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What is the Best Employee Onboarding Process

The benefits of effective employee onboarding are often overlooked. But, done correctly, onboarding will contribute to your organization’s financial health. When you make the effort to acclimate your new employees to their new roles, they will become productive more quickly and will stay longer.

Finding and training the right people is expensive, and you risk wasting financial resources if you don’t do everything you can to make your new hires successful. By creating an effective onboarding plan, you’re also shaping your company’s culture into an environment that bolsters teamwork.

Onboarding acclimates your new hires to the company and their position within it. The best employee onboarding process will steer new hires toward success in their roles and create alignment with the company’s culture and values.

New Employees and Getting Started

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when considering how to onboard a new employee. You’ll need to create an onboarding schedule that’s unique for each role, even though many tasks will be the same for all new hires. For example, every employee will need to know and understand your harassment policies, but those in management will require further training.

Additionally, there’s pressure to come up with creative new ways to onboard employees. Like most employers, you’re probably experiencing a shortage of qualified applicants. You don’t want to risk losing your new superstar under piles of employment forms and reels of outdated videos.  

COVID-19 has created yet another series of challenges as many human resource professionals wonder how to onboard new employees remotely. You can get started by breaking down the steps to onboard a new employee.

First, consider your onboarding goals. These goals will vary for each position. In general, the onboarding process should transform a new hire into a productive team member.

Determine the metrics you’ll use to measure how long it does take for a new employee to be productive. These metrics will become goals for the new hire. Determine the support your new hire will need to achieve each goal. Armed with this information, you’re ready to create an onboarding process flow chart.

Employee Joining Process Flow Chart

An employee onboarding process flow chart is a powerful visual tool because it creates benchmark deadlines. Your onboarding flow chart should take your onboarding processing from the preboarding stage through to the employee’s first annual review.

A team member should be assigned to each phase of the flow chart and a deadline should be assigned. Goals should be clearly communicated for each item. You can use onboarding software to manage communications and organize important documents.

Onboarding software can help you create a flow chart for the new hire training process. The flow chart you create with onboarding software can assign tasks to your onboarding team. The customized workflow can automate assignments and trigger reminders. Team members will be able to access files and reports from within the system.

Software can help you organize your onboarding process and save you time. Using software, you can easily create an onboarding process flow chart template for every position in your organization. New hires will be able to fill out their employment forms digitally and their information can seamlessly merge with your human resources system. Everyone on your team will spend less time inputting data and managing records.

New Employee Orientation

The best orientation practice will help your new employee understand how his role fits with the company’s larger picture. Orientation is your opportunity to present your company’s mission. This crucial introduction will help rally your employees around the company’s values. It’s a key component to creating a strong team.

Many organizations create games to make new employee orientation fun and memorable. You can create a mock game show using questions about the employee handbook. Or you can create an office scavenger hunt for new employees. To help new hires get to know their coworkers, give them an autograph book. Tell current employees to initiate a short get-to-know you conversation when they sign the book.

The best practices for employee onboarding will incorporate a technology perspective. You can use onboarding software to create training modules for your new hires. Use the triggering feature to avoid overwhelming employees. You can even send automatic reminders to gently nudge employees to complete training modules.

Onboarding software will come with free templates and checklists to make new employee orientation easier to manage. You can create new hire packets quickly and easily.

Virtual New Hire Orientation Ideas

COVID-19 has upended the onboarding process for many companies. If your organization operates in a state that has mandated work-at-home policies, you may be concerned about providing your new employees with the support they need. Even if your employees are able to work onsite, masks and social distancing policies may undercut your efforts at team building.

Now it’s even more critical to make sure new employees are able to build rapport with their coworkers. Advise supervisors and team members to check in with new employees while they learn to navigate their role in a pandemic world.

Many organizations have turned to creative ideas for new hire orientation during the pandemic. Make the most of virtual meetings. You can avoid “Zoom fatigue” by utilizing breakout rooms and doing interactive activities.

