How to Encourage Flexibility, Pivots, and Changes in the Workplace
If there is one thing the last few years taught us, it is how to be flexible. Now when someone has to reschedule it isn’t a big deal – we accommodate and make the adjustments. For us introverts, sometimes it is a blessing, sometimes it is putting off the inevitable. Either way we, dare I say, Pivot? If we are this flexible now with our calendars, why are so many people still resistant to change?
I think it is fair to say, there are many different types of personalities, working styles, and generations in today’s work force. Some employees thrive in a chaotic work environment that changes daily. Others are more productive with a continuous or repetitive environment. If someone tells me they work in a “fast-paced” environment, I often assess if that “fast-pace” is because the work environment is chaotic and unorganized, or if the work itself is pressure filled. The bottom line is “fast paced” should be translated into “change is the only constant.”
To be fair, that “fast pace” is often a natural change as businesses grow and change. Business needs can (and should) change. The office and its employees need to implement changes to accommodate this business growth. It is ideal if your employees are flexible and encourage the necessary growth and change – instead of fighting it.
Changes can be as simple as a change in procedures, or changes can be a shift that has a profound impact on the structure of the business and workplace. As your business changes and evolves, how can you go about encouraging flexibility and shift a process, procedure, or guideline internally without creating havoc?
Here are some quick tips for leaders to remember when making changes in the workplace.
- State your vision. Be clear and articulate about what vision you have for the change. What does success look like in this (new) situation?
- Be willing to explain the “why.” Employees will be more receptive to changes if they understand the bigger picture and why this change needs to be implemented.
- Lead your employees. Lead them into the change, don’t demand it. Be flexible as they adjust to this change.
- Ask for collaboration. Employees are more flexible with change when they feel they have a say and helped create this pivot.
- Lead by example. Model the behavior you want to see. If you have changed your policy to 100% in the office, then YOU as the leader need to be 100% in the office.
- Proceed in small steps. It is a reality that some people have difficulty with changes. Take small steps. Give your employees time to adjust and help them through the process.
Looking to make some adjustments to your business? Have you created a management strategy for the change? Do you have a goal that you are reaching for? Creating a strong office environment during the changes can help ensure employee retention and a more team-oriented workplace.
Want to work through your change management strategies? Give me a call and let’s figure out the next steps!
The Great Resignation brought on by Covid-19 and new expectations of work-life balance have drawn greater attention to a perennial problem for legal entities and business owners, particularly small businesses—how to maintain institutional knowledge in the face of record turnover.
In the April 2022 Gartner Business Quarterly, Linda Ruel writes that 71% of the CEOs Gartner surveyed expect to continue to lose workers in 2023, workers they won’t be able to replace easily. These extended losses will not only continue to disrupt their businesses, but the resulting brain drain will wipe out generations of institutional knowledge. This challenge particularly affects smaller companies, such as law firms, which may not have had the resources or scale for formal institutional knowledge retention in the past.
Beyond retaining more of their critical employees, how can firms preserve institutional knowledge? By making it a priority and having a plan.
What is Institutional Knowledge and Why is it Important?
The editorial staff of Indeed defines institutional knowledge as “the collected understanding and ability of the institution’s workforce.” Such knowledge, also called organizational memory, can be tangible—the documentation of procedures and training manuals, for example—or intangible—the practical wisdom of seasoned employees.
Retaining tangible institutional knowledge takes some work but is fairly straightforward—document processes and procedures and digitize them in an easily accessible format. Intangible knowledge is more difficult to preserve. When experienced employees leave, they take with them their best practices—their cheat sheets and rules of thumb, their key relationships inside and outside the company, how things truly get done and who does them.
The accretion of employees’ memories builds the organization’s collective memory, enabling the business to function. Long standing employees pass along this intangible wisdom informally, often by word-of-mouth. If best practices exist only in the employees’ minds or scattered on sticky notes, the chain of knowledge is irretrievably broken when they leave, especially if the exodus is massive and sudden, as with the Great Resignation.
This loss costs companies money, time, and efficiency.
