Is your onboarding process being consistently observed?
You may not have a set onboarding process. Start by thinking about the steps that all new hires should go through in your organization, even if they haven’t been required or tracked in the past.
For example, you may not require that all new hires have one-on-one meetings with their managers, but you might expect that this should happen with every new hire whether or not it is part of a formal process.
If you do have an onboarding process in place, it’s best to survey your employees 90 days after they are hired and ask whether aspects of the process are happening formally, informally, or not happening.
Is onboarding enabling employees to do their jobs?
Your process should help them get up to speed.
Do they have the abilities, skills, tools, and resources that they need in order to do their jobs?
Are they able to shorten the productivity gap and quickly start contributing to the organization?
Is onboarding helping employees to engage?
Your process should help your employees bring their best selves to their work.
Do they feel aligned with the organization and bought in to where you are going?
Do they want to do their jobs?
Do they feel like they belong and are connected?
Do they have an understanding of the purpose of their work and how it’s tying to the goals and success of the organizations?
Do you have the right onboarding process?
A perfectly followed process is not necessarily effective. If you are observing a process but not getting the right outcomes, you should look into changing or modifying it.
Don’t mistake the energy of new employees as having a good onboarding process. It could just mean you are hiring people who are excited to start a new job (and get out of their old one)!
If your employees start off on the right foot with the right process, their levels of engagement will be much higher down the road because they’ve had a consistent experience and understand the expectations of the organization.
With most new jobs, we enjoy a certain “honeymoon phase.” We gush about the modern décor, our cool boss, the great benefits, or the fascinating work we do. We may even be accused of excessive PDA on LinkedIn, but we can’t help it! We are excited about the new opportunity. But what helps us remain engaged employees once the honeymoon is over? DecisionWise has found from over 20 years of research that there are 5 keys to employee engagement: Meaning, Autonomy, Growth, Impact, and Connection. Today I’d like to focus on growth and our own role in driving our personal development at work.
While every organization has some responsibility/incentive to grow their employees, we must take active ownership in shaping our growth experience and trajectory. Regardless of whether you’ve just started your career or are well on your way, you may realize you haven’t been focusing on growth because you don’t know where to start or past efforts seemed fruitless. For this reason, I offer you thoughts and tools to help you prepare the grounds for growth so that you can walk away and say, “I know how to grow in my career.”
Who Are You Right Now?
Thinking about the future and developing goals can feel overwhelming when you aren’t sure where to start. The first step in your plan should be to ascertain who you are right now.
Here are some questions to help you get to know yourself better.
What are my strengths?
What new activities am I interested in or willing to try?
We change periodically, and we shouldn’t hold onto old ideas about ourselves. How often do you find yourself thinking, “I’m so (insert adjective).” Well, maybe you aren’t “that” anymore, and you need to start telling yourself, “I’ve made great strides, now I’m (insert adjective).” Consider also observing and analyzing your own behavioral patterns. Are there any loops you need to jump out of? Be honest about your weaknesses. Remember your goal: discover and understand who you are right now.
Envision the Future of Your Dreams
If you don’t know where you want to go, you don’t know where you want to grow. Be curious. Ask yourself questions about your future goals and aspirations, and then use those answers to create a clear vision.
Do you value working as an individual contributor or do you want to manage people and projects?
Do you want to own a company or be an executive?
Why do you want to make that amount?
Do you want to make a certain amount of money?
Do you have certain conditions you’d like to work in?
Then, after you’ve answered a lot of soul-searching questions, think, dream, and plan. Think about the conditions that need to be met, the sacrifices you are willing to make, and the kind of person you want to be. TEDx speaker Pattie Dobrowolski says, “You can live the life you desire, it’s right there in front of you but in order to achieve it you must first see it, then believe it, and then you must graciously ask and train your brain to help you execute your vision.” Watch her TED Talk and learn how to “draw your future.”
Next, write down your technical skills. What software do you know? Write down your job-related and non-job-related technical skills. Write down skills you are using and skills that could be used in other positions. Then, start looking for job posts and see what skills employers are looking for. Take note of the skills that you don’t have but would be interested in learning. If you have a specific company you’d like to work for someday, discover their requirements for your role. Finally, ask your manager what skills you should develop to add value to your company.