Team members can also create a welcome video for new hires. You can also encourage team members to have a virtual “coffee break” during which they can chat and get to know each other. You can use these techniques and others to encourage the socializing and relationship-building that happens naturally in the office.

Ideas for orientation can include a presentation for new hires during which the team can get to know each other with ice breaker questions. These ideas include employee orientation videos and PowerPoint slides that new hires can view remotely.

New Employee Welcome Packet PDF

You can send the digital portion of the welcome pack to the new hire’s email. Include welcome messages from the new hire’s manager and team members. Also include a link to the online benefits portal as well as their digital employment forms.

The welcome pack should include the things all new employees need to know. Include the company’s mission statement and organizational chart with the employee welcome booklet. The new employee welcome packet PDF should also include the company handbook and policies.

The welcome packet is also an opportunity for your new hire to get to know your brand. Throw in some company swag such as a t-shirt or a hat. Mix in professional items with fun items. A personal development book with something fun like a mini basketball net to go over the waste basket will foster productivity and creativity.

Your new employee will grow as she moves through the stages of the onboarding process. The welcome packet, orientation, training, productivity goals and ultimately the first year performance review should all be structured to support your employee’s success.

Employee Onboarding Process Flow

The key to a smooth onboarding process is a checklist. Software can help you easily create and customize a checklist for each position. You’ll be able to assign tasks and deadlines from within the application. Each stakeholder will be able to access the checklist and communicate from within the software.

The employee onboarding process should flow seamlessly from the preparation stage all the way to the first annual review. When you use onboarding software, you can track your progress and data so you can improve the onboarding checklist over time. You can create a questionnaire for new hire’s to complete at the end of their first year to find ways to improve your onboarding process.

If you’re wondering what the phases of the onboarding process are, we’ve broken it down for you here.

Employee Onboarding Process Summary

Strong job growth over the past decade and, more recently, the pandemic have forced organizations to get creative with their employee onboarding process. The talent shortage of the past few years has made hiring more difficult. COVID-19 has made it difficult for new hires to build relationships and acclimate within their new organizations.

The unique challenges companies face going into 2021 mean the employee onboarding process is more important than ever. By using digital tools to foster community and putting extra effort into team building, you can increase employee retention and build a stronger team.

Companies are finding it takes more than converting their welcome packet into a PDF file to meet the digital challenges during the pandemic era. As it becomes more difficult to find and keep talent, more companies are asking what is the best employee onboarding process that will reduce turnover.

But the best onboarding process hasn’t changed in these stormy times. A new set of challenges simply helps you see the solution more clearly. By seeing the onboarding process as an opportunity to support your employee’s success and develop a dynamic company culture, you can bolster your organization’s financial health. 

 

Want to learn more about onboarding software?

Schedule a live demo today!

Photo by Nastuh Abootalebi on Unsplash

What are the Phases of Onboarding?

Onboarding is your secret weapon for attaining all sorts of goals for your business. For example, taking the time to make the best impression for new hires can help increase employee retention. Having a well-rounded training plan in place can catapult your new employee from lumbering novice to an agent of productive wizardry. The onboarding process can help you take the helm of your company’s culture to increase collaboration and reduce petty grumblings.

Small to medium-sized businesses often neglect the onboarding process at their peril. But realizing the potential of onboarding requires thoughtful planning. Taking new hires on the journey from clumsy newcomer to accomplished contributor calls for a phased onboarding plan.

Employee Onboarding Process Stages

You may find yourself saying “I hate the term onboarding” once you really take a deep dive into how you can make this process better. But I assure you, if you don’t take control of your new employees’ experience, your organization will suffer.

A good onboarding definition is simply the process of introducing your new employee into the organization. Employee onboarding can help your organization reach its financial goals, and that prospect is maximized when you create a phased plan for this important process.

