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New Players = New Employees

As many of you know by now, I like to draw a lot of comparisons from my basketball coaching experiences to what we see and experience in the business world. My most recent team experience has highlighted a major need that business leaders today can focus on when it comes to their leadership traits. That is, the need to provide clear direction for your (new) employees – not earth shattering I know, but very relevant and needed.

Basketball CourtWe have just started our basketball season and this year half of my team is new to basketball – we are talking about 10-12 year old girls that have never played before. So never mind skills development, they need to learn the rules of basketball! Regardless, they are a group that are hungry to learn and eager to work hard and do well – as is your typical new organizational hire.

In preparation for our first game of the year, as a team, we focused on some simple messaging during our initial practices. Each girl needed to know where to go on offence when she didn’t have the ball, what was expected of them when they did have the ball and they needed to know their positioning and role on defense. Pretty basic stuff, but a lot to take in, especially for first year players who only had two practices under their belt!

On game day, all things considered, things went quite well. The girls responded well to the instruction they had been given and showed a good sense of team cohesion in a short period of time. So what are the lessons learned here and why was our first game successful?

First off, as previously mentioned, teams need a clear sense of direction from their leader. The leader needs to remove confusing messaging, eliminate noise and distraction and provide its team/employees with a clear sense of direction. We didn’t over complicate things for the players – i.e. there was no work on screen plays, setting picks, fancy offensive plays, etc. We stuck to the fundamentals and made sure the players understood their individual roles and how that connected with what we were trying to do as a team. When it came to eliminating confusing message and noise, we had a parents meeting beforehand where we outlined expectations with them – parents parent and coaches coach. The only voice the players should hear during practice is that of the coach.

In the business world, good leaders do that too. They eliminate the distractions, provide their employees with clear performance expectations and they are able to connect that with what the team/department/organization is trying to accomplish. They make it clear to their (new) employees where their direction comes from and they focus on ensuring proper communication channels have been established.

A second link here is to make sure you set up your new/inexperienced players (and employees) for success on Day 1. That is, you need to place them in situations where you know they can excel when they first start out with you. The players that we have that struggled with dribbling and ball control were not asked to do so during the 1st game (practice will get them there.) Likewise, with new employees, it is all about placing them in situations that will leverage the knowledge, skills and abilities they are bringing to your company. If you hired someone to be a Java programmer, don’t ask them to administer an Oracle database their first day on the job!

Finally, it is all about the environment/culture that is established by the leader. For our girls, at the start of the game, we let them know about the expectations for the game. They were to try their best and always hustle, they need to try and apply what we taught them in practice and they needed to know that we were there to have fun as a TEAM. We weren’t worried about mistakes or doing things “wrong.” It was to get some playing experience as a team and learn from what we did during the game.

The lesson learned here? Once a leader establishes team norms and expectations and eliminates the fear of failure, they have set their team up for initial success. Our team is expected to complete to win (like any good business would do) but they also do so without fear of failure. There is no “punishment” for failing or not being able to do something. They are encourage to step out of their comfort zone and try to do things they did not/could not do before so they can grow as players. Just because they didn’t do it right (i.e. inbound the ball correctly) doesn’t mean they don’t get to do it again.

The same goes in the business world, good leaders need to provide a safe environment where their employees can take risks so they can grow and develop. As leaders, we need to provide them with opportunities where, if they fail, they have not taken a step back in their career. In fact, we need to look at these “failures” as learning experiences from which they can grow and become better team members/employees. This is the only way our employees will grow, develop and prosper. Bottom line – the leader has to establish a “winning” culture.

Finally, as leaders, we need to remember that it isn’t always about us teaching our employees (team members), we can also learn from them. We do so by listening, observing and adapting how we interact with our players/employees. Our own leadership style grows and improves as we learn to work with players/employees with different backgrounds and learning styles. That is how we grow as leaders…and as coaches! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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HR – Let’s fix these things!

One of my goals as an HR Professional and HR Leader is to continue to try and elevate not only the status of our profession, but also to try and guide and provide some perspective to our upcoming HR Pros. Part of the mission of The Armchair HR Manager is to dispel some of the myths and fallacy in thinking that HR Pros have about themselves and their profession. I have written many times about what it makes to be a good HR Pro and what good HR Pros should be doing and I find each time that I do, some HR Pro reaches out to thank me for the advice and information as it has typically provided them some fresh perspective on challenges they are facing. (Mission accomplished!)

