Welcome to life!

In my role of L&D, one of the things I’m always keen to ensure we’re getting right is how we help the business understand itself. Not just itself, but also the consequence of actions taken on the business, and how we might make better business decisions.  Yes, I’m talking about business acumen. The thing is when you try and break that down, it’s a really hard thing to create L&D initiatives around.

I’m going to do a short series on how we might develop this very important skill in organisations, and what we can do to support the business enabling decision making to be better. Gosh that last sentence had a lot of horrid business speak, but sometimes needs must.

I think the first step in handling this topic is to have a well developed set of opportunities for your new starters. They are the ones who are being recruited into the business to bring about something different and or new, and is vital they receive the right kind of introduction.

The ‘hygiene’ stuff has to be in place. That is, give them a station to work from, the right tools, a line manager, probation objectives, set up on payroll, and all that kind of stuff. We’re talking onboarding, so let’s get it right.

The things that start to make the difference are what happens around all of the day to day tasks. Have you got a developed plan for them which shows them what they can expect to learn, who from, when, within their first six months? This provides security to both the new starter and the line manager in setting clear expectations for what will be achieved.

They may have a distinct role within the business, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be exposed to everything the business does. Get them meeting people in other departments. Shadowing for a day can be highly insightful. One to one meetings are great way to nurture relationships. Is there information they can access in their spare time on wikis or e-learning modules that have been created?

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I’m proud of our company Induction at LBi. It’s consistently one of the best learning events we deliver to our new starters. A number of things have come together to make this happen. The Exec, Senior Leadership Team and Department Heads all see the benefit in being personally involved. The insight they bring when delivering their presentations is highly relevant and key to developing understanding of how the business operates. The day is mixed up with exercises that help the new starters think about how decisions impact the business through using case studies. We also focus a whole piece just on the culture of the company. Not a presentation, but a workshop piece which works better than selling how great we are to work for.

I facilitate the whole day. Having someone present the whole day like this is absolutely key to the success of the day. People know who they can turn to, if the agenda needs changing what to do, if exercises need to happen, what to do when the technology goes tits up. Someone needs to be there to just get things done. More though, the facilitator gets a sense of the success of the day. Are people ok? Are they grumbling? Are they being fed enough? Do they need a break? Are they engaged?

Good things should also be happening on the Induction. Host a lunch, everyone appreciates a free lunch. Get people from the HR team to be part of that too. We are a social bunch, and there’s nothing like breaking down some barriers eh. Have fresh fruit available just because it’s a good thing to do! Give people plenty of opportunity to mingle and just chat. Doing the hard work is good, relaxing the brain during the day is good too. Celebrate the end of the Induction. We’re an agency, so this naturally involves alcohol. Whatever you choose to do, it helps to give a sense of, wow that was a long day, and we did a lot, and now we can enjoy the end of the day too, as opposed to being shuffled back to their desks.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The company Induction is by far and above one of the key L&D activities, that I believe just has to take place. If there’s no other formal learning and development intervention in place, and you had to pick one to do, this is the one to pick and do. It doesn’t matter if it’s not monthly. But it has to be regular, and it has to be excellent.

>Getting the basics right

>I was able today to help a colleague with an area of work he was struggling with – time management. It’s an oft quoted area of difficulty that junior staff just don’t know how to handle. I was also able to help a colleague think about how to set realistic objectives for team members. What came out from both of these conversations is the importance of getting the basics right. And when I say the basics I really do mean the basics.

In the probation period of any new joiner the onboarding process should ensure a range of things are happening so that person is able to be effective in their job. A lot of that though has to do with the essentials of the job role. We can expect someone to hit the ground running when joining, but if we’re not giving them the right start, how can we expect them to succeed? A person can only be pro-active so much before they’re just facing obstinance and challenges.
So what is this onboarding process all about? Research has shown that an effective onboarding process increases the amount of discretionary effort an employee chooses to exercise. Discretionary effort is defined as the amount of effort an employee chooses to exercise over and above the bare minimum. So, the better the onboarding, the more engaged and productive the employee. Therefore the onboarding process has to be robust, inclusive and wide ranging.
What you’ll find is these suggestions seem to cover trivial things but you’ll be surprised how much of a difference they truly make.
Here are my suggestions for an effective onbaording programme:
Week 1
– orientation of the building including things like facilities department, toilets, canteen, vending machines, exits and entrances to the building.
– meeting everyone in your department and going for a department/team lunch
– meeting people from other departments who are key to their role
– all the technical stuff (PC, phone) set up and ready before they arrive
– showing them things like file structures, networks, intranets, extranets, wikis, etc
– give them an overview of the organisation structure
– meaningful tasks to start getting on with
– arrange a buddy
Week 2
– setting objectives for the probation period
– introducing them to other departments and getting them to arrange their own meetings
– assigned work relevant to their role
– explain company history and values
– talk them through HR processes and L&D plans
Week 3
– weekly meeting to discuss progress and review their learnings to date
– buddy lunch
– arrange possible shadowing of other team members
Week 4
– weekly meeting
– explanation of competency frameworks
– explanation of different business units, how they contribute to the company and how you work with them all
– evaluation of how they are adapting to the work environment and coaching to improve their effectiveness
This is what should happen in the first month. There should be a lot more that happens which you will need to identify. But if you can get these basics right then things such as performance reviews, giving feedback, coaching, all become easier because you’ve already covered these aspects. Conversations can then centre on actual job role, tasks, development, etc.