Employee Onboarding Process Phases

There are six stages to employee onboarding. The first is project management, during which you plan and break down the steps for onboarding your new hire.

The second is preparation and pre-boarding. During this phase, you complete your background checks and brief the staff who will be taking part in the onboarding process. You’ll also communicate with your new hire to help ease lingering doubts about his new position.

Next is the tedious, yet necessary step, that you’re already familiar with: new hire paperwork. Employee onboarding software can help you easily crank out this administrative detail while saving time and reducing errors.

The fourth step is new employee orientation, followed by new employee training. During this phase, your new hire will be introduced to your organization’s structure and will learn how he fits in.

Finally, the last step, reviewing productivity and performance, will help you assess the success of the previous steps.

Process Project Management

In many ways, bringing in new hires and helping them evolve into productive and contributing members of the organization is no different than any other project. You can use the principles of project management to create your employee onboarding process flow. In this first phase, you consider your goals for the onboarding process and develop the basics, such as a timeline.

The goals you set for your new employee will help determine your metrics for the onboarding process. Make the goals specific with clear standards for success.

You want new hires to feel comfortable with how things are done at your company. You can do this by identifying what new hires need to know about the company’s culture and work environment. Consider assigning a coworker to mentor the new hire in the subtleties of staff interactions.

Remember that onboarding is a key factor in employee retention. Consider each onboarding stage from your new hire’s perspective. Consider what impression you want your new hires to have throughout each phase of the onboarding process.

The project management phase for the onboarding process workflow is also when you determine your timeline. Most employee turnover happens in the first year of employment. Incorporate support for that entire first year into your onboarding plan.

The project management phase is also a good time to rally your onboarding team. These are the people who will play a role in helping the new hire acclimate to her new role. Make sure each of these people understand their role in welcoming the new employee.

At the end of this stage, you’ll be able to create an onboarding process checklist. While many of the tasks on this checklist will apply to all new hires, you want to create a detailed checklist unique to each new hire’s position.

Download ExactHire's Employee Onboarding Checklist

Employee Onboarding Preparation And Pre-Boarding

The following onboarding process steps include everything on your checklist that happens before the new hire’s first day.

Don’t forget to think about the onboarding process project from the point of view of your new employee. In this sense, bringing on a new hire is much like your customer onboarding process. In other words, extend as much consideration to your new hire as you do your new customers.

Consider sending him a welcome email with photos and welcome messages from co-workers with whom he’ll be working closely. Include information about parking. Let them know which door they should enter through and who his first point of contact will be.

During the preparation phase, the new hire’s workstation should be set up with the relevant equipment and supplies. Don’t forget some company swag. It’s also a good time for the hiring manager or supervisor to send an email invitation to lunch.

This step in your employee onboarding process is also when you coordinate with security and the IT team to make sure the employee is outfitted with appropriate user IDs and access. Don’t forget to add the new hire to calendar invites and email distribution lists.

New Hire Paperwork

While business has seen a lot of changes in 2020, the content of new hire paperwork has stayed largely the same. From tax forms to payroll forms, the data gathered from paperwork keeps your company rolling and in compliance with important government guidelines.

The most tedious part of the new hire checklist, paperwork, is prone to mindless errors. Onboarding software can automate employment paperwork to save time and reduce errors. New hires will need to enter information only once to populate multiple forms. And the data they enter can cross over to your other human resources software.

After the new hire digitally signs her paperwork, paperless onboarding software can automatically direct her to the orientation checklist and training modules.

New Employee Orientation Checklist

Orientation is your opportunity to help your new hire acclimate to your company’s culture and conform to procedures. Your employee onboarding checklist will include all the items to go over during orientation. You can automate this portion of the new employee checklist with onboarding software. 

During this time, introduce your new hire to the company’s mission and its organizational chart. Your new hire checklist wouldn’t be complete without a review of the employee handbook and safety policies. Your new employee orientation checklist should also include benefits documents and basic administrative procedures from security to the telephone systems.

