Is your Corporate Induction a flagship learning event?

There comes a time in most the life of most L&Ders when they are faced with the dilemma of delivering the Corporate Induction. I say dilemma because it’s normally laden with presentations and is meant to be a high point, but in truth is nothing more than being less a facilitator and more an event organiser.

And, for the purposes of this blog post let’s clear up some things. Whether you call it Induction, Orienteering, Welcome Day, [insert organisation name] Life Day, or anything else makes little difference. I’m talking about that one day where new starters come and expect to be wowed by being part of the business. And if the term Induction summons visions of a woman in labour, I can’t help that. Get over it. For the record, I don’t like the term Induction, it’s too hard and doesn’t actually convey the right meaning at all. And finally I’m not talking about the Induction that happens on the first day. That’s not the same thing as this.

So this day. This one day where new starters come together. And what do we do with them? Sit them through a suite of presentations about the business and expect them to have a better understanding of the business. All they’ll have a better understanding of is the complexity of the business. They won’t understand it any better. At all.

Here’s how we can make better use of modern technologies and techniques to make this day a flagship learning event.

Anything which is operationally important should be dealt with in the first two weeks of a person joining. Typically a new starter has waited several weeks if not months before attending Induction. As such, if they don’t know the IT policy, H&S policy, Fire Safety procedures, and anything else which is vital to their day to day working life, then this isn’t the place to mop up and make sure they all understand. Your process on each of those needs to be much tighter in early days of a new starter joining.

Anything you can make available via e-learning should be. We can make very engaging and sophisticated modules to ensure certain tasks or learning is undertaken in the early days of joining. Don’t make someone do this in Induction. That’s just mean.

We can use social collaboration tools like Jive or Ning to help share knowledge about how things get done and what a person needs to know. We don’t need to subject a person to “this is how we expect you to work”.

So what should be included on the day itself then if you’ve taken away the core bits? I think there’s plenty of room for play and helping develop a high impact learning event.

I think there’s no beating an introduction from a senior leader in the business. Hearing from someome who knows the business well is a major step towards employee engagement. What’s key is that you, the L&Der, provide clear guidance about how to invite participation. Many senior people think they do this by virtue of presenting. They are mistaken.

From here, the rest of the day should focus on the core messages people need to understand. How those get delivered is where things get interesting and you get to play. If it’s a presentation, fine. But add purposeful exercises that embed that presentation knowledge. If it’s a series of presentations, fine too. But give people a chance to have meaningful discussion about what they’ve learned.

Does it need to be a full day? Well when you expect a person to spend a few years with you as an employee, the least you can do for them is give them a meaningful introduction to the company. For some this may be half a day, for others one day, and for others three days. It’s less about the length of the Corporate Induction and more about making it a meaningful experience.

The thing about Corporate Induction for many is that it’s seen as a necessary evil for employee engagement. I mean what hope have we got for making new starters truly feel welcome if that’s how we think about what it’s meant for. For me it’s a prime opportunity to shine and dazzle. The organisation that we work for is amazing in its own way and we need to pay attention to making it a top class learning event.

And here’s my controversial bit. If you can’t make the Corporate Induction a flagship learning event, then what confidence is there in any of your other learning events you hold?

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My best piece of delivery

Yesterday I facilitated (shepherded) an all day Induction. In a post I wrote for the Training Journal, I spoke about how this is the one key structured piece of activity any organisation or business just has to get right. It’s the first entry point to the business and makes such a key difference to the performance of the new starter. The day made me think about how this is so important for others that are engaged with a business too. You know, the dirty people – suppliers.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the L&D sweet spot and how I designed possibly my most favourite exercise. Today I’d like to share with you what I think was my best ever piece of facilitation. I was given a task of putting together a programme to help our vendors get who we are, how we work and why we work the way we do. I and the manager involved had no idea how this would pan out. We were both shooting in the dark but hoping for the best.

We decided that there needed to be key merchandising, planning and operational managers presenting. The company values had to be shared, as well as the company vision. Organisationally, QVC had come on leaps and bounds in the years that I was there. (Just realised that sounds like I did that. In true fairness the L&D team made it happen. I was part of that team and learned a lot.) So to do this for our vendors didn’t seem like a chore. A lot of the collateral we needed was already to hand. The key presenters already had relationships with a lot of the vendors. The vendors just needed some airtime and some answers.

So we gave them what they asked for. We were open about everything we presented and hid nothing. The result? A programme that runs to this day. I’m confident about sharing this in that it’s been 5 years since I left the company, and the programme has developed since then. But here’s why I loved it. I got to be part of a programme which we had no idea how it would be received. We put together a day full of interaction and information that was bang on for the audience. The relationships with our vendors who attended were stronger as a result. Our merchandisers became far more comfortable talking with our vendors as they now understand company aims and vision.