How to Retain Institutional Knowledge
Workforce turnover is a natural, even a necessary, aspect of a company’s growth. Different phases of a firm’s life cycle require different skillsets. Strategic turnover prunes the deadwood and keeps the firm nimble and adaptable to market changes.
Turnover becomes a challenge, however, when it is no longer natural, when it comes as a tsunami rather than a predictable ebb and flow. In the face of such vast and unexpected change, organizations default to a reactive mode, patching the levees holding in their institutional knowledge with sandbags that will inevitably be washed away. Instead of throwing sandbags at the problem, companies should build better levees. By being proactive and strategic in combating institutional knowledge drain, organizations can minimize the risk of unprecedented workforce attrition and keep their companies from going sideways. How? By creating a culture of knowledge sharing and the systems to support it.
This proactive strategy puts the CEO and business owner back in control, and it won’t take a complete restructuring of your current processes to do it. It merely requires a renewed dedication to making institutional knowledge just that—institutional rather than individual.
Let’s explore seven methods to make that happen.
- Identify, Prioritize, and Educate
To preserve institutional knowledge, all employees must understand its importance. Create a company culture that values information sharing across the enterprise and has formal systems to support that sharing—information systems, data analytics, training systems. Avoid information silos and turf wars.
Examine all levels of the business and identify the value and volume of existing institutional knowledge. Then identify the key components and processes every team member should know, and prioritize what to capture and share. Think creatively. Do you only want to capture skill-based information or project management tools as well? Technology hacks or past strategic initiatives? Once you identify the knowledge you want to preserve, put systems in place to do so.
- Involve All Employees
Holly Walters, Chief Operations Officer of Shapiro Law Team, a personal injury firm in Phoenix, Arizona, has implemented firmwide practices to safeguard information and keep their cases moving. “We want to ensure that everyone in our firm, from the receptionist to the managing attorney, knows what each team is responsible for.” Walters believes it is vital that all teams understand the important stages of any case from onboarding to settlement as well as the proper digital screens to complete to keep the pipeline moving.
The Shapiro management team works with each of their teams to create checklists, training courses, and desk manuals. “The desk manuals, whether physical or online, are step-by-step guides for each team member and are set to be updated frequently,” Walters explains. She not only shares these tools across teams but requires all new employees to cross-train with each team manager—new attorneys train with onboarding, new paralegals train with settlement, and so on. Walters makes it clear that this is a management initiative and gives the leaders ownership of the process development and information gathering. Not only do these practices encourage knowledge sharing, but they make for higher quality client service. When employees leave, the transition is seamless.
- Cross Training and Transparency
The goal of cross-training—shadowing colleagues and learning other roles—is not to add to the employee’s workload but to expand their knowledge and engagement with the organization and create transparency about the demands and requirements of different roles. Transparency results when everyone’s duties are no longer shrouded in mystery and the culture is based on performance and collaboration, not competition.
Make cross-training a priority by incorporating it into the employee’s performance review. Create a quarterly goal with specific timelines, departments, and partners, and discuss what they learned. Such conversations let you know how well the firm is adopting the information-sharing culture.
When Holly Walters implemented transparent cross-training at Shapiro Law Team, the firm saw less competition and greater collaboration among departments along with more efficient knowledge sharing—and increased productivity.
- Mentorship Initiatives
In any organization, mentors—veteran employees who help newbies learn the ropes—are often the ones passing down institutional knowledge. The problem is, most mentorships are ad hoc and informal. The answer: make them formal. Create a program that pairs veteran staff with less-seasoned employees.
Harleigh Jones, the former Firm Administrator of Christian Dichter & Sluga, a women-owned law fim serving the Southwest U.S., developed[MP1] [WM2] a training program that relied on veteran employees. “Having a mentor training system reduced barriers to the firm’s knowledge preservation as it became a natural training tool,” Jones explains. Veteran employees pass along what they know, eliminating the temptation to hoard information that wreaks havoc on smaller firms.
For a mentorship program to succeed, it must be part of the job description, not an add-on. Make it a structured program. Create rewards and incentives for the mentors to do a good job, such as bonuses, extra PTO, recognition. Implant the value of mentorship in the DNA of every role.
