Driving Great Hires through Onboarding: Seven Critical Steps to Success

Is your team using data analytics, technology and specialized expertise to accomplish the very best results in research, sourcing, recruiting and hiring, but when your new hires accept the offer, they enter a black hole as your team hands off to HR, management, or, worst, no one? You may be in need of an onboarding plan in 2018. If you work in a large company with abundant resources and teams dedicated to handling onboarding, it may surprise you to learn that not everyone has the capacity to easily hand off to another team to help ensure new hires are integrated into your culture and feel welcome, even before day one. With a little planning, and some cooperation, every organization can achieve great onboarding!

According to Sean Little, writing for the SHRM Blog, “effective onboarding should acclimate the new employee to allow him or her to become a contributing member of the staff in the briefest period possible, while engaging the employee to enhance productivity and improve the opportunity for the company to retain the employee.” It’s pretty clear that getting new employees contributing to the bottom line as quickly as possible represents a greater return on investment in that new resource. But what other benefits should drive our quest for effective onboarding? For one, the data has shown that those new hires who undergo a full onboarding program have increased rates of retention. Retention helps reduce the cost of turnover, and capture the benefits of training and development invested in each hire.

Where to Start

It is easy to identify a great starting point for your onboarding program. It starts the moment your new hire accepts an offer. What does this important first step look like?

•       Provide information on what to expect next with any post-offer activities like background checks and drug testing, and include updates as they are received to keep nervous new hires up to date

•       Send “pre-boarding” information like tax forms, I-9, emergency contacts and payroll information in advance, or provide an electronic platform for your hire to log in and complete these needed steps.

•       Set up a new employee welcome lunch for the first day

•       Put together a schedule for your new hire’s first couple of days, including a buddy

•       Outline basic practical details, like where to park, who to call upon arrival and cell phone numbers for HR and the hiring manager

•       Assign your new hire a team member who can be a “go-to” help with questions

Immediately enveloping your new hires with a warm welcome and details to help them feel a sense of belonging will ensure they are part of the team, from even before day one. Now that we have a sense for what the first steps toward effective onboarding might be, let’s move on to outline a plan for a full year of onboarding for your new employee.  

What does a full onboarding plan look like?

•       First Day - Orient your new hire to the new surroundings, continue cultural integration that began during the hiring process, provide technological resources and basic information needed to do the job

•       Teammate program – Assign a teammate to every new hire who is tasked with answering questions, introducing the new hire to others, and providing support. Teammates can develop long-term collaborative relationships, and since we know that having friends at work can increase engagement, this is an opportunity for you to help your new hire start a first professional relationship with a co-worker.

•       Drive by say hi (stay plugged in) – HR, managers and teammates should check in on an informal basis to see how things are going, and it’s even better if other leaders and employees do so as well. There’s nothing that communicates how much an employee is appreciated like hearing from a skip-level manager, or even receiving a surprise informal note from an executive leader!

•       Managing the Manager - Ensuring job training is delivered & is effective, especially over the first 90 days of employment, is a critical part of the onboarding process. Managers get busy, and sometimes they need support to ensure they make time for training and coaching a new hire. New hires need coaching, feedback and performance assistance, and training is a large part of meeting that need during the early days of a new role.  

•       The Offer – Some organizations, including Zappos and Amazon, have instituted an offer for every new hire to leave at a certain point, and take a payout (often two weeks of salary) with them. This approach isn’t right for every organization, but where I have recommended it, I’ve suggested the offer be given at 90 days. This allows new hires to fully understand what the job is about, and what the company is like, and make a wise decision about whether it makes sense to continue or move on. This can be an easy way for a failed hire to gracefully exit, and for a great hire to recommit.

•       6 months in – A sense of true belonging should be taking root with your new hire. The six-month mark is a wonderful time to look back and celebrate all of the progress your new hire has made, and make more substantial development and growth plans for the remainder of the first year. Candid, specific performance feedback is appropriate here as well, as your hire continues to develop fully in his or her role-and feedback goes both ways. Continue asking your employee what you can do better to help him or her be successful at work, and then take action!