Fix ItIn that context, I wanted to lay out some things that we can, and should be doing, as HR Pros that will not only help our organizations, but elevate the status of our profession – i.e. add VALUE. Some of these may be obvious, some are easy to do and some are hard. Some are quick fixes and some are longer term solutions. The degree of all of this will vary from organization to organization and HR Pro to HR Pro. My goal is help draw your attention to these items, help you feel like you are not alone in the “fight” to bring respect to HR and hopefully the list will bring some focus and clarity to your own HR role. To that extent, I present The Armchair HR Manager’s list of stuff that HR can and needs to fix:

  1. Onboarding – simply put, this is one of the greatest areas of opportunity for most companies. If you can do anything to help improve, fix and refine this process you should be doing it. Frankly, it is horrible to think that in many companies, employees still show up for their 1st day of work and managers aren’t ready for them, the new employee has no computer access or even a place to sit/work. This is typically capped off by the new employee going to lunch by themselves – uggh.
  2. Communication – another one of the big organizational pain points we can help fix. HR Pros should always be looking for ways to improve organizational communication. Use your hidden IT skills to develop an intranet or SharePoint site. Write a weekly “letter from the President” to update staff on high level organizational stuff. Anything you can do to increase and improve communication will go a long way to enhancing your company’s brand and the status of HR in general.h
  3. Forms – if you are one those companies that have paper forms for everything, than find a way to reduce, eliminate and move online anything that has to be filled out. Get your forms developed in Adobe format and have staff complete things online. No one, and I mean no one, likes to fill out hard copy forms. This may seem trivial, but it is a big improvement!
  4. Job ads – quite simply, they suck. Stop posting job descriptions. Start describing what the person in the job will do and how they will impact things. Focus on a performance profile and less about responsibilities and qualifications. Trust me; your hiring managers will thank you for it!
  5. Supervisor/employee relations – if you have a manager or managers in your company that are acting like a**holes, call them out on it. Speak to them, coach them, work with their manager but do whatever you can to keep the spotlight and heat on managers who treat their employees like crap. If they don’t change, push your organizational leaders hard to get rid of them – you don’t need these types of cancers in your company. Here is the thing, believe me when I tell your employees ALL know who the bad managers are and they are always wondering why you aren’t doing anything about it.
  6. Harassment in general – whether from managers or peers, I am still appalled by the amount of sexual harassment and harassment in general that occurs in today’s workplaces. Despite greater awareness, “mandatory” organizational training and court awards for damages, harassment is still a MAJOR workplace issue. I am disgusted by the stories I hear of how employees are being bullied (my managers and peers), are sexually harassed or harassed due to their gender, sexual orientation or for other means. I am blown away by how employees still think it is “ok” to make inappropriate comments, touch/grab or otherwise make contact with their fellow employees or simply partake in the use of sexual innuendos. Worst of all, companies still tend to turn a blind eye to these issues, or only “try” and deal with them once they become a formal complaint. Having policies is one thing, it is all about your ACTIONS. As HR Pros, we need to FIX THIS – NOW!
  7. Confidentiality – most of all, as HR Pros, you HAVE to maintain confidentiality in your dealings with staff. No one likes or trusts an HR Pro that can’t maintain confidentiality. The most valuable currency you have is trust – don’t break/lose it. If the problem is with your managers, see point #5 above – work the manager and their supervisor and make sure they understand the impact of their actions and then coach their supervisor on holding the blabber mouth manager accountable.

What about you? Are there any other fixes that HR can provide? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I’m Bringing Respect Back”

If you didn’t pick up on it initially, sing that title to the tune of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back.” Now it is pretty cool isn’t it? Seriously though, when did a lack of respect for people leave our workplaces? Jay Kuhns wrote a great post on Monday that really struck a chord with me. Here is the link to it, but his point was simple. That is, he was trying to show how disconnected many of us are from our hiring and onboarding processes vs. reality. He further went on to make the point about how when we ask candidates for their feedback on how their hiring and onboarding went, we don’t really seem to listen to them.