- Learning Libraries
Create a learning library. Encourage employees to build spreadsheets, folders, and drives thick with lists of processes, contacts, providers, referral sources, white papers, power points, articles, email chains, videos, and so on. Encourage employees to update the information as a matter of course.
Not sure where to begin? The line workers always know. Start by asking your employees what resources they need. You’ll be amazed how many workers have their own cheat sheets already set up. Create a general location for these lists and encourage people to use them.
To curate and disseminate the firm’s institutional knowledge, establish the role of Knowledge Librarian as part of the training team. This is a critical function in the Information Age.
- Implement Succession Planning
Most firms have some version of succession planning at the C-level, but it is often overlooked at the employee level. At all levels, succession planning is an important strategy not only for replacing workers but also for passing on knowledge and skill sets. When applied to line workers, this strategy is a valuable tool for identifying and developing new leaders.
Harleigh Jones faced this challenge when she scheduled a long-deserved three-week vacation. “I needed to know who could take over for me at any given moment. I began looking at their strengths and weaknesses and distributed my workload accordingly.” Implementing this strategy in a formal way enables more seamless coverage for PTO, internal promotions, and turnover.
When a worker is promoted, for example, give them the time to train their successor. They’ll be happy to share their tips, tricks, and efficiencies to leave the role in better shape than they found it. Likewise, when an employee leaves the company altogether, have them train their replacement. Sometimes, though, for legal reasons, this isn’t possible. That’s why promoting a culture that requires an ongoing documentation of work processes and best practices is critical. If someone leaves the company today, their replacement should be able to review the documentation and get up and running by the end of the week.
- Capture it with Video
Digitally archived written records are a valuable resource for retaining institutional knowledge, particularly in its tangible forms. But in the Visual Information Age of YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and the like, more people learn by visual media. When you need to change the water filter on your fridge, you look up a video. The same concept applies to institutional knowledge. Video preserves intangible forms of knowledge more effectively than text because it allows for demonstration as well as explanation.
According to Forrester Research, 75% of employees would rather watch a video than read an email or manual. Recording key project discussions, strategy meetings, and tutorials not only captures a team’s processes and[MP3] [WM4] agendas, it conveys the hidden context and nonverbal communication between the lines.
Companies can incorporate video technologies into many of the other six methods outlined here. As an element of succession planning, for example, you can create an “Ask the Expert” forum in which retiring employees discuss their roles and best practices. Video records can also support cross-training initiatives without interrupting busy colleagues.
Grow or Wither—It’s Your Choice
Like human memory, organizational memory can grow or wither. Creating a strategy for preserving institutional knowledge not only makes your business more resilient when employees move on, it strengthens your business’s long-term innovation and growth, leading to greater engagement and less turnover. By engaging your employees as active participants in developing and capturing institutional knowledge, you not only preserve and build that knowledge, you encourage your employees to stick around.
This article was originally written for the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) magazine.
During my years in Corporate America, I didn’t give it a second thought when my offices had a birthday party for a team member. As my offices grew, we changed the ritual to once a month (from everyone celebrating individually), but the balloon, cake, and card were “normal” office policy. I learned the hard way celebrating a birthday isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a company standard.
To begin with, not everyone likes to celebrate their birthday. I know the extroverts out there may be shocked by this statement, but the fact is true. Not everyone enjoys celebrations and the thought of everyone knowing their personal details are not appealing.
Here are some tips to help your office be inclusive, fair, and celebratory.
- Any office environment should NEVER make celebrating birthdays mandatory. Make all celebrations optional and allow employees to choose for themselves.
- Not everyone has disposable income to buy gifts. Do not take office collections to buy people presents, cards, or fancy lunches. It is presumptuous to assume that everyone has income to spare or wants to participate in a gift exchange.
- Consider allergies and dietary restrictions. I will never forget the year that some coworkers brought me cupcakes for my birthday that had nuts in them. It left me in a super awkward predicament. If I didn’t eat them, it would hurt their feelings or if I confessed, I would make them feel awkward.
