Keys to Employee Engagement: 10. A Best Friend

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.

Headhunter, Recruiter, Manufacturing, FriendFriendship is a relationship that develops along a scale that goes something like this:

  1. Stranger
  2. First-Name basis
  3. Acquaintance 
  4. Indirect friend
  5. Direct friend
  6. Close friend
  7. 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.

Selling Strategy Part 1: Awareness

We said it before:  when you are in transition you need to know how to sell yourself to land that next opportunity.

If you’re in a sales or marketing role, you probably have a good idea how to proceed.  But, if your background is in some other field, you may not fully realize the  steps required to find a new employer and close the deal.

One of the simplest models for advertising or selling is called AIDA – an acronym for Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. It’s not the only model for the sales process, but it’s intuitive and easier to understand than the others.

We’re going to focus today on the first part – awareness.

Importance of AwarenessTo the right you’ll see a magazine ad from 1958 that was run by McGraw-Hill Magazines.  It shows someone – presumably a purchasing manager – who is trying to understand why he should buy what you’re selling.

He’s saying, “I don’t know who you are”, “I don’t know your company”, “I don’t know your company’s reputation”. The ad may be old, but the message hasn’t changed.

The message is that, unless someone knows about you, they can’t develop any reasons why they should do business with you.  You have to build awareness of yourself.

So, as a job seeker, what can you do to help potential hiring managers aware of you?

Social Media Presence

One place you can start is by ensuring you have a profile on the primary social media sites that employers and recruiters search to find potential hires.

Here are what are considered to be the Top 5:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Google+
  3. ZoomInfo
  4. FaceBook
  5. Jobster

ZoomInfo creates profiles by extracting data about people from public sites. Unlike the other platforms, you need to CLAIM your profile to take ownership over it.  Go into ZoomInfo and search for your name to see if a profile exists that looks like it could be you.  You’ll find an option to claim the profile by setting up an account and password.


Just having a presence on one of these sites is not sufficient for someone to find you easily.  You need to be an active participant.

LinkedIn has literally thousands of special-interest groups you can join. Your regular LinkedIn membership allows you to join up to 50 groups.  Choose ones that are relevant to your industry, your profession or others that just are of interest to you.  Many groups have job postings and/or job discussions, so it’s one way for you to become aware of employment opportunities.

You also can increase your awareness within these groups by participating in the discussions. Clicking on a “Like” icon is a start, but not very effective by itself.  It’s more important to start discussions or add comments to discussions posted by other group members.


Most professions have some kind of conference program and most industries have trade shows.  You probably attended these while you were employed.

It’s important to continue this kind of activity – especially if you are in some kind of leadership role.  Conferences and Trade Shows also provide networking opportunities and attending allows you to inform people you meet about your search for a new position – which brings us to our last suggestion.


Try to identify networking groups for your industry and/or profession and join them.  Sometimes, these can be events put on by a professional association. Sometimes they’re related to alumni from your college or university.

Try to supplement these by finding groups that have diverse membership, and so you are not networking with potential competitors for the kind of role you are seeking.

The important thing about networking is that, as you expand your network, the number of potential contacts within your network grows exponentially.  This is why networking is considered the most important job search activity of all.

You Mean I Need To Pay For Assessments Too?

This week’s post was contributed by Aline Ayoub, of Aline Ayoub HR Consulting. 

So far, we’ve discussed assessments in a broad context.  However, Aline’s expertise is in psychometric assessments, which are more formal and what we typically consider assessments to be.  Aline’s post doesn’t dwell on the specific types of assessment tools used, but rather describes the reasons you should consider using assessments as part of the hiring process.

Getting it Right the First Time

Small Business owners usually have limited budgets. At the same time, they’re not able to devote a lot of resources into their hiring process. Since you don’t hire in large volume, you may not have extensive experience in screening and evaluating candidates.

You need an efficient way to ensure you select the right candidates at the right place and the right time, without requiring a huge investment. Employment assessments can make the process easier and more reliable.

There Is More

Employee assessments can give you consistent, in-depth, and objective information about the people you interview. This includes the candidate’s:

  • Fit with business culture
  • Knowledge, skills, job performance, and developmental needs
  • Preferred learning and communication style
  • Integrity, reliability and work ethic, and attitude towards substance abuse
  • Response to conflict, stress, and frustration

Information uncovered from assessments helps you rely less on gut instinct and make smarter people decisions.

Specific Benefits

  • Selecting people most likely to succeed in a job
  • Accelerating time for people to become fully productive in a new role
  • Improving alignment and communication between managers and employees
  • Reducing workforce conflict and improving employee satisfaction
  • Maximizing each employee’s contribution to the organization
  • Reducing employee absenteeism and turnover
  • Reducing frequency and cost of theft
  • Increasing sales performance and customer loyalty
  • Enabling strategic workforce management and succession planning
  • Increasing overall workforce capability, productivity, and agility

 The average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30% of the individual’s first year potential earnings. Also, bad hiring decisions account for 30% of employee turnover in small businesses.

Employment assessments are a solution to your hiring nightmares. Are you convinced?

About Aline Ayoub

Aline has made a lifetime career in HR and has worked for major brands such as Hudson’s Bay Company, Loblaw’s and Sears Canada and founder of Aline Ayoub HR Consulting.  She is an award winning coach and has been recognized by the Leadership Action Centre.

Aline is fully certified to administer Myers-Briggs personality style assessment tools and is a strategic business partner with Profile International, global employment assessment organization. She is an active member of Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA). Aline is an expert in helping small businesses recruit and hire the right people through a unique hiring process she has developed. Aline is fully bilingual in English and French. 

You can contact her by email at or by phone at 416-368-0720


Measuring the Effectiveness of Onboarding

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.

Onboarding a new employeeA 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.