•       Hire-a-versary: Wow! That first year flew by! It’s time to celebrate your new hire’s employment anniversary with recognition and appreciation suitable to your employee’s needs and values. It could be the right time to deliver his or her first annual performance review, if that fits with your performance review process, but hopefully, if you have been following a good onboarding process, you have been delivering feedback and coaching at every step along the way. If all has gone well, it may even be appropriate for your new hire to become one of the trusted teammates you assign to mentor other new hires.

Implementing these seven steps will help ensure that you are successful in integrating your new hires into your organizational culture, maximize their contributions and engagement, and retain them for future success, and your employer brand will benefit as well! For more details on how to make and keep great hires, see my book, Driving Great Hires: Using Authentic Employer Branding to Find Your Best Hire.

Kelly Marinelli
Combating Sexual Harassment – A Game Plan for HR
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In the midst of all of the justifiable community outrage, and big policy discussions around gender, diversity, culture and the role of HR in combating sexual harassment in organizations, there is a multitude of voices straining to be heard. They come from business leaders, asking what it is their organizations can do today to begin to solve this problem and to keep it at bay. Some are even asking-could this be happening in our organization without us being aware of it?

For business and organizational leaders, the right answer is to start with the basics of culture, leadership and, yes, training. However, the urge to slap an out-of-the-box training session on an unresolved problem that is rooted in disrespect and dysfunctional culture and call it good does nothing to solve the problem. It might help the company “check a box” to show that they notified their employees of their official policies and what conduct is not allowed (and later communicate this to a court as evidence of due diligence). But this just serves to perpetuate the idea of managers and HR as not really caring about employees and protecting them from harassment at work, but only worrying about their own legal exposure. Like the old 80’s-style VHS tapes employers used to play to show new employees what harassment looks like at work, this kind of rote-training-only approach is disingenuous, overly simplistic, and likely to broadcast to potential harassers that your organization is just “dialing it in” and doesn’t really care about combating harassment in their workplace culture.

That said, training is a good starting point, if it is championed by leaders, followed by authentic discussion in an environment of trust, and deeply and broadly accepted cultural norms around respect, dignity and zero tolerance for harassing behaviors among every member of an organization’s teams. Bystanders understanding their responsibility in calling out abuse of power in all its forms is also critical. A cultural environment of trust, where leaders are open to candid dialogue and employees are never punished for speaking openly about concerns, is also a strong guard against an environment of secrecy in which harassment can fester. The bonus is that trust and openness also foster innovation and engagement, which positively impacts the bottom line.

Cultural rejection of harassment, embracing the need for training and shared understanding of how to combat harassment, and an environment of trust and openness are only effective if executive leaders enthusiastically embrace them. If leaders pay lip service to culture, exempt themselves from training and punish those who come forward with concerns, then HR efforts to provide training and generate dialogue around differences will not be effective.

What are HR professionals to do?

1.       If your leaders have not yet approached HR for solutions, share information with your organization’s executive leadership on the potential negative impact of failing to address sexual harassment risk, and how HR can help. SHRM has many resources to help you do this.

2.       Ensure that your organization’s culture is supportive of respect, dignity, transparency and trust. Work with your leadership to reinforce awareness of and professional activity consistent with these agreed-upon, shared cultural norms and values.

3.       Review the current training on sexual harassment and harassment in general, and the organization’s strategy for delivering this training.

a.       Is the training up to date?

b.       Does the training contain the right information and activities to make it engaging and effective?

c.       Is training delivered to every employee, including executive leadership, or are some team members exempted?

d.       Is training and communication around harassment prevention championed by leadership, or is it seen as a waste of time or a legal requirement alone?

4.       Utilize your trusted resources in HR to ensure that your organization’s training is complete, timely, useful and effective. SHRM provides its members useful resources like sample training decks for Sexual Harassment Training for Employees and Sexual Harassment Training for Supervisors to help you get started.

5.       If you don’t have the capacity or expertise within your organization, consider bringing in consulting assistance to help you start off 2018 with an effective game plan for combating sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in your organization, and setting yourselves up for a successful year.