Set up a Support System to Achieve Your Goals
So far, we have paused and become better acquainted with ourselves and assessed our current knowledge and skills. In reviewing those things, the fog around our futures has subsided a bit, and we are now ready to set up our support system. Don’t venture too far into any job without identifying a mentor. Mentors aren’t just a nice idea. Mentors help us improve our career outcomes in numerous ways. Does higher compensation, a greater number of promotions, and greater job satisfaction sound good to you? Dr. Lauren Bidwell, has summarized 30 years of research on the subject in Why Mentors Matter: A summary of 30 years of research.
Steps to help you identify a mentor
Get to know your coworkers by asking them about their current projects, what they are excited about, or what problems they are trying to solve.
Get to know your fellow employees on a more personal level by grabbing lunch or attending company events together.
Observe your colleagues on client-facing phone calls or take note of how they run or contribute to meetings.
Observe how you feel when certain people talk. Do you feel good around certain people? Do you feel excited by their ideas? Do they exhibit personality traits you’d like to improve? Do they inspire you to be more motivated, compassionate, hopeful, etc.?
Read and listen to content your coworkers produce.
Learn how to help those around you. Relationships develop naturally this way and become mutually beneficial.
Utilize Social Media for Career Success
Where would successful people be without partners, raving fans, loyal customers, friends and family who believed in them, or colleagues who pointed them in the right direction? We thrive when we are connected to others. Social media can help in this regard. I have enjoyed finding and following people on social media that inspire me, both in and outside my field.
I also find value in following interesting companies in my city, people who have the same role, or competitors. In doing this, I have discovered useful meetups, workshops, unique ways of doing business, and more. Start engaging with the content of those you follow. Then, when appropriate, try a private message. This approach can then lead to on-line conversations, phone calls, or lunch. When done with emotional intelligence, relationships from social media can flourish and lead to incredible opportunities.
Consume Content That Will Contribute to Career Growth
Your next step is to find and consume content that will help you grow in your career. Follow smart, engaged people. These people post content that will motivate you, teach you, and keep you informed on industry trends. Expose yourself to people who think and act differently than you. Challenging your own thoughts and beliefs sharpen your mind and make you practice critical thinking. Be strategic in whom you follow and avoid information overload.
How to Track Your Progress
If you can’t measure your effort and success, even the best intentions and plans to grow won’t yield results. Here is a brilliant career checklist that you can use to stay organized. Check in with yourself monthly to stay on track or find a more suitable interval. Put your list in a spreadsheet and date your check-ins with notes on each topic. This will help you track your progress and revisit your strategies. Now you have a powerful tool when you build a case for a raise, seek a promotion, or start the job hunt all over again.
Don’t you want to feel the same enthusiasm you had during your “honeymoon phase?” If you want to take control of your own engagement, rely less on your manager and more on yourself. An exceptional manager will help you grow in your career, and they should, but there is no guarantee. The person who cares the most about your career and development is you. Take charge of your own advancement. You already took a small step by reading this article. Now, take an even bigger step. Go find your favorite goal setting template, take yourself on a date, fill it out, jot down your vision for the future, and start getting to know the people who will help you bloom where you are planted.
In this episode, DecisionWise Senior Consultants, Christian Nielson and David Long discuss the purpose and methodology of onboarding surveys, using the reports to gather insight, and how the onboarding experience connects directly to employee engagement. Learn to “survey with a purpose” with this fascinating conversation.
The IKEA Effect is a cognitive bias that describes a fascinating human behavior. The effect was first identified and described in the Journal of Consumer Psychology by Michael Norton, Daniel Mochon, and Dan Ariely in their article, The IKEA effect: When labor leads to love. The basic premise is that when a person plays a partial role in building a product, they tend to assign a disproportionally higher value to the completed product. In other words, we are more invested in the items we help create. Think about how you beamed with pride at the last IKEA bookshelf you… ahem… “built”. Or, how your last Build-A-Bear creation became a member of your family.
The IKEA Effect concept applies to what we see with organizational change initiatives and, especially, efforts to improve employee engagement. Employees place a higher value on initiatives when they have played a role (even a small role) in designing and owning the solution. This is Change Management 101. It is more effective to manage a change through the employees, than to manage the employees through the change. Employees are more likely to adopt, adapt, and champion an idea/change/program when they feel a sense of ownership of the outcomes.