Your new employee onboarding checklist should include activities and/or content to help the new hire better understand your organization’s culture. Schedule lunch outings with key employees. Personal fact sheets are a great way for coworkers to learn about each other. Invite your new hire to complete one and give her access to her coworkers’ fact sheets.

Onboarding software is a great way to manage your new employee orientation checklist templates. You can find a free checklist here if you need ideas for what to include during orientation.  

Employee Training

Employee training is when your new hire learns the nuts and bolts of his new position. How long it takes to learn a new job depends on many factors. Your onboarding process should be thorough enough to encourage success, yet succinct enough for your new hire to get up to speed quickly. 

How long it does take for a new employee to be productive really depends on a comprehensive onboarding process. You should give your new employee access to training modules. Onboarding software can make the distribution and tracking of these modules easy.

New employee training should also be collaborative. Assign knowledgeable staff members to teach the new hire how to do various tasks. If you incorporate these tutorials as items on your onboarding software, you’ll be able to track their completion and coordinate communication between the stakeholders.

Throughout the training process, you should give your new employee clear standards by which they can gauge their own success. Help them feel comfortable and encourage them to ask questions. Their productivity and performance will depend on how well they grasp key information during the training phase.

New Hire Time to Productivity and Performance

Hopefully, these onboarding steps will lead to success in the last phase: productivity and performance. All of your goals for onboarding hinge on making sure your new hire graduates into a productive employee.

Once your new hire is trained, you can continue your onboarding efforts with support and feedback. Schedule meetings to provide feedback on the new hire’s performance. This is also a good time to introduce your new hire to additional training opportunities.

Let your new hire know his input is important, too. Ask him to provide feedback about the onboarding process. Encourage him to ask questions and address concerns.

From time to time, you’ll need to part ways with a recently hired employee. You can use onboarding software to manage your offboarding checklist. The data you acquire can be incorporated to give you a clearer picture of how to increase employee retention.

If you’re using onboarding software, you can effortlessly measure your onboarding success. Over time, you’ll collect enough data to know the average time it takes to onboard a new employee. You’ll be able to use that data to measure the time it takes that employee to reach the position’s expected level of productivity and competence.

A great onboarding process will help your organization develop effective, long-term employees. By reducing turnover and reducing the time it takes new hires to be fully productive employees, you’ll have a healthier bottom-line.

 

Want to learn more about onboarding software?

Schedule a live demo today!

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

9 Ways to Show Empathy When Employees Take a Leave of Absence

This is an easy time of year to remember to give thanks. With all the festivities of the holiday season, we don’t have to try that hard to show gratitude and be empathetic to others’ situations when things are going well. However, have you paused to reflect on how you demonstrate empathy during other times of the year?

The privilege to always show empathy and gratitude to others has never been more clear for me…as over the past couple of weeks I have cared for a close family member recovering from a challenging life event. I’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the numerous demonstrations of support received from family and friends…and co-workers.

Empathy in the workplace is worth serious conversation, as the degree to which it is championed varies significantly from one organization to the next. However, because we spend so much of our lives in the workplace, our organizations are one of the best venues to grow our empathy practices. One of the most practical applications of this opportunity is when employees must take a leave of absence due to their own health condition or to care for a family member.

In this blog, I’ll cover nine ways that employers may demonstrate empathy when employees take a leave of absence from work.

1 – Embrace a growth mindset

If your organization hasn’t traditionally gone above and beyond to empathize with employees who require leave, don’t fret. Your organizational capacity for empathy can improve if you and your company can create the space for that practice.

I believe most people want to be compassionate, but often things unintentionally get in the way. People become distracted with being busy to the point that they are not attuned to opportunities to align with others’ needs and make a meaningful impact. Create time to intentionally focus on empathy toward others throughout the month.