I encourage all of my HR colleagues to be ready to use our knowledge and understanding of business strategy, risks, culture and talent management to help our organizations thrive through creating environments of transparency, trust and respect, and providing training experiences that result in genuine learning and greater understanding among the workforce. It is only through commitment of executive leaders, HR professionals and managers working together that we will be able to foster genuine change in the toxic environments of secrecy and abuse of power that have resulted in the widespread experiences of sexual harassment that have been recently brought to light. 

Photo credit: Foter.com

An abbreviated version of this blog post appears on the SHRM Blog

Work and Life: Better Together
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At the turn of the year, it’s time to focus our work and career efforts in a direction that supports our values for the way we want to live each day. I like to work on thorny problems and find solutions that free people up to find success. I also enjoy connecting with other professionals, and, like I’m doing now, writing about HR and business. 

As I ponder what ingredients go into the ideal work structure, what comes to mind is my favorite campaign for national and local SHRM membership. “Better Together” is the slogan, and there’s a photo of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The idea is that both local chapter membership and national membership are fantastic, but when you put them together, they are even more amazing than the sum of their parts-there is something magical that happens when you get the national resources and opportunities for involvement, plus the local flavor of your very own HR community. It’s like the whole picture becomes visible.

Work and life are like that too. If I just think about, spend my time on, and prioritize work over everything else in life, that can lead to regret, exhaustion, and a one-dimensionality to my days that fails to create an experience in the fullest sense that honors the short stint we all have here on earth. I am fully passionate about my work, and love doing it. The issue is that without the messiness that comes along with life, its fragility and fleeting nature, I lose connection, passion and fail to grow as a person. Add to that the tendency that technology has to isolate us, and it’s easy to spend our time every day working, tapping away at our keyboards & phones in our technology bubbles, sleeping and getting up to do it all over again. I don’t know about you, but I need the freedom to zig and zag and work and live and laugh and stumble and fly away and come back, all in the course of a week.

Accordingly, I’m going to be spending more of my time focused on how work fits in 2018, in a manner that also supports the way I want to live, which is enjoying time doing fun things with my family and friends. That means minimizing commute time, fitting my work schedule to my life needs, and preserving flexibility. Consciously choosing work that allows this will guide my decisions this year. The days of working within constraints so that one can eventually “retire” to a better life are over. Our better lives need to begin today from now on, because we will likely be working until the end of our lives, if you’re a Gen Xer like me.

I just re-read this paragraph and realized that this is the kind of work I and many people have always wanted. It preserves autonomy, enhances work-life integration, and is imminently sustainable. It gives us the opportunity to feel passion and energy around work, and enables the satisfaction that productivity brings as a natural human desire. It banishes the stress and anxiety of a life not within our control. 

Not all of us have the power to re-make our work lives this way. So, Managers, take heed: if you can provide these things for your employees, they will choose to stay with you. Retention ceases to be a problem. Engagement of your employees will soar and you will be the employer that everyone seeks to work with. 

If we want better results and better lives in 2018, let’s all take a more human approach to work, together.  

Photo by Gayle Nicholson on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

The Changing Landscape of Employee Handbooks
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Employee Handbooks are as ubiquitous as those dusty VHS anti-harassment tapes. Yeah, they’ve around for years and years, and no employer would think of being without one. But gradually over the past few years, the protection offered by handbook provisions against misbehaving employees saying “I didn’t know that was against the policy,” had begun to wane, at least as reviewed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Since the 2004 decision that created the Lutheran Heritage test, the NLRB had basically rendered unlawful and useless most of the carefully crafted employee manuals we HR folks had lovingly created. Their reasoning was that if any of the policies expressly or impliedly infringed on workers’ section 7 rights, (as interpreted by the NLRB, of course), they would be construed as being unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Some wise HR consultants and leaders I know were beginning to rethink the employer handbook, not only in its tone and mode of delivery but also in its content, as it had lost a lot of its protective value against risk. You could put together a very basic policy about confidentiality or civility at work, and it could be shot down by the NLRB. I am strongly in favor of creating handbooks that have actual value for employees who read them, and are consistent with an organization's values and culture, and in these days where new revelations of harassment and inappropriate conduct are continuously coming to light, more than ever we need a touchstone that is simple, clear and adamant about what conduct we want to promote (and prohibit) in the workplace and among our teams. But until now, organizations knew that when they began to regulate employees' behavior in a way that the board was likely to consider as against Section 7, they were running the risk of having a handbook provision deemed unlawful.  