A key action planning conversation I have with organizations involves what we at DecisionWise call the “Transfer of Ownership.” Efforts to improve employee engagement will fall short if they are seen purely as HR initiatives. The ownership of a change initiative needs to be transferred to a larger group of employees, beyond HR. Sometimes this is done by driving ownership through the management hierarchy. But often I recommend forming groups of cross-functional employees called ambassadors or change champions. These groups should be formed and empowered not only to carry out action plans but also to design and build the action plans themselves. If these groups play a meaningful role in the creation of the plans, they are more likely to be personally vested in their success.
Let’s say your organization has a need to improve cross-functional collaboration. HR may know exactly what needs to happen to improve collaboration, but if the same actions are surfaced and planned by a team of cross-functional frontline influencers, there will be greater commitment created. It’s a powerful shift in an employee’s perception from things being done to them, versus things being done with them.
Leveraging more people in change initiatives not only spreads the sense of ownership and effort, it has the added value of bringing in fresh ideas from employees that are often the closest to opportunity areas. At DecisionWise, we run a workshop specifically designed to facilitate this transfer of ownership and collection of ideas for engagement initiatives. The workshop is called an Engagement Summit and it is part focus group and part action planning session. First, we meet with senior leadership and HR to prioritize key opportunities from their engagement survey, or the “what” we will work on. Next, we meet with a cross-functional team of influencers that represent key areas of the business to design the action plans, or the “how” we will work on these things.
When the workshop is over, the goal is to have a leadership team that is comfortable that the correct items are being addressed, and to have a tactical outline of next steps, and an engaged group of change agents determined to help improve key opportunities.
Employee engagement is not created solely by the senior leadership or human resources teams – though both groups play an important role. Culture, the employee experience, and ultimately employee engagement is shaped by the behaviors, values and beliefs of all employees. Effective engagement initiatives should leverage an employee’s natural desire to be part of the solution, to feel a sense of ownership and pride, and to value the outcomes.
In this episode, we sit down with DecisionWise President, Matthew Wride. We discuss his career and approach towards engagement, consulting, and leadership.
Matt joined DecisionWise in 2015, after serving as the COO for a start-up incubator and family office. Prior to making the transition to business management, Matt was a corporate attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah. Matt’s practice ranged from advising start-ups to handling complex mergers and acquisitions. Prior to practicing law, Matt was an accountant and consultant with Deloitte (formerly Deloitte & Touche) in Seattle, Washington and Salt Lake City, Utah. He is co-author of the book, The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results,published by Wiley & Sons.
Matt is an adjunct professor of political science at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. Besides his family, his true love is skiing Utah’s Rocky Mountains, where he is constantly in search of “champagne” powder and blue skies.
Wride received a J.D. from Willamette University College of Law, a Masters of Laws in Taxation (LL.M.) from the University of Washington, and a B.S. in Sociology from Brigham Young University.
A new CEO is hired, and your employee engagement scores decline across the board. Why? The answer is simple. A new leader has introduced a challenging wildcard into your employee experience (EX) – uncertainty. Of all the engagement killers we know of, uncertainty can be one of the most damaging. Unmet and unrealistic expectations are viral pathogens that disrupt and sabotage even the best EX. Expectation gaps undermine predictability, which is a key ingredient that increases and promotes trust.
Permit me to explain this destructive cycle. Increased employee engagement is an outcome of your EX, and your EX is that deliberate culture you have been cultivating through hard work, design-thinking, and careful leadership. Your EX works most efficiently when there are high levels of trust, which is built by deliberately aligning expectations between leaders and the workforce. One way to disrupt your EX is to introduce uncertainty, which weakens trust. When your EX is slowed by a lack of trust, engagement naturally declines.
This viewpoint, of course, is centered around the notion that stability is a primary goal of a good EX, and this is true in many instances. However, this concept might not apply in all cases. Uncertainty often leads to innovation and ingenuity. Your EX may get better after a good dose of disruption. So, as we address uncertainty, leaders are placed in the uneasy position of maintaining a delicate balance between predictability while allowing for disruption in order to test beliefs and boundaries. This blog will focus on one side of the equation – minimizing uncertainty’s downside. In a subsequent blog, we will explore the benefits realized when an EX is thrown upside down.