2 – Be reassuring and consistent

When an employee takes a leave of absence, it can be based on circumstances that were unanticipated. The potentially unknown duration for a leave of absence may create stress for an employee. Nevertheless, the situation does offer an opportunity for your organization to be reassuring as well as consistent with communication about leave benefits. This helps to build a foundation for trust and emotional safety from the perspective of the employee.

3 – Be specific with your offer

I’m the type of person that never wants to appear as if I am taking advantage of others by saying “yes” to non-specific offers of help. For example, I politely thank someone who says “let me know if you need anything” without ever seeking his assistance…because it may be too overwhelming to think about what that assistance would be…and whether it would be too big of an ask for that individual.

However, lately I’ve learned to say “yes,” and it’s been easier when people offer specific ways they can help. A gesture may be as simple as offering to clear a co-worker’s calendar on his behalf when he is called away to care for a loved one; or, offering to deliver a care package to get a teammate through hard times.

By articulating a tangible offer, I think it is easier for the beneficiary of the help to say “yes” because you take away a potentially distracting decision from him–that is, the decision of what type of help to seek. These gestures cut through the stress and anxiety experienced by your impacted co-worker and help him persevere. They are a partial roadmap in an uncertain time and help alleviate the burden of yet another decision.

4 – Utilize communication templates for efficiency

Have a template ready to quickly send leave administration paperwork to an affected employee when the need arises. Use technology (everything from an HRIS to a free Trello board) to create and manage leave-related touchpoints…think of it as employee onboarding for the leave process.

Make your content consistent, yet approachable, and answer questions like those recommended by Jellyvision:

  • How much time can I take off?
  • Will I be paid, and if so, how much?
  • Is my job safe…or should I worry?

Also, match and mirror the employee in terms of her preferred communication mode (e.g. email, phone, text, etc.). Be mindful of employee preferences when it comes to in-person communications during a difficult stretch. For example, know whether she would be comforted by a friendly hug or view it as an encroachment on her personal space.

5 – Designate a single point of contact

Have your HR representative ask the employee if he wishes for any updates to be shared with concerned co-workers. With the employee’s consent, ask him if he prefers a single point of contact for updates or if he is okay with other teammates reaching out to check in. Otherwise, he may find himself struggling to keep up with 50 text messages from concerned co-workers all at once.

Even if a person is active on social media with what is happening in his life, and connected to co-workers on that network, he may still appreciate a single person for communication in the workplace.

6 – Make it easy for others to help

As long as the employee has consented to the employer allowing others within the organization to help, the company can organize outreach efforts on behalf of the employee taking leave. For example, consider

  • allowing other employees to donate PTO or sick time,
  • using a site such as takethemameal.com to set up a meal sign-up sheet, or
  • organizing a sign-up sheet to ensure that a periodic visitor helps to keep the employee’s spirits up.

7 – Choose empathy rather than sympathy

While empathy and sympathy are closely related, empathy goes a bit further to put yourself in the shoes of a person experiencing an event. Conversely, sympathetic gestures often begin with a statement such as “at least you don’t have X going on.” While the intent of sympathy may be to put rose-colored glasses on a tough situation, it may not do anything to help someone through a rough spot. However, finding common ground through a similar shared experience and letting an employee know you that you’re available to provide support may prove more effective.

Truly listen to what an employee needs in a challenging moment. And, if you don’t have amazing advice, just tell her you hear her and are there to help. Active listening means you don’t think about your next statement before the other person is finished speaking. Rather, you pause and then restate what she said, and ask questions to hone in on how you can be of assistance.

8 – Train your managers

Not only is it good form for your managers to be sensitive to the emotional, physical and social stresses an employee may experience related to a leave of absence, but it’s also sound business practice to make sure your managers have undergone training to handle leave administration appropriately.

Without training, employers leave themselves open to liability resulting from “foolish” statements by uninformed managers, according to Jeff Nowak in this SHRM article.