Enter the new administration’s NLRB. Chairman Miscimarra had already dissented in an earlier 2017 NLRB case, calling the Lutheran Heritage standard out as lacking in common sense, so it was no surprise that in the new case on December 14, 2017, The Boeing Company, a new standard was adopted, weighing the business interests of the employer against the Section 7 rights of the worker. As outlined in the National Law Review, the board adopted three categories that indicate how it will evaluate policies and rules of this kind going forward:

·       “Category 1 will include rules that the Board designates as lawful to maintain, either because (i) the rule, when reasonably interpreted, does not prohibit or interfere with the exercise of NLRA rights; or (ii) the potential adverse impact on protected rights is outweighed by justifications associated with the rule.”

·       “Category 2 will include rules that warrant individualized scrutiny in each case as to whether the rule would prohibit or interfere with NLRA rights, and if so, whether any adverse impact on NLRA-protected conduct is outweighed by legitimate justifications.”

·       “Category 3 will include rules that the Board will designate as unlawful to maintain because they would prohibit or limit NLRA-protected conduct, and the adverse impact on NLRA rights is not outweighed by justifications associated with the rule.”

Considering the language of "weighing” and “outweighing” going on in these tests, we see that the new Board is taking the needs of employers into account in a way it hadn't under the prior administration. As HR professionals who advise business leaders on employment policy manuals, it’s our job to do the important work of planning and determining the needs for employee policies, and carefully crafting handbooks that align with data-supported employer needs, like protection of trade secrets, safety of employees, a culture of respect and effective operations for the business. Luckily, we have at our fingertips many tools for making a handbook come to life via video, integrating it into our training and onboarding programs, and ensuring that relevant parts of it can be easily accessed through technology on an on-demand basis, right when the information is needed. We can do all this in a way that aligns with an organization's culture, workforce needs, and unique business requirements, and we can accomplish it in a way that respects workers' need to know information that will help them be successful, not just punish them after the fact when they make a mistake. 

Those of us who had all but given up on meaningful policies and handbooks that actually impact workplace conditions will find that an employee handbook review is the perfect goal for early in 2018! Feel free to contact us if you'd like to know more. 

Photo on Foter.com

The HR Community I Know
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The HR community I know rejects divisiveness for its own sake, and is universally welcoming of anyone who is passionate about HR and wants to grow in the profession.

The HR community I know honors diversity and is warmly inclusive, making room for all people and for differing opinions and viewpoints about issues that are close to our hearts.

The HR community I know cares about me and wants me to be a better HR professional, so I can make a difference in the world, the best way I can, with what I have to give.

The HR community I know tells me the truth, with respect, even when they disagree with me, and listens to and acknowledges my deeply-held convictions, even when they’re not shared.

The HR community I know has brought me many genuine friendships, with people down the street and across the world, that enrich my life and my professional experience.

The HR community I know makes work better for people, listens to their pain, cares about them and wants to help them be the best they can be, and when there’s bad news, tells them the truth in a way that preserves their dignity.

The HR community I know is a genuine partner for business leaders, delivering real and substantial advice, strategy and thought partnership to contribute significantly to business and organizational success.

The HR community I know has a deep passion for HR and believes that there is a way for HR to make every organization more successful, whichever table we have a seat at. 

The HR community I know isn’t afraid of any historical shortcomings of HR, because we’re empowered to change things, one workplace at a time, so it gets better 5, 10 and 20 years from now.

The HR community I know doesn’t have room for self-righteous judgment-after all, perfection may be an ideal, but it’s not a human trait, and we all have room for improvement.

The HR community I know is a tight-knit, collaborative, caring and inspired bunch of people.

Whatever you call us, we’re right here waiting. If you want to create change, come join us.