- If your office does choose to celebrate birthdays, I recommend doing a large cake, for the entire office. Eating the treat is optional and each team member can choose if they want a piece or not.
- We recommend having a group party, once a month. This way no one person is singled out. I worked in a large office that had 17 birthdays in November. The simple “Happy Birthday” on the cake we had the first Friday of the month covered anyone who wanted to participate.
- Ask your staff if they want to be acknowledged via email, on the cake, or with a party. There is no judgment on their decision, you are information gathering. Then, armed with this information, choose a company standard and stick to it – for everyone.
- Try methods of celebration that aren’t about group food. Try electronic greeting cards, gift cards to food establishments or local stores (paid for out of office funds), a lunch out with the manager, or decorating their desk space. I used to grant a “personal holiday” and allowed them to stay home (paid) on their birthday.
Choose the celebration that works best for your employees but be consistent about the implementation to ensure that no one who wants to celebrate, gets left out.
It’s February, time for lacy Valentines, roses, and heart-shaped candies. It’s also time for overbooked restaurants, ditched New Year’s resolutions, and Girl Scout cookies.
I’m feeling the stress, how about you?
For businesses, February is the time to reach out to your leads and see how they’re doing, to re-visit former clients to see what they need now. Talk about stress. I can’t tell you how often this month potential clients have told me: “Yes, we want to move forward, but not right now.” REALLY? Putting off hiring or HR issues aren’t going to make them go away. Here’s my rule of thumb—if you know you need something done, you likely should have done it yesterday. But today’s good, too. Let’s get it done now.
These delays got me thinking about my own business. Am I delaying as well? What are my current business needs, and how am I getting in my own way?
Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating love, which reminds me that one of my goals for the year is to fully love where I am and celebrate my accomplishments. I call this business love. So why don’t you do the same? Take a few moments (or more) to celebrate what you love about your business. Not only will this temper the stress, it will reignite the spark while reminding you why you got into business in the first place.
Here are three steps you can take to shift into gratitude and refocus your February frustrations into business love:
- Set boundaries. This can mean many things, but the most important is to own your business, don’t let it own you. Set call hours on your electronic calendar, take Saturday and Sundays off, block off time to work those long-term projects you keep putting off. Whatever you decide, make it right for you – and stick to it!
- Treat your business as a client. Speaking of long-term projects, give your business one or more hours a week to work on the big picture. Maybe that means creating a marketing strategy and calendar, working intensely on your billing, or creating processes and procedures to automate your business. Whatever you need that week is what you focus on. And no matter what, keep the appointment with your business. You would never dream of canceling on a client, so don’t cancel on yourself.
- Embrace the scary. I have news for you. You are never going to be completely 100% ready to take that next move. There will always be a degree of fear. Is this the right decision? Did I just ruin my business? Run with the fear rather than away from it. Think of it as that “Oh my gosh, here we go” feeling you get in the pit of your stomach at the top of a roller coaster. Instead of holding your breath, closing your eyes, and hoping for the best, throw up your hands, scream at the top of your lungs, and enjoy the ride. Then give your business the love we’re talking about when you reach the end safe and sound.
This Valentine’s Day I wish nothing but love and abundance to you all. Here’s to reigniting the business spark.
As we ring in the New Year, it is a perfect time to reassess where you are, where your business is, and if everything is in alignment with your core values. Here are 5 ways to align your 1st Quarter 2023.
- Revisit your core values. What are 3 principles that you live your life, and run your business by? There are some great core value exercises out there and my favorite is Brene Brown’s. I visit this exercise every couple of years to make sure my goals and action steps are in line with what truly matters most to me.
- Take an honest look at the last year. Review what worked and didn’t work for your business. Cut yourself some slack if necessary. Remember strategic plans are living documents, and at their most effective, they change, evolve, and grow with your business as the year progresses. Strategic Plans are not chains holding you down but wings to launch your business as high as you want to go.
- Review your company’s policies and procedures. Start with the employee manual. Do you have one? Is it updated? Every business, regardless of the number of employees, should have an employee manual. These manuals are not just a list of rules and regulations. They are an opportunity to create and record the business culture you truly desire. Updating your manual is an opportunity to revisit your mission and value statements and share them with your staff.