9 – Be available for the long haul

It’s easy for an organization to be helpful in the early days of an employee’s challenge, but make sure you create triggers to check in with the employee when the initial shock has worn off, too. Recovery from challenging life events takes time and an employee’s communication and tangible needs may evolve throughout that process. For example, make it easy for an employee to understand what is necessary to extend a short term disability claim, or to see what accommodations are needed in order to return to work more quickly.

When was the last time you considered how “human” your company’s human resources efforts are when it comes to assisting teammates with challenging circumstances? In this season of Thanksgiving, let’s re-examine what we’re doing in the workplace to empathize with our employees’ life situations and lift them up when they need support.

Talking HR Technology on the JoyPowered Workspace Podcast

Have you jumped on the podcast-listening wave yet? If not, now’s your chance to listen to ExactHire’s own Jessica Stephenson talk with JoDee Curtis and Susan White, co-hosts of the “The JoyPowered™ Workspace Podcast,” about considerations for choosing and implementing HR Technology. Topics include making a business case for new HR technology, what to seek in a software application, and how to determine if a vendor’s customer support is really as exceptional as they say it is. Check out the podcast recording and episode Q&A highlights below.

HR Technology Podcast Episode Q&A Highlights

Tell us about your company, ExactHire, and what services and technology they provide.

We develop software that automates and improves the hiring process. Specifically, that includes HireCentric applicant tracking software and OnboardCentric employee onboarding software. We also have relationships and some integrations with a handful of employee assessments. All of our applications follow the Software-as-a-Service model, commonly known as SaaS.

How do you make a business case for incorporating more or new HR technology in your organization?

Making a business case starts with a discussion on how change can make the company more profitable. One of the primary reasons making a business case to senior management remains a challenging task is because the language and analytics traditionally used by HR professionals may not be as compelling to others in leadership roles. For instance, while turnover percentage and time-to-fill are reliable indicators to many in the human resources arena, these HR metrics don’t necessarily translate well to CFOs, COOs, or presidents.

For example, when adding applicant tracking or employee onboarding software, some HR leaders focus primarily on justifying these new applications by focusing on efficiencies gained and/or staff time saved. While these points certainly have merit, they also fall outside the common terminology of many finance and operations leaders. Because efficiency and staff time saved in HR are difficult to quantify and not as directly attributable to the bottom line, these savings may be discounted or dismissed entirely.

However, focusing on what direct impact those efficiencies can have on the revenue growth or profitability of the organization changes the conversation completely. Identify the KPIs that impact business outcomes and then paint the picture of how those business outcomes can be positively changed as the result of new technology implementation. Don’t forget to record benchmark levels for your KPIs and organize your findings for senior management. Consider a SWOT Analysis in which you are illustrating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and then spread the word to gather internal support from those who will be most heavily impacted by the software application.

Should HR technology revolve around an employer’s payroll system? Thoughts on integration vs. same system?

We certainly encounter employers pondering this question frequently, and what’s right for one organization won’t be ideal for another. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, so I’d suggest asking these questions to help determine which approach might be best for your employer.

  • First, what are the overall priorities of your organization, and for your HR department? For example, how important is recruiting relative to other HR functions? What about employee onboarding? If hiring is not a high volume activity, then that probably points you in one direction versus another.
  • Second, how much hiring will your organization do over the next year or two? Your projected volume is going to impact your choice, and it might also tie into the next question…
  • Which is…what specific applicant and/or employee data do I want to be pushed into payroll? So, once I’ve hired someone, what exactly from the applicant tracking or recruiting side should push into payroll? And, once those items are pushed, will I still need to key in additional info such as Social Security Number, birth date, etc. because an ATS wouldn’t necessarily house that kind of sensitive information. That’s a bigger question on the ATS side than the onboarding side. That is, if you’re pushing from an onboarding application into a payroll module. Make sure you understand what that is and make sure you understand how important it is and how much of it there is.
  • Looking at features, does your hiring volume necessitate you to consider a more robust system that has the bells and whistles you need with a better user experience; or, is end-to-end integration the most critical need?
  • How will your needs look next year or in a few years compared to today?
  • And finally… price, is there a notable difference between the options? If there is, what is the opportunity cost of choosing one solution over another… in terms of sacrificing a more robust feature set or conversely in time spent importing data in lieu of an integration option.

