. You’re providing context. Three things that are absolutely critical in a new employee’s first weeks on the job.

And you don’t have to add a single item to your lengthy to-do list. Even better!

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Need to engage your hiring managers in the onboarding process? The “5 Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers” interactive workshop is now available! Download the brochure, then send a note to learn more about bringing phase(two)learning to your organization in 2014!


Breaking the Rules: Innovation and Interaction for Leadership Development Programs


Note: This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the fall conference for the Central Indiana chapter of the American Society for Training & Development (CIASTD). Not only was I able to attend, but I also had the honor of presenting.  This post is a recap of that session. If you attended this – my sincere thanks for spending a little time with me!

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that my style isn’t exactly conventional when it comes to learning. My career has been largely shaped by the opportunity of bringing learning experiences to the workplace, and I refuse to believe that those learning experiences have to “look” a certain way. As I began preparing the content for this session, my intent was to “represent myself” with phase(two)learning, rather than presenting on behalf of the day job.

You know, building brand awareness and all. :)

But I quickly realized my examples and talking points were coming directly from the new Leadership Development initiatives we have been implementing at the day job, and I was excited to share those, soooo…I just pulled double-duty on the representation.

The session title was “Breaking the Rules: Innovation & Interaction in Leadership Development Programs”. I was thrilled to see standing room only for the session! Conference attendees had several terrific topics to choose from during that time slot, so the fact that so many made the decision to spend a few minutes talking about Leadership Development was awesome.

Speaking of time slots…I was given the dreaded “right-after-lunch” time slot. When I saw the schedule a few weeks ago, this pretty much sums up my reaction:


(Okay, maybe I just wanted an excuse to share a pic of my adorable nephew, Logan.)

Despite the less-than-ideal time slot, I am proud to report that noticeable yawning was minimal, and no one fell asleep.

Did you know that U.S. businesses spend over $170 billion-with-a-B per year on leadership-based curriculum? Much of this is spent on leadership training.

Those of us in the learning biz know that training, education, learning and development are all different things. But from this statistic, it’s clear that many, many people don’t realize the distinction.

We don’t always need to be training our leaders, but we do need to be developing them.

Training often focuses on best practices. Development should focus on next practices. What’s next for me? What’s next for our team? What’s next for our organization? What’s next for our customer? What’s next for our industry?

You get the idea.

Leadership development programs will vary, depending on culture, people, needs, etc. Regardless of the myriad of differences, successful leadership programs often share 3 qualities:

Learner Motivation – Participants WANT to be involved. They take ownership of their development and are motivated to discover what might be “next” in their career paths.

Program Quality – A well-planned program and engaging content is a must. There must be a long-term strategy, not an ad-hoc hodgepodge (yes, that’s the technical term. Hodgepodge.).

Manager Support – A participant’s direct manager needs to be involved in the process, from providing ongoing feedback, to coaching, to helping his/her emerging leader to build relationships up, down and across the organization. This also goes for upper-level managers and executives: They need to be engaged in the program, endorsing its value and simply getting involved.

During the session, I challenged attendees to brainstorm in teams how they could facilitate leaderhsip/learning with methods they were provided. Here are a few photos from flip charts they used to record their discussions:




The slide deck from this session can be found here:

CIASTD session – Breaking the Rules

In the deck, you’ll find a number of other progressive ideas that we have recently implemented at the day job in our new leadership development program. If you have questions or would like to chat further about the, drop me a note or leave a comment below!

Did you know?! This session can be tailored and delivered for your organization, conference or retreat! Check out for more information, or drop an email with your questions!

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Workshops Coming in 2013!

Coming Soon! Phase(Two)Learning Workshops!

I’m so, so, excited to share this news with you…

On my Consulting and Workshops page, it will tell you to “Stay tuned for public workshops!”  Well, here we go…

Starting in Spring 2013, phase(two)learning will be offering public workshops!

Over the past several years, I’ve worked on a number of projects for both the day job and for freelance gigs that revolve around employee onboarding.  It’s a topic I have always been fascinated by and extremely passionate about (if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you already know this!).  And I’ve been consistently baffled by the lack of unique, helpful information that’s available!  Seriously, have you googled it?  A million-and-one versions of the exact. same. thing.  Very pious-sounding academic posts.  Light posts with little substance.  Sales pitches disguised as helpful information.  You name it, I’ve likely found it in a search result.  And chances are, I was somewhat unimpressed.

Several months ago, I was whining about discussing this frustration with a colleague.  She challenged me to do something about it.

Do something about it.  Her words still stick with me today.  Do something about it.

Now, this isn’t entirely new to me.  I’ve been in the L&D field for the day job for over 13 years, as well as consulting and leading custom onsite workshops on a freelance basis for over a decade.  These courses have run the gamut of L&D and organizational topics.  Don’t discount the onboarding programs I’ve developed, managed, and evaluated!  And over the years, I have certainly organized and led my share of large-scale training workshops and events…but the idea of combining my passion for all these things on a solo basis was one I hadn’t really considered until this year.

And consider, I did.

And researched.  And doodled.  And cursed at myself for even considering it.  And I wrote lists (boy, did I write lists).  And daydreamed…LOTS of daydreaming.  But then finally, somewhere in between sitting on my couch with my laptop on a random Sunday night and hearing some inspiring words from those closest to me (the ones who don’t think I’m nuts for adding this project to my insane working-mother-to-do list – because this is a side venture; not leaving the day job!), I started putting together some content for the maiden workshop.  And you know what?  It’s pretty friggin’ awesome.

So, the burning questions remain:  What’s the topic?  Who should attend?  When will it be offered?  Where will it be held?  How much does it cost?

Details are still being finalized for the location, dates, and cost.  I’m currently working with a couple of venues; so this information will be available here on the blog and on the Consulting and Workshops page as it becomes available, as will registration information.  But the topic?  Oh yeah…the topic is set, my friends:

It’s all about developing, implementing and evaluating your Onboarding Strategy + engaging your Onboarding Stakeholders.

More detailed course information will be available soon!  The target audience includes:

  • HR generalists or managers who are responsible for the execution of New Employee Orientation and onboarding programs
  • Talent Acquisition/Recruiting professionals who are involved in the pre-boarding and/or onboarding process
  • Learning & Development professionals who are responsible for developing and delivering Orientation or training for new employees

The smart people at Intrepid Learning published this great eBook last week; it includes some terrific gems!  According to their recent survey, 56.7% of respondents claim that less than 20% of their onboarding activities are delivered through informal/social means.  The same survey tells us that HR and L&D departments are the ones delivering the majority of onboarding experiences.  This data couldn’t have come at a better time…

It tells us that people need to be doing something about their onboarding programs.  This workshop is a start.  Just like my friend said to me…do something about it.  I am…will you?

If you would like more information on this Onboarding Strategy + Stakeholders workshop, feel free to reach out via email, leave a comment here on the blog, or reach out via LinkedIn or Twitter.  You can also complete the form in this great slider!  Regardless of the method, I’d love to hear from you, and as details emerge for 2013 offerings, you’ll be among the first to know.

If you like the idea of the workshop, I’d appreciate it if you share it with your network.  Please and thank you!