- Re-visit your expectations and reflect on whether they are still relevant to your business. Are they in line with your core values? After you reflect on them make your expectations clear and put them in writing. And make sure your staff is brought up to speed with any changes.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek guidance. Maybe you aren’t sure if your expectations are clear and well-understood, and you need an objective outside perspective. Structure for Success is here to help! We specialize in bringing you that outside perspective. We take a look at your employees, your processes, and your culture to make sure they are in sync with your goals and expectations.
Don’t let fear paralyze you. Change can be good. Now is the time to set the pattern of excellence for the New Year.
Contact Wendy at Structure for Success to schedule a time to discuss your how to establish your goals and aspirations for 2023, and how to translate them into actionable business expectations for your company.
Why You Need HR in your Business
The nature of business is competitive. What are you doing to put yourself, your business, your product, and your employees above the others in your same market?
I have been in HR long enough to grow a thick skin – and to know that the average business owner does their own HR and doesn’t see the need to outsource it. I also know the average employee has experienced one, if not more, scary encounters with an HR professional. I started my business to prove that HR doesn’t have to be that way.
As your HR professional, I am the unofficial psychologist, teacher, career planner, detective, and peacemaker for your business. I do more than make sure your policies are compliant. I help with business development, employee advocacy and development, change implementation, and problem solving.
HR, and its execution, doesn’t need to be scary or spooky. We take the fear out of HR, we put the human back into HR, and we prove HR doesn’t have to suck!
Want to know how we can help you? Click here to book your appointment with Wendy
This time of year people are beginning to think about pumpkin spice, Halloween costumes and year end performance reviews. Oh you aren’t? That’s just me? And here I thought I was “normal.”
I am a huge Pumpkin Spice fan, but that isn’t what I want to talk about. Year-end performance reviews don’t need to be scary or spooky. They are a year-round process, and they begin with your regularly scheduled one-to-ones.
One tried and true leadership strategy is to focus on your people. I HIGHLY recommend you host one-to-one meetings every quarter at a minimum. Make it a priority. Not the weekly huddles, but the deeper “what do you want to do with your life” type one-to-one meetings. These meetings help you prepare, and stay on top of, the annual performance review process. They keep you in touch with your employees, and where they are in their job duties, their careers, and their goals.
Reminders for one-to-one scheduling:
- Schedule them. Put them on your, and your employee’s calendar.
- Not without warning though. I had an employee freak out once because I added a “coffee chat” to his calendar without his knowledge. He obsessed over if he was in trouble for days before he got up the nerve to ask me what the meeting was about.
- Do not reschedule them, unless absolutely necessary.
- You want your employee to know they are a priority, to feel heard, and to know you respect them, and their time. Constantly rescheduling the one-to-one meeting is an action that speaks louder than anything you could say.
Still a skeptic as to why you should hold them. “I mean I talk to my people so why do a special meeting?” Here are some benefits to holding one-to-one meetings with staff members.
- The one-on-one time creates a safe space for the employee to vent, celebrate, and problem solve.
- The airing of grievances. By being able to meet directly with you, employees can address concerns they have with other employees and not have it overheard.
- Airing their grievances in private can often be enough for employees to feel their concerns are being addressed.
- Established time to help struggling employees create achievable goals.
- Ask the questions the leaders need to know. Some of my favorite questions include the following:
- Does the employee feel significantly rewarded, supported, and valued?
- What is their preferred method of communication?
- Do they have the resources they feel they need to do their job duties well? If not, what would they add?
- If they could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing they would change?
- What is the best thing about their job, the company, you as a leader?
Hosting one-to-one meetings with your staff can, and should, be a sharing opportunity. These meetings foster strong communication, they help you keep your pulse on what is happening in your office and allow for a growth opportunity (if they provide feedback that stings). Running a small business can have its challenges. Some are fun, some are painfully excruciating. These one-to-one meetings should not be painful but an opening for you to learn about your people, elevate your business, enhance your communication skills, and most importantly improve your leadership abilities.