When confronting the challenges of uncertainty, we have found that certain organizational events are more dangerous than others because they introduce a disproportionate share of uncertainty into the EX equation. We call these EX/engagement disruptors, and they include everything from a merger, to a corporate restructuring, to a leadership shuffle, etc. Often, leaders become so engrossed in completing their merger or finalizing a new leadership chart that they forget to consider the consequences these disruptive events will have on the employee experience. They plow ahead, confident their transaction or restructuring will yield significant organizational benefits, but they forget to align expectations by carefully and consistently explaining how upcoming changes will alter the employee experience.
EX/engagement disruptors increase employee stress because most humans despise the unknown. We tend to worry about questions like these: “How will these changes impact me, my career, or future opportunities?” To keep these questions from becoming a nagging problem, here are some common EX/engagement disruptors to watch out for:
A merger, acquisition, or divestiture of a business unit. These are tricky situations because leaders not only have to worry about their current constituency, they also have additional expectations coming from a new culture. Or, in the case of a divestiture, leaders must work through the pain of losing friends and co-workers and help others do the same. All this stress can slow your EX and decrease engagement unless communication and expectation alignment is at an all-time high.
Changes to an organization’s hierarchy. Hierarchy and leadership changes happen when a board of directors or senior management feel the need to “shake things” up. Assignments are shifted, roles changed, individuals promoted, and others reassigned to lower levels. Changes like these can cause resentment by those whose power has been limited, while simultaneously emboldening others who see a pathway to higher levels. Internal politics become more visible and more important than ever. In this type of environment, we find lower productivity, increased stress and worry, and declining levels of engagement because the EX is no longer predictable. Returning to predictability and restoring trust is one antidote to these types of disruptive events.
A new CEO is appointed. With a new leader at the helm, your entire organization is wondering what will happen to them, their team, their projects, and whatever else that might be top of mind. As noted, uncertainty is a prime engagement killer. The organization makes a change to its core business. I am reminded of Overstock.com, and how they recently announced they are no longer focused on selling last year’s goods online.[i] They are now focused on crypto opportunities. That’s a huge change in focus and direction. New skillsets will be required, and many are left wondering about their future. It’s hard to be engaged when you are worried about whether you will have a job.
Market or regulatory changes. This one can be especially difficult. Think Boeing and the 737 Max airplane.[ii] An organization may encounter significant uncertainty due to market downturns, disasters, regulatory changes, or product defects. Again, it’s the same culprit – uncertainty. “What is going to happen to my company?”
One other thought about these disruptive events. Communication experts are incredibly skilled at helping leaders through the process of communicating with investors, analysts, and media during disruptive events. They often forget, however, to include a significant set of stakeholders – the organization’s employees.
While uncertainty will hamper most organizations from time to time, leaders can immunize their organizations by following these four suggestions when communicating with their employees:
First, give equal consideration to what you will tell your employees. If you are going to acquire a rival company, then don’t stop at the press release. Considering preparing an “EX release” – an internal messaging campaign that explains what is happening, when it will happen, what changes employees should expect, a promise to keep them updated, what you need from them, a list of resources for more information, and, specifically, something that will help quiet that nagging question of, “What is going to happen to me?”
Second, be specific in your communications efforts – don’t ever assume your employees will understand how their lives and careers will be impacted. Think through common scenarios. Consider using focus groups to gain additional insights. Create thought experiments and hypothetical case studies to guide and inform your thinking.
Third, overcommunicate, overcommunicate, and then overcommunicate. George Bernard Shaw said it best when he penned the following, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” It will take more time and effort than you think to align expectations and build trust.
Fourth, speak up! Offer to help your leadership team with the challenge of communicating to employees. Be an advocate. Explain why employee communication is important and offer to help lead initiatives to support effective employee communication as part of a disruptive event.
When uncertainty is inserted into the EX equation, expectations gaps arise and trust declines. Gaps are dangerous because employees fill in the missing pieces and often with expectations that favor them. This is where expectations become unrealistic. They start with a gap and evolve into something unmanageable. If you catch them early, however, expectations gaps can be narrowed, and trust will be built or restored. Your EX will be then be able to slough off the potentially damaging effects of EX/engagement disruptors.
In this article, I will discuss a number of concerns and how to cope with them while creating your own survey protocol. I will use an employee engagement survey as the example although the methods detailed below are generalizable to any type of survey. Here are 10 questions to consider for your next employee engagement survey: