My daughter works at the headquarters of Roots, an iconic Canadian fashion retailer. She called a few weeks ago about some questions she was asked during her first few months. For the most part, she understood the reasons behind the questions, but there was one that puzzled her: Do you have a best friend at work?
I explained she was probably being given a questionnaire about employee engagement, and that having a best friend at work is one indicator of engagement.
We make friends in so many ways: school, clubs, and being neighbours to mention just a few. One way of thinking is that schools and clubs take you through common experiences that you share with classmates. Friendships formed through clubs and neighbours are probably driven by common interests. In all cases, the shared interest or experience takes place over an extended period of time, through which people can gradually reveal themselves to others and steadily build bonds.
The same is likely true also for work. There is both the shared experience of working for the same company but also, in the case of engaged employees, a shared commitment to the company’s mission.
- First-Name basis
- Indirect friend
- Direct friend
- Close friend
- Best friend
In an organizational setting, new employees first encounter people as strangers. As they’re introduced to the organization, they get to know some people on a first-name basis. They might find that they share something in common with one or two of these people, which leads to a warmer relationship. I think you get the idea of how this can progress.
The more similarities people have and the more positive validation they get from each other, the more they develop mutual trust and they can move up the relationship scale.
The way I interpret the reason behind this question in the Q12 is that being a best friend means there is considerable mutual trust and information sharing between the two halves of the friendship. Trust is one of the underlying elements in high-performing teams. The trust is gradually built through shared experiences – usually with positive outcomes. However, in an organizational context, being a best friend probably means finding other connections besides work – common interests, such as sports or being a fan of a sports team.
My father was in the armed forces, and we moved around the country. Along the way, my parents formed many friendships with fellow families from the service – enduring relationships that spanned decades. It was a great role model for me to follow.
Playing a sport can be a great equalizer: the organizational hierarchy has nothing to do with skill level in sports. I used to play squash, and found it was a fun way to forge relationships with people in other departments in the organization. For me, it was squash; for others it could be hockey or golf or something else. You (hopefully) have some fun together but also you see others in a way that goes beyond their role in an organization. You’re letting down your guard while you’re doing this outside activity, but it can make it easier to approach a fellow employee when you need a favour or assistance with something. It can also promote cross-functional collaboration.
Personally, I’d like to see this question in the Q12 expressed more like “how many fellow employees fall into the different classifications on the friendship scale above”, or maybe “what is the highest degree of friendship you have with a fellow employee?” I like to see something other than a yes or no answer and something more easily quantified.
For a company like Roots, I think the founders want to be able to attract talented people on the basis of a vibrant corporate culture. Measuring employee engagement is just one way to put some metrics on culture, and engagement has also been demonstrated to have high correlation with customer satisfaction and overall corporate success.
As you can probably imagine, having close friendships at work can build employee loyalty. Working with people you like and respect helps build morale and, when morale is high, employees feel more comfortable taking on new challenges. Those challenges usually also lead a company to greater opportunities.
The seventh question in the Q12 is “At work, do my opinions seem to count?”
Many companies have tried suggestion boxes in an effort to get input from their employees. Often these efforts fail for a number of reasons:
If the employee’s suggestion saves the company a significant amount of money and the employee receives no monetary reward. Operational suggestions will dry up because employees feel management is trying to take credit for their thinking.
Sometimes the employees don’t take the suggestion box seriously and submit inane (sometimes profane) suggestions. Probably, in cases such as this, the employees feel distanced from their managers by being forced to contribute their ideas to a box instead of to a person.
Sometimes management pays only lip service to the suggestion process. They may say they’re listening to employees but they never provide any feedback or act on the suggestions that get submitted. Employees give up because they see no value in the process.
One easy thing that can be done to encourage more suggestions to be made by employees at all levels is for managers to get out of their offices and interact with their employees. It’s not enough to do it once a year; it has to be done regularly to be effective and for employees to accept it’s not a management gimmick. By being visible and approachable, employees will feel more comfortable coming forward to offer suggestions. Besides, the suggestion box is such an impersonal way to obtain input.
If you use a suggestion box, ensure every employee understands it’s their right to voice their opinions. Sure, you’ll get some rants from the disgruntled and disaffected but, if you see a consistent pattern of comments coming from several employees, that should be a red flag there’s something you should be acting on. Even if all you do is explain the reasons behind some company policy or procedure it’s better than ignoring the issue altogether.
Another thing that can help is to act on employee suggestions. Everyone loves to see ideas or dreams become reality, and your employees are no exception. Implementing employee ideas will instil pride in your team, and it will encourage more employees to bring their ideas forward.
I once had a new packaging customer it had taken my team almost two years to develop, and we wanted to make a good first impression on our first order. Although our plant was a union shop, I brought together the operators who’d be working on the order and asked them how they thought the order should be run and what would be the best materials to use. When the customer received his order, he called me up and said it was the best flexo printing he’d ever seen. The production team were justifiably proud of what they’d accomplished.
Interestingly, the union never raised a concern about how we managed this project. I think they saw this as a sign their members were being listened to and that their expertise was valued.
So, make a plan to get out of your office and devote 10%, 20% or 30% of your time to actively interacting with other employees in your company. Likely, within 6 months, you’ll notice a big positive change in performance.
Our last post described Gus Morrow’s first day at Lee Enterprises. For Gus, it was a very long day.
This time, let’s look at a company who does a better job of preparing for a new employee as we follow Chad Spencer through his first day at Amalgamated Industries.
Chad Spencer found the exit for Amalgamated Industries without any trouble and pulled up to the security gate at 8:25 on the dot.
As he rolled down his window, the guard said, “You must be the new fellow, Chad Spencer, is it?”
You’ve been assigned to spot number 423 – it’s in the fourth row and down to your left. Here’s your parking tag, just place it on your rearview mirror.
You’ll find the main entrance in Building 2 on the east side of the parking lot”
When Chad entered the reception area, the receptionist said to him, “Hi, I’m Betty Forbis. I’m the receptionist here. You must be Chad Spencer. Shelly in HR told me to expect you this morning. How are you?”
Betty gave Shelly a call, and, as she walked over to greet Chad she said, “Hi, Chad! Nice to see you again! Welcome to Amalgamated Industries! Did you have any difficulties finding your way here?”
Over a cup of coffee, Shelly suggested they start the day in HR, looking after the forms and other things to get him entered into the SAP system as a new employee.
“It’s not exciting”, Shelly said, “but it needs to get done so you can get paid and get enrolled in the benefits programs” They also went into a small room where Shelly to Chad’s photo and prepared his passcard so he could have access throughout the office.
We’ve lined up several meetings for you today. At 10, I’ll take you over to the sales department so you can spend some time with Dave Woods, the VP sales. At 11, Jimmy from IT will come to work with you on setting up your computer, accessing the network, setting up tour voice mail and so on.
Dave and a couple of other execs will come by at noon to take you out for lunch, so you can get to know each other more socially.
Shelly and Chad walked over to the sales department and knocked on Dave Woods’ door.
Shelly said, “Your new Director of Sales is ready to go”
Dave came over, shook Chad’s hand and said, “Good to see you again! Welcome aboard! How are things going so far?”
“So far, so good”, Chad replied. “Glad to be here. I’m looking forward to diving in.”
Dave led Chad over to an office, which had a tag beside the door saying, “Chad Spencer, Director of Sales”
“By the way,” Dave said, I’d like to introduce you to Amanda Lightfoot, she’ll be your executive assistant.”
Amanda led them into Chad’s office and said, “I’ve tried to get the room organized for you. Hope you like how the furniture’s arranged. If not, we can have maintenance change things for you. Your business cards are here. Your laptop’s on the desk and Jimmy from IT will be over at 11 to help you set up.”
“I wanted to suggest that you and I sit down tomorrow at 9:30 so we can go through files and project lists together to ensure you can find everything you need.”
“Wow”, said Chad, “That’d be really helpful. Thanks!”
Chad and Dave spent the next 45 minutes going over the organizational chart, an overview of the department’s key personnel and discussing projects.
Just after 11, there was a knock on the door, and someone poked their head in and said, “Hi. I’m Jimmy from IT. Welcome to Amalgamated Industries. Are you ready to spend some time getting your computer and system access set up?”
Dave excused himself, saying he’d be back at noon to pick up Chad for lunch. Jimmy gave Chad a tour of his new laptop and its capabilities. It was pre-loaded with Microsoft OFFICE, and the first thing they looked at was Outlook.
“We’ve set up your username with a temporary password, you should find some emails waiting for you after you log in. We’ve also set up accounts for you with SalesForce.com and Hootsuite so you can get going as soon as this afternoon, if you’d like. However, I thought you were probably already familiar with those, so I want to spend the rest of the morning showing you how to use our SAP system.”
By noon, Jimmy had Chad logged into SalesForce and helped him design a couple of reports. Jimmy also set up Chad’s phone and voicemail.
About quarter past 12, Dave stopped by and asked, “Are you ready for lunch? Grab your jacket and come along with me.”
Down in the lobby a couple of other people joined the group. Dave introduced Chad to Bob Fishman, the Eastern Region VP of sales and to Ed Hauptmann, one of the key account managers.
They drove off to Cedar Springs Golf and Country Club, which wasn’t too far away but had great food.
Over lunch, Dave explained that he wanted Chad to spend a couple of days with Ed so Ed could introduce him to their top 5 accounts and so Chad could get first-hand feedback from the customers on issues that were important to them.
When they got back to the office, Dave asked if he could spend an hour or so with Chad to explain the plan they had for him.
Sending you out with Ed Hauptmann gets you introduced to some of our key customers, but you’ll need to learn more about our sales process.
“I’d like you to head up a small task force to improve our order entry system. It’s something the sales staff have been complaining about, but we’ve never done anything about it. I know you’re new and not familiar with our systems or processes, but you bring fresh eyes to assessing the order entry process and it’ll give you a chance to work with and get to know more of the people here and I think, because you’re new, you’ll be asking more of the tough questions without be perceived as bossy. We think you’ll be able to pinpoint the key issues within a week and to present findings in two weeks. If we can get this project knocked off within 6 weeks, it’ll be a huge step forward for us.
“Something else we’ll do in two weeks’ time is assign you a couple of accounts of your own to manage. It’ll help you see how things work here, so you may identify other things that need to be changed. Some will be small ones, but we’ve asked each sales person to donate one account to you, and they’ll be sharing the commission for the first year to help ensure a good hand-off.
I’d like you to follow all your orders through the system, from receipt to delivery. Not only will you get to know the people who help make things happen, it’ll introduce you to our manufacturing process.
At the end of two months, we’re going to assign you to the plant to help you learn how our products are made. Go out and buy a pair of safety shoes because we’re going to have you work right on the line. It’ll help you get to know some of the people on the floor. See if you can get them to articulate their ideas for changes in the manufacturing process because that will be good feedback for both Operations and Marketing.
“Each Friday morning, we’ll meet in my office to review what you’ve learned during the week and to agree on plans and goals for the following week.
“Sound like a plan?”
“Sure does!” said Chad. “I can’t wait to get started”
Sometimes the best way to illustrate an idea is to give an example or tell a story. For onboarding, we wanted to illustrate two company’s approaches to orienting a new employee by describing their first day on the job.
In this post, we’re going to follow Gus Morrow on his first day on the job at Lee Enterprises. We apologize for the length of this story, but as you’ll see, for Gus it was a very long day.
The next post will follow another employee on his first day at a new employer.
Gus Morrow drove up the driveway to Lee Enterprises’ head office at 8:25 am to ensure he’d be ready to start his new job at 8:30.
When he got to the security gate, the guard asked who he was and the purpose of his visit.
Gus explained he was a new employee and that this was his first day.
The guard checked his briefing notes and told Gus he wasn’t on the list of employees, nor was he on the list of visitors expected for the day. He made a call to the main office and then directed Gus to park in the parking lot and showed him where the main entrance was so he could check in with reception.
When Gus got to the reception desk, the receptionist asked him the purpose of his visit.
“I’m just starting today as Director of Marketing. My name is Gus Morrow.”
“Oh. In that case, I’ll have to call HR for you and get someone to look after you.”
After about 10 minutes, a woman came into the reception area and walked over to Gus.
“Hi. You must be Gus Morrow. I’m Sheila McKay. I’m the payroll administrator here. Let’s go back to my office, and we can start you on the paperwork to get you on payroll.”
While Gus was filling in his tax forms, Debra Harris, the Director of Human Resources popped in and re-introduced herself.
“Hi, Gus. Welcome to Lee Enterprises. It’s good to have you here. Wish I could spend more time with you, but I’ve got an important meeting to attend. Sheila’s going to show you around and introduce you to people here.”
Sheila said, “You remember meeting John Holmes, our VP Marketing? Well, he got called to New York for a meeting this morning and won’t be back until Wednesday. I guess you can make yourself at home here and go through some files, read some magazines and maybe re-organize your office until he gets back. Here’s a copy of the employee manual. You can read it over as well”
“Is there a computer here I can use so I can start doing some competitive analysis?”
“Oh. We’ll have to put in a requisition to IT to get one for you. It shouldn’t take too long to get one for you. Maybe a day or two.”
Around noon, Gus was starting to feel hungry and poked his head out his office door. Everyone around was gone – presumably for lunch.
Resignedly, Gus grabbed his jacket, headed out the office and got in his car. He’d seen a Burger King on the highway into town and headed there.
When he drove back to Lee Industries, he went through the same routine as before with security.
“You’re supposed to scan your passcard here whenever you leave and re-enter the grounds. Don’t forget it next time! And where’s your parking permit. You need that, too.”
Gus has to be buzzed into the office area by the receptionist because he didn’t have a passcard, and headed for Sheila McKay’s office. She wasn’t there, so he found a pad of foolscap and wrote a quick note for her indicating he needed a passcard.
About 2:30, Sheila came round to Gus’ office and said, “We need to get you set up with a keycard. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll do that.”
In a small room off the HR department, Sheila took a photo of Gus and laminated a passcard for him. He reminded her he also needed a parking permit, so she dug one up for him.
On his way back to his office, Gus stopped to introduce himself to some of the other employees.
“We heard there was a new guy coming on board, but we didn’t know they’d hired someone”
“Nice to meet you! I hope they treat you better than Joe, your predecessor. They had security hustle him out of the office one Friday afternoon and he was screaming for them to take their hands off him.”
Just after 3:30 the phone rang. After racing back to his office, Gus just missed the call. He picked up the handset to access his voicemail, but the new design of the phone was hard to figure out, and there was no internal phone directory to figure out how to contact anyone.
A few minutes later, Sheila came to his office and said John Holmes was on the line for him. What was Gus’ extension so she could transfer the call? Gus went back to the phone to check, told Sheila the number and shortly thereafter, the phone rang once again.
“Hi, Gus.” Holmes said. ”Sorry I wasn’t able to be there on your first day to show you around, but something just came up with General Thermo, our biggest customer, and I got called to their New York office just last night. How’s it going?”
“Great”, said Gus. “I’m settling into my new office and getting things organized.”
“Which office did they put you in?” asked Holmes.
“308. Just down the hall from you” replied Gus.
“Dammit. They were supposed to put you in 302 – right next to my office. I’ll talk to Sheila and have her help you move down the hall. I don’t know why they put you in 308.”
By the way, I’d like you to spend tomorrow with Damien Cox, our VP Sales. I think you met him when you were interviewing. I’d like him to take you to visit a couple of customers tomorrow. Sales is going to need some marketing help on product design for these customers and it’d be a great way for you to see what some of the issues are in the field.”
“That’d be great”, said Gus. “Do you have any business cards for me to help introduce myself?”
“Oh, great! Another thing we forgot about! Ask Sheila to help you order some from the printer. Good luck tomorrow!”
“When do you get back to the office?”
“Probably Thursday. General Thermo’s got a new product they’ve developed and I’m bringing in a team to look after them. It’s good news, but it’s thrown a monkey wrench into getting your oriented. I’ll call you Wednesday morning to see how things went with Damien.”
Sheila and Gus got together to work on Gus’ business cards.
“OK. So my office is going to be 302, according to John Holmes. What’ll my extension be? And do I have a direct dial number?”
You extension will be 302, same as your office, but I’ll have to get someone in IT to tell me what the direct dial number will be.”
“What about my email address? What’s that going to be?”
“That’s another thing we need from IT. I can have someone come see you tomorrow to set those up.”
“I’m going to be out of the office with Damien Cox all day tomorrow. Can we make it Wednesday?”