Some of my business clients are struggling. The employees who worked through the pandemic are feeling overworked and underappreciated. No one remembers what a true vacation feels like. I know I don’t and as a business owner it feels I can’t take a vacation. After interviewing my client’s employees, they feel the same way.
Here are some small but effective ways to help create and keep a positive work environment. This goes for the business owner and our employees.
- Create a positive morning ritual for everyone – In most office environments, people file into the office at different times and some have already endured a stressful commute to get there. I have found for myself, a quiet ritual of organization and check in is essential to structuring my day for success. In contrast, the employees I surveyed said they would love a little time to eat breakfast. Is your kitchen stocked with coffee and a breakfast food? There doesn’t need to be a huge buffet laid out every day, but being offered a pastry, a donut, a variety of yogurts, granola, and of course, coffee and tea can smooth their transition into the work environment. Have specialty creamers (you can even hold a vote on what flavors to offer) or different tea flavors. But the most important factor is to allow a little time for socialization prior to starting on the heavy work. Schedule a half hour (max) as breakfast time and don’t hold any meetings or schedule calls during that time. Sure, some workers may never participate, and will slide in the door at 8:15. But maybe what the employee needs most… is 15 minutes flex time.
- Say smaller thank yous – Most managers know how to say thank you to staff for the hours of work they put into the huge report. Or that they worked overtime to finish month end calculations on time. But don’t forget to offer the smaller ‘thanks.’ “You did a great job handling that angry client yesterday, thank you for being so awesome.” “I really appreciate that you helped Sally out with that new quote. I realize that it wasn’t your job, but your help was invaluable.” For us business owners, I suggest celebrating everything – even what we consider a “small” win. Those add up too!
- Provide an outdoor space – Humans need sunlight, and studies have shown that being outside can provide a person with a sense of wellbeing. I know I am jealous of the “working by the pool” pictures. When was the last time you worked outside? Maybe not in July in Phoenix, but it is a nice change of scenery. Does your office have a courtyard with plants and tables where smoking isn’t allowed? Offer laptops for workers who want to go out and work in the sun. Just because they are outside, doesn’t mean that they aren’t working.
- Offer training opportunities – I am a firm believer in cross training staff. Small workshops that are provided by other employees can go a long way for counting as training as well as improving your staff. Employees that feel they are learning new things have a more positive attitude than workers who feel that they don’t have any growth opportunities. And leaders are always learning, so where can you, as a business owner, expand your knowledge? Watch that quick training video and count it as a win!
- Encourage small breaks – Historically, only smokers take small breaks throughout the day. But getting up from your desk and taking a 10-minute walk outside or spending a few minutes talking casually with another employee can help clear their head and disperse any lingering stress before they get back to work. If there are times that breaks should not be taken, don’t be afraid to create a schedule and employees will learn to work around their designated times. I wouldn’t encourage “popping” onto social media during your break – but listening to 10 minutes of your audio book isn’t a bad use of time. What helps you clear your mind and tackle that one issue that has you stumped?
- Allow decorations – When we moved into this suite, we found a gorgeous picture that we both love. It is the first thing I see every morning when I walk in. And I admit, after 2 years here, it still brings a smile to my face. Your employees also like their personal touches. Some employees may want plants in their space, others might consider it a waste of desk space. Allowing workers to decorate the space around their desk and add small personal items makes a person feel more relaxed and that they belong.
- Avoid negativity – Sometimes an employee needs a reminder to get some work done, maybe they were late for the 15th time and need a write up to help get them back on track. Things like this happen in HR. But remove those things from the immediate office environment, take the employee away from the general population to have the conversation. No one likes to be scolded in public. And for us business owners, don’t beat yourself up if you are late (I am stricter on my hours now than my corporate job was!). Quit beating yourself, and your employees up, over the little stuff.
- Celebrate small successes together – Pick a spot in the office, an unused white board, a blank wall – anywhere works – and encourage employees to attach sticky notes to the space to celebrate the small successes in life. Not every note may be work-related (but they should be work appropriate). It creates great workplace conversations and shows employees that there are small things in life that are positive. Add a note for that new client, add a note for the end of a difficult client relationship, add a note for birthdays, holidays, and small silly things like an employee’s child getting a soccer goal. It takes practice to be positive and celebrate small things but it makes a huge difference in attitude.
