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Thursday, March 26, 2015

You Can't Sit with Us!: On Boarding a New Employee in 3 Steps

On boarding of a new employee can be both frustrating and daunting and with good reason.  Both parties have something to gain and if done incorrectly something to lose.  For an employer they want employees who are informed and up and running as soon as possible to effectively help meet objectives.  For the employee they want a supportive and informative experience to, you guessed it, get up and running as soon as possible to effectively help meet objectives. So how should your company or learning team approach on boarding?  It really boils down to 3 steps.

Pick the right method!

Depending on your companies structure there are four options:

Create a blended training program that balances both times with an instructor or mentor and time on the computer.  A great balance!  This method helps capture the need for an employee to have personal and supportive care while letting the company be cost effective when content can be shared across multiple channels. One of the most common pit falls is not discussing the expectations at each step. Be sure to document either on a piece of paper or in email format what the employee should be doing in between meetings.  Be sure to give enough time for the slower paced learners and extra “nice to haves” for those who can handle a faster pace. To implement this method you’ll need to come up with a schedule, develop presentations, outline a communication schedule and material, and develop courses. 

Create a Web Based Training (WBT) program where the learner gains information by accumulating time on the computer. ICK! Can you imagine getting hired in, placed at a computer and just staring at the screen until your first assignment?  How impersonal and unsupportive!  Be sure to tailor your training so it makes the employee feel included and provide them with a contact or mentor for once their done. To implement this method you’ll need to come up an outline of a communication schedule and material, develop a curriculum, and develop courses. 

Create Instructor Led Training (ILT) program where an instructor or mentor works the employee through everything.  My personal favorite! If this was cost effective across all channels I would recommend this to each and every person I have a conversation with about on boarding.  When it comes down to taking time away from an employee or hiring and full time instructor then you run the risk of losing productivity or working off a budget that isn’t lean.  Keep in mind that the person chosen MUST be someone who is personable and can accurately represent your company, brand, and values.  Since they are the main delivery of information the lasting impression has to be there otherwise you’re just developing a plan that’s doomed to fail.  To implement this method you’ll need to come up with a communication schedule and mateiral, develop a schedule, and develop and design presentations. 

Create a virtual Instructor Led Training (vILT) program where a person teaches over the computer. Great compromise! I love this option because it provides the values of Instructor Led Training with less financial overhead.  Meetings can be scheduled around the instructors schedule without the need to be in a physical location.  This is also a great alternative for employees who work from home or who have teammates that work across the country or globe. To implement this method you’ll need to come up with a communication schedule, develop a schedule, and develop and design presentation. 

Come up with an awesome game plan!

The training should be comprehensive taking into consideration both the employee and employers needs. Here are some basics, which can be applied across all methods:

Everyone, no matter how experienced or eager, will be nervous.  It’s a physical response to the unknown that we all share and there’s nothing wrong with that.  One of the first things I like to do with a new employee is make them feel at home.  Show them where the bathroom is, explain how the teams are physically are split up, go over emergency procedures, show them to the lunchroom, and introduce them to teammates. Don’t forget to add in little personal touches like letting them know what bathroom has been christened for #2s (yes, that’s happened to me and yes, I’ve shared that information!)

Always take your content from looking at the big picture to explaining the employee’s relative small part.  This gives the new hire an understanding of why something is done that way or how a team works.  It also helps to slow down the process of information overload. This is a great time to go over the: who, what, when, where and why of the company, department, and team. Keeping in mind to only provide relevant information (so make sure your instructor doesn’t like to go off on a tangent.)

No matter what method you pick, make it visual and impressive.  A person who is engaged and interested in your presentations is more likely to pay attention and retain information. Keep your tone and general message consistent while inserting impacting slides, pages or conversations. This is also the time for the company’s brand to really show through. So work with Marketing or your Branding department to brand the crap out of anything that will be used! Why not use videos?  They’re great visuals and can be consumed quickly and easily.  Need to explain the company?  Why not create a company history documentary styled video that can be shared with new hires and potential customers!

Which brings up a great point; work across channels!  Since each employee has an ultimate different ending seat why not create content that can be used and reused.  Master courses are great ways to promote a unified look and feel while saving time and development costs.  As a special bonus you’ll have the few and far in between chance of bringing every department together to work on the project.  This means a company wide needs analysis!

Make them believe in your company by including information about the company’s culture and value.  What does your company do really well in the eyes of its employees and customers?  Will people be expected to participate in value-based initiatives? But make sure you’re being authentic.  No likes a forced culture atmosphere!

Go over the expected behaviors, competencies and metrics that will be used to evaluate and promote.  Encourage their desire to develop these skills to the fullest by explaining the rewards of a job well done.  But don’t make promises you can’t keep like an expected wage increase unless it’s information shared by HR.

Provide documents to supplement their learning experience.  This can also help to streamline work efforts especially in the case of checklists and forms.  Be sure to keep the documents visually appealing and branded when necessary.  One great example would be a customer persona fact sheet so the new hire can get to know your standard customer and their behaviors.

Don’t forget soft skill training!  Not everyone starts off at a company understanding the best way to communicate with co-workers or deal with an angry customer.  Providing the training up front means the new hire is more likely to handle the situation as the company wants instead of going off of previous experiences or training.

Don’t rush through the workspace, desk and/or computer set up phase. It’s important for a new hire to feel comfortable in his or her new area.  Give them ample time to set up things to their preferences (keeping in mind safety standards or any other regulations that could effect decisions.)  If they aren’t sure how to set it up then go through why you choose to set up your station in a particular way or explain the potential pros and cons. 

Incorporate them into the team every chance you get.  Schedule training around team meetings or call a special meeting just to introduce the new hire.  I personally hate the “get to know me” games because they seem so forced and dated.  If your team gets a kick out of doing them by all mean include it.  Otherwise I suggest having the new hire explain their background then let co-workers ask one burning question.  Yes, the new hire will probably be uncomfortable but at least they’ll get a small glimpse into everyone’s personality and not be asked the same question fifty times in two days.  To really wow your new hire make sure they have someone to sit with for the first couple days.  I’ve seen work friendships flourish and many people thank me for not having to awkwardly join the table (You can’t sit with us!)

Include follow up and touch points!  This is by far the most important thing to include in an on boarding training program.  Having scheduled follow up meeting and touch points means that both the employee and employer have a chance to praise or offer learning experiences.  This also creates a mentor program, which has been shown in countless studies to drive retention.  Mentorships are really their own program that can be incorporated into a new hire program so I encourage you to your own research.  Would you like to see an article soon discussing the topic?  Comment below or catch me on Twitter.

Revisit and Refine OFTEN

Companies, departments and teams evolve.  Be sure to revisit the content and refine based on feedback and performance scores.  Including a follow up survey to ask how the new employee felt about the program is a great place to start collecting data. I suggest revisiting the training program in 6-month increments if you’re not sure where to start.

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