Respect Sign PostTo me, and I think Jay was trying to make this point, was that it comes down to a matter of respect. Think of the front end (recruiting) side of things first and all the touch points we have with candidates. How many of us and/or our organizations are guilty, somewhere along the line, of doing at least one of these things to candidates:

  1. Interviewing a candidate and then never following up with them again (either way)
  2. Interviewing a candidate but sending them an email “regrets” note
  3. Experiencing delays in coordinating next step interviews but not keeping the candidate informed of the reason for the delays
  4. Not clearly spelling out the required pre-hire steps with the candidate and/or introducing surprise new steps without an explanation as to why. (i.e. 3rd, 4th, 5th interviews)
  5. Telling a candidate that you will follow up with them (perhaps with a decision) by a specific date and then you don’t follow up with them (for whatever reason).
  6. Offering a candidate a job 4 weeks after they last heard from you (similar to #3) and expecting them to still be available
  7. Inflexibility and refusing to accommodate/respect a candidate’s time when interviewing with you. i.e. “I have one time slot left for you to meet with the manager.”

The bottom line is that none of these things show respect towards a candidate and for them as a person. It gives the impression that you are doing them a favour by interviewing them and/or even considering them for your company. Similarly, I have seen equally deplorable behaviours on the onboarding side of things that show a similar lack of respect:

  1. Manager(s) not prepared for a new hires arrival
  2. Organizations inundating new hires with forms, policies and manuals to read on their first few days instead of taking the time to actually develop an onboarding plan that would integrate a new hire into the current team and culture. Nothing says “I don’t have time to deal with you” like throwing a manual at someone!
  3. Lack of computer and phone access on the 1st day
  4. The new hire is left to have lunch on their own on their first day.
  5. The manager checks in with their new employee only at the beginning of the day, most days, when they first start. Or better yet, the manager disappears for the day and the new hire is left trying to figure out where they went, if they should leave for the day, etc.

Unfortunately, this list could go on for a while. The bottom line is that we as HR Pros and all of us as leaders have to get better at this. We need to stop anything that we are doing on these lists. Let’s all vow to bring respect back to our workplaces. That starts with showing more respect for candidates and new hires. If we do that, we can start to bring respect back to all of our workplaces because we have made this part of our cultures and our brands. Now sing it with me, “I’m bringing respect back……” Come on, you know you want to. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you can’t change the people, change the people

Without a doubt this has to be one of my favourite sayings. I am not sure when or where I first heard it; however, it has stuck with me for many years and I believe it to be the foundation of good leadership, management and human resource practices. For HR Pros, it really cuts to the heart of what we do initially from a talent management perspective. Talent Management is all about onboarding, training, development, workplace cultural integration and building your bench strength.

Time for changeIn many ways, talent management is about trying to change the people. It focuses on changing the people that your talent acquisition folks have brought into your organization. In this case, change refers to how you culturally integrate and onboard new hires. It is imperative that this “change” is managed properly because if you want to retain the talent you have hired, your HR folks and leaders need to effectively onboard your new people and expose them to your workplace norms, values and culture so as to ensure an effective transition into the new workplace. Effective talent management groups, along with great leaders, are very adept at helping new folks navigate this process and integrate into their workplace which results in those great 1st year retention metrics we are all striving for! The best HR Pros and managers are great at leveraging their new hires knowledge, skills, abilities and differences to help them “fit in” all the while allowing them to maintain their own individual identities and unique differences – leveraging diversity.

The challenge for HR Pros, managers and leaders comes down the road when your new hires, who may not be so new anymore, are not performing or are struggling with adapting to the organizational values for which you stand. For reasons of clarity and brevity I am going to assume the following things have taken place up to this point (i.e. when the “struggles” have started.)

1) If the reasons for the employee’s struggles are performance based, a detailed performance improvement plan has been put in place, regular communication has taken place, and clear performance objectives have been established and are being measured.

2) If the reasons’ for the struggles are more related to conduct – i.e., not accepting core values, demonstrating core competencies, etc., then the manager and employee have been meeting regularly and their coaching sessions have been focused on modelling the appropriate behaviours.

Big assumptions I know, but work with me on this one folks! So assuming those things have happened and there has been an appropriate amount of time over which these conversations and coaching sessions have taken place, it may be time to consider changing the people. What I am getting at here is that the organization has taken all the right steps up to this point during the employee life cycle. They have effectively onboarded and oriented the employee, they have outlined clear performance goals and objectives (with measures) and provided coaching and support of these goals; including the modeling of organizational values. The thing is, sometimes it just doesn’t work out! If, organizationally speaking, you can look back and put hand on heart and state that you have done all the right things and made the right attempts to “change the people,” than you have to make the decision to change the people.

The worse thing that companies (managers) do is to continue to employ someone after it is obvious that they are not going to change – either their performance or their attitude. The best thing you can do for them, the company and your current employees is to let them go – in essence, change the people.  As I said before, if you have done all the right things and made the attempts to change them, and it simply isn’t working out, than you have to change the people.

