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 They lack the context of how things used to be, the crutch of comparing old and new processes or a brain full of outdated system knowledge.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!

 

New Blog Series | Talent Marketing Essentials

“If everything in your toolbox is a hammer, then everything will look like a nail.” – unknown

I don’t know who originally said this, but I heard a sales trainer quote it at least 10 years ago, and the saying has stuck with me ever since.

It’s so true…in the Business of Talent, we need to have a versatile set of tools ready to use to help us connect and engage with our various participants in training, employee engagement, employee development, onboarding, and other programs that our teams lead.

I had the privilege of spending some time in my career working for a digital/email marketing startup – I developed and delivered training for thousands of clients on six continents during my time there.

(Still, and will always be, one of the best jobs I ever had!)

That said, I am not a marketer by trade. Early in my career (nearly 20 years ago – yowza!), I cut my teeth facilitating a LOT of instructor-led training sessions. I was able to leverage those skills when I joined the startup and learn from our clients, many of which were using our software to implement some pretty sophisticated marketing strategies. I was thrilled to get a behind-the-scenes look at how these clients – from Microsoft to Coca-Cola to Spanx – were doing it.

And there, I learned enough to be dangerous.

It’s been several years since I moved on to the next step in my career, but I have kept an eye on trends in the digital marketing space….and have been utilizing modified versions of those strategies in my own talent programs. And it makes a difference!

Bottom line: It’s important for all of us, as leaders in the Business of Talent, to occasionally think like marketers and get better at communicating effectively with our program participants, leaders and stakeholders. Because, at the end of the day, that’s all it is: Communicating effectively and with a purpose.

Even if you don’t have a fancy Marketing degree.

Even if you don’t geek out over things like email open rates and click-through rates.

Even if you don’t “do” social media…or your organization blocks it.

 

My next few posts will be dedicated to sharing HR/Talent-friendly versions of a few simple marketing campaigns that you can replicate in your organizations. And you won’t need a lot of fancy software to make it happen, I promise!

To start, if you subscribe to this blog, you’ll receive a complimentary workbook all about the first strategy…How to Create a “Drip Campaign” Email Sequence to Communicate with New Employees. If you have never thought about leveraging the power of sequential, informative, helpful emails as a pre-start learning tool in your onboarding program, this handy little resource will be a game-changer for you!

If you already subscribe, you’ll be receiving an email with a copy.  If you haven’t yet subscribed to phase(two)learning, please do….I’d love connect with you, you’ll receive a copy of the workbook!

Join the phase(two)nation tribe today!

 

Setting & Communicating Vision for your Talent Development Team

*Jargon alert*

Vision. Mission. Purpose. Core Values. Strategy. Goals. Business Drivers. Competencies…….what do they mean? How are these concepts similar? How are they different? Do they matter? How do they work together to move an organization forward? What do they mean to a Talent department?

It goes without saying that Talent leaders need to find a way to cascade these organizational aspirations, often proclaimed from the highest levels of the organization, down to their teams and help them establish and maintain a connection, a “direct line of sight,” to those top-level messages. It starts with making sure we understand the vision ourselves. But that’s really not enough….

We need to translate that organizational vision into an inspiring, realistic vision for our teams.

If it all starts with a vision, how do we create and communicate it? Unfortunately, not everyone is “visionary” by nature, but it is a necessary quality for effective leaders to possess and demonstrate. If this isn’t a strength for you, don’t fret…it is a LEARNABLE skill!

For years, I’ve been saying that measuring and evaluating the success of Learning & Development programs must include a deliberate blend of quantitative and qualitative data. Simply put, we need to balance “the head and the heart” to ensure that we are truly adding value. Setting and communicating a vision takes a similar mindset.

Sure, we need to consider HOW we achieve or realize our vision (the quantitative “head”), but it all starts by getting your team to feel, embrace and yearn for the vision (the qualitative “heart”).

It’s emotion. It’s passion. It’s in your gut. It’s what kicks us out of our complacent routines and makes us remember why we do what we do.

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts in the car today that really got me thinking about just how important this is. They shared an incredible quote from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (my high school French teacher would be so proud) that sang to me (so much that I rewound that bit of the podcast 3 times to listen to the quote again and again):

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Dang, that’s good.

How often do we get caught up in the details? The tasks? The budgets? The busy-ness? Without realizing it, that’s the message we send to our teams, which is about as UNinspiring as it gets, amiright?

We’re burning them out instead of setting them ablaze.

The podcast episode I was listening to, “4 Steps to Communicating Vision,” on the Lead to Win podcast with Michael Hyatt, went on to share these tips for creating a vision. I’ve added a few thoughts to how we, as Talent, HR and L&D leaders, can really make these come alive with our teams:

 

>>>A statement of culture

The podcast suggests that this statement (which may be more than a single sentence), answers the question, “Who are we?” For our teams, this should clarify the value we add to the greater organization.

Example:

“The Talent Development team at ABC company are professionals, serving professionals, helping all ABC employees learn, grow and succeed.”

 

>>>A description of product

Your team needs to have a really, really laser-focused understanding of what you do, and what you don’t do. If my years of experience have taught me anything, it’s that whenever there is an issue with the business, the “training team” is often on speed dial (whether or not it truly IS a training issue…can I get an “Amen”?). Start with your team, then evangelize across your organization.

Examples:
  • We assess business goals, needs and projects to identify the learning needs of all stakeholders.
  • We are skilled content creators and training facilitators, dedicated to developing top-quality programs, materials and resources that aid strategic, just-in-time learning.
  • We are experts in establishing, nurturing and maintaining an engaged, skilled workforce dedicated to our mission of serving customers.