Changes don’t happen overnight but be consistent and keep trying. Don’t be afraid to experiment. No work environment ever improved by someone giving up. Positivity, like exercise, is a habit that you can improve on with practice.
During new employee one-to-ones I ask the employees how their Onboarding process went. I often clarify that I do not mean the handbook review, the paperwork, or even the facility tour – I mean the first 30 days in general. The fact that I have to explain what I mean is enough to show me that companies may not have fully grasped the concept of effective Onboarding.
‘Effective Onboarding’ are buzz words that are currently getting a lot of attention. When I ask my clients what they think it means, I typically hear inconsistent answers. They have vague ideas about how to hire people and the required HR and payroll paperwork that needs to be completed, but after that they are at a loss. Is there more? My answer – yes! Onboarding is much more than paperwork. It is an experience which sets the tone for the new employee’s employment as a whole. It is also the company’s opportunity to establish metrics, expectations, and boundaries. Additionally, it’s the perfect opportunity to remind the new employee why they chose your company to work with in the first place. You only get one shot at making a first impression.
Employee turnover is expensive. It costs money to recruit, interview, and ramp up employees. Having a high attrition of employees who don’t make it past the first three months can be a symptom of poor Onboarding processes. Here are some qualities to review when revamping your company’s Onboarding process.
People aren’t just looking for jobs. They are looking for a “forever home.” Remember my social media post about the hiring process being like the dating world? Well, there are people out there who are interviewing to find their one and only. Their “true love,” or in this case, their final job, ever. These candidates don’t enjoy being unemployed, it is far too stressful. The uncertainty of where your next rent check is coming from is never fun. Then they have to go about proving that they are worthy to the company bringing them on. I have seen several social media posts lately showing various interview and job offer nightmares (and not just clips from The Office, but real companies and the questions people have been asked). Let’s add to the new employee’s stress the process of landing an interview, nailing that interview, and then getting hired. Here is how you, as an employer, can help the anxious candidate know your company is a good fit:
- Instead of creating a “job” for incoming employees, help them create a “career.” Offer a living wage and benefits. Things like consistent hours, a growth plan, and built-in wage progression, can show applicants and entering employees that they are worth your time, your effort, and your financial investment. This shows the newbie they can be comfortable in their position and can plan to stay a while. Someone who can’t afford their rent is not going to stay with your company. Show them they are valued from the start and show them that they can build a career with your company.
- Work culture can be a big factor in employee turnover. Sometimes people just can’t work together, this is a fact of life. A manager may have a different managerial style than an employee can handle or is used to. There may be office politics that are distasteful to the new employee. One way to help flush out these issues before the employee ever starts is to have the employees socialize beforehand. Have them meet for lunch as a group, have them come to a company event, or have them shadow someone before they ever even accept the position. If your goal is to utilize their talents, the fact they don’t mesh in one team doesn’t mean you have to fire (or not hire) them. Shift them to a different manager or employee group. Don’t waste good talent by giving up too easily on an applicant.
- Have strong job descriptions that are accurate. So many times people are hired as a receptionist and then end up being given the “account manager” job for which they have not been trained. That can lead to new employees getting overwhelmed and overworked in ways that they aren’t ready for. It seems like an obvious statement, but you would be surprised how many of my interviews involve people saying they left a job because they ended up with a multitude of duties they didn’t want and weren’t hired or trained to do.
- Help them settle in by providing a single point of contact for them. Have you ever started a job with a company, walked in the first day, and had someone give you something to do that you have never done before? You sit there all day and struggle with the task and leave the first day feeling heart broken, frustrated, and disillusioned. Instead, have clear guidelines that instruct employees on exactly what their job requires. Have a plan to get them started their first day. If they are answering phones, then provide them with a script, an extension list for transfers, and an answer form for the most common questions asked over the phone. Stop relying on managers to know what to do with new employees and customize those job descriptions and their first day tasks for that employee. Assign them a mentor to help guide them. It’ll only take a few minutes of time and can go a long way at building trust with that new employee.
- Be accommodating to “life” while they get adjusted. New jobs mean new hours, new bosses, new coworkers, new commute, new lunch arrangements, new wardrobe requirements, new everything. Try to remember that your new employee has an “old” life that they need to attend to as well. Trying to navigate so many changes at once and juggling their existing life can get complicated. Schools will still call and ask for a sick kid to get picked up, kids still need to get to school, spouses still have cars that die and need help. Life still happens. Be understanding and flexible with your new employees as they settle into their new career with your company. Showing understanding at the beginning helps employees work out the kinks in their life and makes them feel valued in their new position.
Onboarding is a process that encapsulates the first 30 days of new employment, minimum. Ask yourself, what are you doing to aid your new employee in adjusting, understanding their position and expectations, and making them fall in love with your company?
I was lucky and I had an office to hide in during the pandemic. However, for many of my clients, remote work is here to stay. Yes, working from home has become the norm. When the pandemic started, I reminded businesses that it was important to maintain a healthy work/home balance and to respect people’s boundaries. How did that work out for you? For your employees?
I do one to ones with my client’s employees and one of my recent surveys was to find out how the boundary between work and home is going. The overwhelming response was an invasion of space has happened. The stress of around the clock work has begun to wear on staff members. Having your job present in your home 24/7 can have a profound impact on your employee’s stress level and can lead to poor retention and staff turnover.
As I work at home today, I am reminded of these quick pointers to help re-establish workplace boundaries. I wrote these with employees in mind – but leaders – it’s time we started doing this for ourselves as well.
- Re-Implement work hours – Over the last couple years, workers and managers alike have become accustomed to sending emails or text messages 24 hours a day and expecting an immediate response. Implementing “quiet hours” forces people to abide by them. Whether setting the email servers to hold emails between the hours of 6pm-6am until the workday starts, creating a strict “Do not disturb” policy for texting, or even shutting servers down, this can aid in releasing the strain of constant communication. It’s time to give your everyone back their free time.
- Reintroduce “Notes” – When employees are offered the opportunity to disengage for a few hours, they often think of things they need to discuss with co-workers. Encourage them to keep a list of reminders, which they can then discuss with other employees during workday hours. It can be amazing how much time is saved by employees when they have time to clearly think things through before they jump into action.
- Start re-integrating workers back into the office – Make it volunteer. Ask workers to return to the office slowly and let them choose the days (if applicable for their position). With the current childcare shortages and gas prices, forcing everyone to return instantly may lead to a high staff turnover as they struggle to find work alternatives. But if it is on a volunteer basis or offered with an incentive for people to return to the office, this will produce a more positive outcome for all. Remove work from their homes and you will be surprised at how quickly things change.
- Allow time flexibility – When my clients first switched to working at home, they found that some of their employees became more consistent in their work output. It wasn’t that the workers didn’t “have time” to work, it was simply that their lives didn’t fit well into the 9-5 of most offices. I remember one of my client’s had a single mom working for them with two small children. This employee was submitting her work at 11:00 pm or even 3:00 am but she was getting it done and met every single one of her deadlines. Be flexible. If they get the work done, why does it matter what time it gets done? And most importantly, remember that why they work better at 3:00 am is really none of your business.
- Remind workers that the phone exists – Not every meeting or conversation needs to be a video call. Phone conversations can be just as informative and more focused on the conversation and less focused. Checking out my hair, or being distracted by my cool visual background are a non-issue when I am chatting on the phone. I know phone calls are a bit “old school” but I encourage you to try it out. Not texting (the HR documentation Queen in me cringes), but a real in person and live phone call. Give it a try, you don’t need to see their desk, or their dog (although that is a perk) just get your information across.
These are common sense, but many of us need the reminder to keep our personal time sacred. If the pandemic taught me one thing, it is that I need time to recharge. If I don’t take that time, I am NO good to anyone. I bet I am not the only one to discover that. Let’s respect each other’s time and space.