It may not sound exciting, and indeed is just an Induction for suppliers and vendors. But what makes a day like this exciting is the flavour and enthusiasm you bring to it. We could just as easily have put together a day of presentations that were one-way delivery and left it at that. But we saw this as an opportunity to do so much more and not let the opportunity pass. That’s also why I enjoy the company induction. If this is such an important event – and it is – why leave things at being standard?

>Are your grads up to scratch?

>This week, @TheHRD posted a blog entitled Back to school, back to reality. He writes good stuff anyway, and this post was no different. He talked about the “need to reframe the relationship between business and education”, and introduced a term “bonded labour” which I’ve not heard before. It’s an interesting idea centred on ‘bonding’ your new starters – graduates or experienced – to the company for 2 years.

It reminded me of an idea I had some while ago about the need to develop our graduates into effective working individuals quickly. Below is a piece of work I wrote on the topic. Excuse the formality of the writing, it was written as if I was using it to present to the business or indeed an educational institution of sorts. Also this was written July 2009, so the information provided is correct as of then.
This isn’t just an extended Induction programme, it’s a lot more than that.
And I’m a bit up against it today, so I don’t like the format, wording or ‘delivery’ of the below, but I hope you get the idea.

The Problem

The Leitch Report identified that literacy and numeracy skills across the UK are at a poor level for school leavers. Out of 30 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, the UK is 17th on low skills: 5 million adults in the UK lack functional literacy and 17 million adults in the UK have difficulty with numbers.. A recent study by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Professional Development) suggests that employee skills are proportionately lower than needed in terms of general literacy and numeracy ability (“Reflections on the 2008 learning and development survey”). The implications of these reports suggest that the workforce will continue to experience a significant working population who are not able to do tasks such as writing reports, creating spreadsheets, analysing data, or be an active part of organisational policy/change.

These have provided a sharp look at the practices UK institutions choose to enact. In a positive move, schools have the option of allowing students to take a path on the new 14-19 diploma route which is less about passing exams and more about giving students the experiences required to be effective at work. 25% of UK companies are engaged in the Train to Gain scheme and 78% are developing occupational training schemes.

Beyond these initial findings, we then see that there is a direct impact on the skills employers are seeking from new employees. Interpersonal skills are seen by 79% of UK companies as being important, 68% view communication as next in importance. 61% of employers want a broader range of skills from new employees and 90% want increased leadership and management skills. A common argument supporting this upshot of required skills suggests that the current education system is lacking in providing ‘real work’ experiences and skills. Or thought of in a different way, those leaving the world of academics are not able to successfully transfer their skills to a working environment.

I suggest that the current education system in the UK provides ample opportunities to provide the relevant skills necessary for future careers. Support systems are constantly evolving to meet cultural, social, educational, familial needs. The UK education system has been constantly responding to the changing face of the world and allowing many more options for people to choose from to determine the direction of their career. We have seen a move from ‘O’ Levels to CSEs to GCSEs and now an extension to diplomas. Similarly we have seen at graduate levels, courses ranging from ‘traditional’ subjects such as Law, English, Philosophy, Medicine, to including new lines of thinking such as Gaming and Technology, Counselling, and Human Resource Management.

A Solution

I propose a course of action to provide graduates completing a degree with a 4 week training programme specifically designed to build and develop their skills and giving them the understanding of how to transfer these skills to the workplace. My belief is:

– Graduates will be eager to enter into some further training to support their entry to the workplace
– Prospective employers will be eager to have an influx of graduates who have the required skills that they are seeking

The programme will be titled ‘Certificate in Business Effectiveness’. The programme will be a certified programme recognised by industry that will allow employers to understand that those passing the programme have achieved a desired standard in Business Effectiveness.

The intention of this programme is to provide graduates with the confidence that they are able to enter a work environment with the skills that make a difference.

The 4 weeks would cover topics such as: Objective Setting, Project Management basics, Marketing Principles, Assertiveness skills, Presentations skills, Writing Business Cases, Conflict Management, Business Acumen, Financial Acumen.

The Support

The programme would include support after completion. This would take the form of an online space where students can access materials to help refresh learnings from the programme. There would also be practitioner support. An extra facet to the programme that we would include is to have a mentoring programme with industry practitioners who are willing to mentor those completing the programme.

The Requirements

3 ‘Practitioners’ would be required to teach the course subjects.
At the end of each week, the practitioners complete an assessment (based on the BARS system) on each student. Students must achieve level 4 at the end of the programme in order to pass the programme. At the end of the programme, students receive a certificate acknowledging their successful completion of the course in Business Effectiveness.

Those students who do not achieve Level 4 will only receive acknowledgement that the course was attended in full but the required standard was not achieved.

Regardless of level, each student will receive detailed feedback at the end of each week to enable focused development through the programme. At the end of the programme, each student will receive a complete profile based on their performance during the programme.