 

>>>A concept of the market

Who do you serve? In some organizations or teams, this might be a relatively simple question to answer. But with today’s increasingly complex business landscape, this might be more of a challenge. Global, matrixed, disbursed companies = an even greater need to help teams understand the market.

A leader at a company I used to work for was often quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as an internal customer.” What he meant was, there was one customer. The person buying your products or services. (He referred to “internal customers” as “business partners.”)

Okay – I see his point. But in the Business of Talent, we are often (not always) a step removed from the true CUSTOMERS. So we need to understand how we align to and serve them, even if indirectly. I know that I can draw a connection to a customer, but can my team make the same association? Simplify this by articulating who you serve.

Example:

“The Talent Development team at ABC Company provides training, employee development programs, learning tools and resources to all employees.”

 

>>>A desired impact

I could come up with my own words, but the post from the podcast episode said it best, so I’m just going to take it and run with it….a desired impact answers the question:

“So what?”

By the time we’ve identified who we are, what we do and who we serve, it’s only fair to specify WHY we do it and what the result will be if we deliver on our promise.

Example:

“Through our programs and resources, all ABC Company employees may have the tools they need to be successful in their current or future roles, effectively serve our customers and drive tangible business results.”


 

Let’s stitch these 4 pieces together:

The Talent Development team at ABC company are professionals, serving professionals, helping all ABC employees learn, grow and succeed.

We assess business goals, needs and projects to identify the learning needs of all stakeholders. 

We provide training, employee development programs, learning tools and resources to all employees.

Through our programs and resources, all ABC Company employees may have the tools they need to be successful in their current or future roles, effectively serve our customers and drive tangible business results.

 

This would be an excellent exercise to share with your fellow Talent/HR/Learning leaders for a team retreat or strategic planning meeting. Naturally, you’ll want to expand this with your own priorities, leadership qualities and behaviors that drive personal, team and organizational results. Play around with the concept and discover what fits for your culture, team and company! Check out the show notes from the podcast for some killer examples.


 

My challenge to you, friends, is to set a vision and use every opportunity to make your vision come alive with your team. Use it to showcase the value you bring to your organization!

Your turn: What are your thoughts on setting and communicating a vision with your team? Have you done this in the past? How will you use this information? Please share a comment, or share this post with a colleague!

Why do leaders care about onboarding?

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It’s one of many million-dollar-questions in the business of “talent” these days. Why do our leaders and executives care about onboarding?

I attended a conference session last week led by Tamar Elkeles, Ph.D., a former Chief Learning Officer of the Year during her longtime tenure with Qualcomm. Dr. Elkeles had some no-nonsense insight into the ever-evolving role of a Chief Talent Officer. While the session itself wasn’t necessarily focused on onboarding, but rather the position and challenges of talent leaders in general, there were some parallels I took away that are highly applicable:

Key Talent Challenges Facing Global Organizations:

  • Forecasting the future…and developing people for jobs that don’t even exist yet
  • Creating a company culture that maximizes employee growth and engagement
  • Retaining talent to drive business success
Source: Tamar Elkeles, Ph.D.

(If those challenges don’t directly correlate to onboarding, I don’t know what does.)

If our job is to find a solution to these challenges and address them through onboarding, then we need to have a seat at the table to better understand the underlying drivers:

  • To learn about jobs that don’t exist yet, we need to understand the industries we support, the products and services our organizations deliver and new innovations that require us to evolve.
  • To contribute to company culture, growth and engagement, we need to create onboarding programs that embrace and immerse new employees and help them feel connected.
  • To effectively retain talent, we need to enable new employees up to learn, perform and be successful, quickly.
Getting started with onboarding? Check this out: 5 Must-Capture Onboarding Metrics to Prove Your Value

Perhaps the most provocative statement that Dr. Elkeles stated during this session, and possibly the sentence that resonated with me more than anything during the entire conference was this:

“Executives care because we tell them to care.”

(This quote is paraphrased a bit, because I was in the middle of an “a-ha” moment when she said it, and didn’t write it down fast enough!)

But please let the point resonate as loudly with you as it did for me…

Many (not all) of our executives and senior leaders fail to recognize the value in developing talent, or providing a rich onboarding experience for new employees. Only when we claim a seat at the table (or contribute in our role in a way that our department leaders can claim that seat on our behalf) and TELL THEM how onboarding impacts these challenges, will the impact our programs are making “bubble up” and be:

Seen. Heard. Felt. Measured.

Providing an intentional onboarding experience is the necessary foundation and logical starting point for a results-driven talent engagement, development and retention strategy. It’s a competitive advantage that will set your organization apart, and be YOUR professional advantage, if you are looking to build influence among leaders.

Take some action: Find what matters in your organization, what drives business, and what keeps your leaders up at night…and discover how onboarding will make a positive, measurable impact.


Talent GPS is here! 

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I’m thrilled to have co-authored the book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to Navigating the Employee Development Journey, with Lou Russell and Brittney Helt. If you manage people or support those who do, you’ll want to grab a copy!

Buy now


Are you ready to Make Onboarding Better in your organization?

We are nearing the halfway point of 2017 already! Is updating (or starting) your onboarding program on your list of goals this year? How’s that going?

Based on overwhelming feedback from our annual onboarding survey this winter, we are getting ready to launch an exclusive online community, completely focused on making onboarding better. Whether you are just getting started with developing and implementing an onboarding program, or you are committed to improving the new employee experience at your organization, this community is for you.

Be one of the first to learn more and to get pre-launch access to the community.

Subscribe today and be in the know!