Truth be told, I have seen this scenario play out countless times and typically, when you change the people, if the reasons were performance based, the person being let go is often relieved. They probably hated everyday of their job coming in to work to do something they just couldn’t do or didn’t want to do. If you are changing the people because of conduct (attitude) reasons, your current staff will thank you. They will appreciate that you have removed a cancerous co-worker from their midst and they can now focus on their own productivity! It demonstrates, organizationally, that you committed to your core values and to performance. Your good folks will see this and respect the decisions that have been made.

So, as managers, leaders and HR Pros, I firmly believe that we owe it to our employees and our organizations to manage our people according to this mantra. We need to give serious consideration to adopting this saying as a way of running our HR departments, operations groups and businesses as a whole. Remember, at the end of the day, if you can’t change the people, than you need to change the people – and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teachers and the Art of Onboarding

For most parents in North America with school age children, the last several weeks probably involved the first day of school for the new school year. Generally speaking, for children in elementary school (grades P-6), this is a day that they mostly look forward to. They get a chance to start fresh with a new teacher, new school supplies, new classroom, new desk and new things to learn. This is not unlike when someone starts a new job. They leave their old role and company and look forward to starting their new position at the new company. The future is filled with the promise of a new boss, new “tools” to use, new office building/location and new things to learn. The parallels between the first day of school and the first day of a new job are uncanny!

Teacher and studentMy daughter has gone through six “first days” days now and generally speaking they have all gone very well. Once she gets over the initial nerves, she settles in and enjoys things. So why is that? Bottom line – teachers know how to onboard like hell! Seriously though – in what other profession do you have to onboard 30 kids/new hires in one day!? So what is it that teachers do as part of their “onboarding” process that works so well, especially on that critical first day? Typically the teacher focuses more on the experience and orientation elements on the first day of school as opposed to banging through the curriculum on day 1.  Here is what I have observed that teachers do so well and that we as managers, leaders and HR Pros could do/learn from them:

What teachers do: What managers SHOULD do:
  • They have the classroom prepared for the students before they arrive – including name badges/names on the door, books and other resources all neatly organized and the classrooms are pristine.  Everything looks new and welcoming – a place where the students WANT to be.
  • Make sure that reception knows that a new hire is arriving and have them great them by name.  Better yet, ensure that your department (and perhaps organization as a whole) knows that a new hire is starting.  Have the new hire’s desk/work area ready for them. Make sure they have the necessary office supplies, tools, equipment, access, etc. available to them that they will need to do their job.  And oh yeah, make sure their office/work area is clean and clear of clutter.  Nothing says, “you are not welcome here” by having the new hire move garbage and boxes out of their office on Day 1 just to settle in.
  • They have the students introduce themselves and tell the rest of the class about their summer vacation, or some interesting personal facts, etc.
  • Introduce the new hire to the team/department, etc.  Have the team prepared to meet/speak with the new hire to discuss their roles, how they will work with the new hire, what the department norms are, etc.
  • If the school is new to the student(s) or if there have been physical changes, they take the students on a tour to point things out and show them where they need to go for various classes (gym, music, French, etc.) and where important things like the washrooms and cafeteria are located.
  • Take your new hire on a tour of the office/facility.  Show them where important areas such as the lunchroom, washrooms, lockers, cafeteria or gym are located.
  • They have a “fun” work activity for the students to complete.  Typically, it is some sort of writing exercise designed to have the student write about their summer vacation.  It is meant to stimulate their creative juices, get them comfortable writing again about a topic that is easy to write about (themselves) and helps ease into the curriculum.
  • Have a work project ready for the new hire that will allow them to ease into their role while requiring them to leverage knowledge from their previous job and integrate with their new peer group.  Get them comfortable contributing in their new role while making an immediate contribution.
  • Bottom line – they have a PLAN
  • Bottom line – they need to have a PLAN
  • Make it about the students, not themselves
  • Make it about the new hire, not themselves
  • Make school a place where the students WANT to be
  • Make the work environment a place where the new hire WANTS to be
  • Have the student(s) look forward to coming back the next day
  • Have the new hire look forward to coming back the next day

I am sure I have missed some of the great things that teachers do on day 1; however, I think you get the picture. Managers and organizations can learn a lot from teachers and how they orient and onboard students. By putting on our teacher’s hat, I think we can all help our organizations do a much better job at onboarding new hires.
What else have I missed? I would love to hear back from you as we build this best practice list!

Image courtesy of Paul Gooddy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

The Art of Onboarding – it’s in the DNA!

Much has been said, discussed and published over the last couple of years about how critical onboarding is as part of the new hire process. There are no less than 2.5 million Google hits if you search for the term “onboarding.” The question I have for managers and HR professionals is, “If onboarding is so important, why are so many of us (companies) terrible at it?” The onboarding of a new employee is such a critical part of their orientation and integration into their new work environment, yet many of us spend so little time and attention in ensuring it is properly planned and goes well. I am sure we have all experienced that scenario where on your first day at a new job you spend the better part of the day filling out forms and sitting at your desk surfing the company intranet site or network directories. We know how terrible a feeling that is…so why do we subject new hires to our organizations to the same fate? In order to provide a better onboarding experience to your new hires, you need to think of onboarding as an ongoing process…or better yet, make it part of your organizational DNA. Essentially, onboarding is part of your overall Talent Strategy. Onboarding forms part of your employee retention efforts and should integrate with your recruiting strategy and your employment brand.

Alway remember - make your new hires feel welcome!Onboarding can not be a one time event or something that happens during the first week of employment. To make for a better new hire experience, there are several critical things you need to do (can do) to make onboarding part of your organizational DNA:

1) Have an onboarding plan prepared – this plan should cover off the 1st day, 1st week, and 1st month activities. It should identify key activities, events, etc. that your new hire will participate in, be required to complete, etc. It is also a working document that gets amended during the 1st month as the first 90 days start to materialize. This needs to be owned by the new hire’s manager.
2) Reception aware of arrival – Ok, the plan is in place and now your new hire is scheduled to start/arrive. It is vital that the front desk position in your company is aware of their arrival. Nothing gives a better 1st impression than when the new hire arrives and the receptionist is aware of their arrival, has their name badge ready, greats them and informs their manager that they have arrived. Conversely, there is nothing worse than a new hire arriving and no one is aware that they were starting.  The employee ends up feeling like a nuisance, not welcome and ultimately questioning why they joined the company.
3) Manager present – It is critical, and if at all possible, that the new hire’s manager is there on Day 1 and they sit down with their new hire to welcome them to the company.  They need to have a discussion about the new employee’s role, the plan (see point #1), give them an overview of how their performance will be evaluated, what they will be working on and then take them to their desk to help them get settled;  and yes, the workstation/desk area is prepared for them with a working PC with network access, office supplies and a phone.
4) Workplace buddy assigned – IBM has led the way in the practice of assigning a workplace buddy for a new hire. This person is someone (via a formal or informal program) that the organization recognizes as an ambassador for the company. This is an individual who can show the new hire the ropes, provide them with a proper office orientation (if the manager does not), introduce them to key players, their team, etc. They can also be the person that the new hire asks the “dumb” questions of like “where are the office supplies” or “where can I store my lunch.” The workplace buddy can also help the new hire adjust to the office social norms, get a feel for the culture and help them feel a part of the bigger picture.
5) Planned lunch – A critical part of the Day 1 onboarding process is lunch. Part of the plan should be for the manager and/or the workplace buddy and at least one other co-worker to take the new hire out for lunch. It allows the employee to make critical connections at work and alleviates some of that first day stress. There is nothing worse than a new hire either eating by themselves or leaving by themselves to find something to eat on their first day.
6) Focused training activities – instead of having the new hire focus on reading policy manuals, fill out forms, etc. on the first day/week, have them involved with some team training activities. Get them up to speed on key technologies that are being used. A great way to do this is to have them spend a bit of time being trained on key technologies/processes and then having them job shadow/ask questions of other employees.
7) Scheduled dept orientations – the final part of your Day 1/Week 1 plan should involve having your new hire meet with the heads of other key support departments. They should have previously scheduled meetings with HR, payroll, quality assurance, marketing, I.T., etc. This helps break up some of the potential monotony of the (important) dept. orientation and further allows them to build some key relationships.
8) Measure the results – to find out if your onboarding program is truly working you need to measure the results. This can be done via 30-day follow ups, employee surveys, identification of goals and successful completion during probationary period.    You can also measure effectiveness over time by looking at your first year attrition rate (% employed after year 1) and their 1st year performance evaluations as quantitative signs of the effectiveness of your onboarding program.

While not intended to be an exhaustive list, these are but a few ideas on how to make onboarding part of your organization’s DNA. These tips should also help you improve your first month, 90 day and 1 year retention numbers. It comes down to proper planning, communication and above all RESPECT for your new hire.

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