Why a Sink or Swim On-Boarding Strategy Is a Waste of Talent – Part 2

Welcome back to the fifth blog in our Culture Hacker series. This blog continues the discussion about onboarding. By doing a better job in the first 60 days of a new employee’s career with you, you can stop wasting your investment in new people and their talent by keeping them longer. Last time we focused on day one – the orientation. Now we will focus on the larger onboarding program. How should you organize days 2-60? Is the time investment compelling and relevant? And most importantly, is it setting your new hires up for success?

We focus on 60 days because that is about the time when new associates determine whether or not they are going to stay with you long term. And remember, this is also the time you should be deciding if you want them to stay with you. Not every hire is the right one! So, which aspects of the first 60 days are critical to your new employee’s success? After the orientation new hires are generally sent to their respective departments where things can go downhill very quickly, even if day one was perfect.

How prepared and welcoming the new team is to your new hire is a telling sign to that hire about their importance. How many times does a new person turn up in a department and the team was unaware that anyone was even hired? How often is there no desk ready to be used, computer ready to go, or welcoming note to be seen by a new hire? Make your new associates feel welcomed; have their work area or space organized with the tools to do the job. The next thing to consider is who is responsible for orienting the new associate to the department and answering questions.

One of the other best practices to happen on the first day in the department is to assign a mentor to your new hire. An appropriate mentor would be a person with a similar job function or someone with similar skills and competencies who can act as a resource for the new employee. Mentoring also fosters new relationship and strengthen ties within your organization. The University of Virginia found that connecting new employees with mentors encourages job commitment. Including a mentorship program into the onboarding of new employees is important for connecting new employees to your team, your processes, and your culture.

The next thing we look for in an on-boarding program is how you are connecting new associate with the product they now represent. It is important to ensure that the new staff have a chance to try out your products and services. It allows new staff to know that their confidence and comfort with the product and services is important, as well as the expectation that regardless of their position they are ambassadors, users, and salespeople. In the hotels I have managed, our teams ensured new staff get to stay a night to experience what the guest experiences. At some BMW dealerships, staff are given a chance to take cars home during their first week to get a thorough test drive. Retail stores often provide their staff with clothes from the latest line to understand the style and quality intimately. How are you connecting new staff to what they are ultimately servicing or selling?

The majority of the time the first 60 days are spent training new staff to get them familiar with the tasks and responsibilities of their new role. When it comes to any training program – but especially new hire training – there are four important questions you must be able to answer.

4 Training Questions to Answer

1. Who Is Going to Train?

As a leader, you should be comfortable training new people and contributing to their growth and development; however, it is not a role that you can realistically do due to other responsibilities. We find training programs are most effective when someone other than the leader completes the training, as it allows for uninterrupted and focused training. Identify a person who exemplifies the skills and behaviors to be developed; some who displays a positive disposition about helping others and the service experience.

2. Where Are You Going to Train?

Training must be conducted in an environment that minimizes distractions and interruptions. Particularly when some new is being trained, it is important to begin training away from the work environment. The fault of many new hire training programs is that they place the trainee immediately in the front line to learn as they go. This is not effective or practical until after the trainee has developed some form of understanding and comprehension of the job and tasks, as well as confidence in his or her surroundings. Ensure the training area is conducive to learning, with the temperature appropriate and seating available. Be organized. Have their training tools ready. Have their workstation set up prior to the training commencing.

3. When Are You Going to Train?

With new hires, there must be a clearly defined training period in which all the necessary information and skills are to be covered. Each day should include new processes, revision of previous material, and an introduction of people in the department and those people in other departments whom they will work with closely.

4. What Is Going to Be Trained?

As we have suggested, start with how to interact with your customers. Obviously you need to begin a thorough training of all the processes and rules of the job, too. You must standardize all the tasks and processes your team is responsible for and ensure they are updated regularly. The Chairman of Marriott Hotels once said, “To produce consistent results you need to develop efficient systems and clear rules.” In the past, operating procedures were handed over for a new hire to learn: today, we are seeing online playbooks and procedures being presented on a more engaging and interesting manner. Dale Turner, a hospitality advisor, said, “If you don’t define (and train) precisely what is supposed to happen when a guest encounters an organization at any given point, then the experience will at best be mediocre.”

As you onboard your new recruit with training, remember to give the employee plenty of breaks and changes in routine. It is important to provide a lot of feedback during this process and to recognize when they are doing something well. Also consider establishing a cross-training program with departments you work with closely. This may involve the new hire spending as little as an hour to receive an overview of what a particular department does, but it will supply first-hand understanding.

The final element of the onboarding program is check-ins. These are informal opportunities to get a pulse on how the new associate is doing and feeling. By the 60 day mark, you should have a pretty good pulse on what new employees’ experiences have been like and the direction they’re heading in at your company. However, it is a good idea to formalize the feedback the new hire has been receiving: a 60-Day Employee Review is also used to set strategic goals with the new employee for the next 6-12 months. Consider conducting a satisfaction survey with your new hires to ensure that their expectations have been met and that what you promised them during the selection and orientation process has happened. The 60-Day Check-In Survey is a tool for the new employee to complete. This creates an opportunity for the team member to reflect on how their values align with the organization and to take a pulse on the cultural tools in place. Both of these activities allow both parties to assess the long-term partnership and relationship between the employee and the company.

Now is the time to do a quick review of your onboarding program. Don’t assume every department in your company has an organized and thorough process for getting your new talent up to speed. Let’s commit in 2016 to stop utilizing this sink-or-swim strategy that wastes our resources. And, most importantly, let’s commit to stop wasting all of the great talent you worked so hard to hire. Good luck! If your team needs additional information on proactive onboarding strategies, then contact SGEi today for a consultation.

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