By 4:30, Sheila and Gus had managed to move all the files down from 308 to 302. Gus spent the next half hour trying to work out how best to organize things.
It was just after 5 and, when Gus emerged from his office and looked around, all the other offices were empty. He turned out the lights on his way out of the office area, rode the elevator to the ground floor and started out for home.
When Gus got back to the parking lot he couldn’t find his car. He headed for the front gate, described the vehicle and asked the security guard if he’d seen it. The guard checked his notes and told him a car of that description had been towed away early in the afternoon. Apparently, it had been parked in the VP HR’s spot.
Gus sighed, got out his cellphone and called for a taxi.
Here are some things to consider when commenting:
- What was Lee Enterprises doing wrong in bringing Gus Morrow on board?
- What did they do right?
Our next post will describe Chad Spencer’s first day at Amalgamated Industries.
In the United States, a typical job tenure is two to four years. Each year, about 25% of the workforce experiences career transition whether it be through layoff, termination or just a desire to progress one’s career.
The unfortunate truth is that nearly half of all executives who move into new jobs leave them within 18 months of being hired. This has been verified by several sources. The Corporate Leadership Council reported that nearly half of new executive hires quit or are fired within the first 18 months at a new employer. Harvard Business School reported a 40% to 60% failure rate of US executives in 2003. Right Management consultants indicated that about 30% of new managers and executives fail at their new jobs and leave within 18 months.
We estimate the cost of turnover is about 35% of an incumbent’s total compensation (which considers recruiting fees and lost productivity among other things). With that in mind, for every $100,000 in executive compensation, this kind of turnover is costing $35,000 per year.
Some of these failures could be attributed to a lack of fit with the organization that wasn’t apparent during the recruiting process. Perhaps skills fell short of expectations and were not up to the task. You may want to believe all your employees are happy about the new guy, but what about those who feel they were passed over in favour of an outsider? But a large part is a function of the employers not doing enough to help ensure these new employees get off to a good start with their organization.
A recent study of onboarding practices by the Olinger Group of Chicago, sponsored by benefits consultancy ALEX reveals some startling data on how effective – or not- employers’ onboarding practices are. The survey collected inputs from 400 employees, representing a cross-section of age and seniority.
Only slightly more than half of the employees surveyed (52.3%) indicated their employer had a formal onboarding process. Another 37.5% indicated there was NO formal onboarding program in place at their companies. That still leaves about 10% who did not know if there was an onboarding program, which probably means there was none.
Note the emphasis on “formal”. All companies have some form of onboarding process. Usually, it’s ad hoc or just informally structured. Companies that have the lowest turnover rates have clearly defined processes for onboarding new hires.
The first day on a new job is a defining moment in an employee’s experience.
In the ALEX/Olinger study, 72.3% of respondents indicated they received no welcome message from their new supervisor. One in five did not have a desk on their first day, another quarter had no computer and over a third had no phone or voice mail on their first day. Does this sound like their employers planned for their arrival?
Just under a third (27%) of new employees say they arrived to their first day of work without having received a first day agenda.
Feedback is lacking. Nearly 44% of respondents indicated they received no formal written review of their progress from their manager within their first 90 days on the job.
There’s clearly a difference in the effect of onboarding on employee satisfaction. For those companies with formal onboarding processes, 71% of new hires rated their job satisfactions as “Very satisfied” or “Somewhat satisfied”. Without formal onboarding, employee satisfaction dropped to 25%. “New hires are nearly three times more likely to be “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the new job experience when their employers have an onboarding program in place.”
Aberdeen Group’s 2012 report, “Onboarding 2012: Accelerating Time to Performance” noted a couple of key items. First, among companies with best-in-class onboarding, 71% of new hires were rated as “Exceeds Expectations” vs. only 13% at companies with poor onboarding processes. Second, those companies with best-in-class onboarding observed an 11% improvement in employee retention while those companies with poor onboarding saw a 13% decrease in employee retention.
If you still think onboarding isn’t important, consider this. There’s significant payback in terms of customer satisfaction and customer retention that impact your bottom line. Companies with great onboarding processes realized 6 times the customer satisfaction and 5 times the customer retention rate compared with companies with poor onboarding practices,
Next week, we’ll walk you through what a good first day on the job should be.