What should companies look for when choosing an effective technology partner?

  • Support. Be honest with yourself about your organization’s support needs, as well as how much implementation assistance will be required. Will your ongoing support needs be satisfied with a 3-day wait for the support tickets you submit, or do you really need same-day assistance in most cases? Consider the tech-savviness of your internal product champions, as well as your end users.
  • Training. Find out what training includes in the beginning? One session for all admin users? Sessions specific to restricted users too?  What else? What about when your department has turnover later on? Do you have access to recordings of your training sessions? How often is the product’s online knowledge base updated? Are there other resources you can use to get help: newsletters, Q&A sections, videos, animated GIFs in training tip sheets, etc.?

What are some things companies should look for when choosing an HR software application?

You must know your true needs vs. your “icing on the cake” wants when it comes to functionality.  Your priorities will be impacted by factors such as

  • your organization’s size and the industry in which you work,
  • security,
  • your compliance needs (for example, affirmative action plan reporting, E-Verify, work opportunity tax credit),
  • your average number of hires per year,
  • whether or not you have a decentralized or centralized org. structure,
  • the budget allocated to HR tech spending,
  • your need to integrate with any existing applications,
  • organizational growth plans, and
  • your potential need to move data from one system to another…in the case that you are leaving another provider, for example.

In evaluating these factors, remember to consider the needs of stakeholders such as HR administrators, hiring managers, supervisors, employees and payroll / finance partners.

How can I get technology vendors to help me develop a business case to senior management?

With evaluating a provider’s support resources as we talked about earlier, I would ask your tech vendor if they have any case studies, blogs, e-books or other content that help provide tips on how to make a business case, as well as specific ideas on which KPIs might be the most well-received by senior management. For example, talk in the language of profit per employee or revenue per employee rather than turnover. Additionally, if it’s important for your tech vendor to partner with you in discussions with your senior management team, go ahead and ask for that.

At ExactHire, we know that the product itself is not the only key to success for our clients. We strive to provide timely content that will help our users make the most of not just their product usage, but also how to tackle thorny HR topics they encounter on the job that might loosely relate to an aspect of our product. For example, tips on I9 audits, the latest on work opportunity tax credits, which states have adopted ban the box legislation or that now restrict salary history questions.

What do you do when the technology that works best for the HR team is not always what works best for the users?

Considering the user experience…both internal admin and hiring manager-level users, as well as applicants or existing employee end users…is critical to successful technology adoption. So, if you are in a position to select a new software application, there are some questions you can ask to assess whether you’re on the right track. Consider to what extent other specific groups in your organization will use the application. It may be more important to meet some groups’ needs than others.

  • How easy will it be to encourage others to consistently use the application?
  • Will you need to do some due diligence to train people on how to use it; or, does your partner do all that?
  • In either case, which will be the most well-received by your employees?
  • Will it be pulling teeth to get others to use the software? Consider the reasons why it may be.
  • Do you have the wrong software? Or, are employees overloaded with work and/or not as tech-savvy in some areas?
  • Where will others use your software? Will they mostly be on their desktop, or will it be via phone while on the go?
    • This answer will vary widely depending on whether you are looking at technology companies, healthcare and/or manufacturing clients, for example. If it’s while on the go, then make sure the interface is mobile-friendly.
  • And, finally, does the software have an employee self-service orientation that will ensure your data remains accurate into the future? That is, employees can make their own changes as circumstances change.

When purchasing technology, how might I project system needs a year from now, five years, to know if the system is easily customizable and scalable?

Like so many things, the answer for what is right for your organization will boil down to how well you know your organization. Be in tune with senior leaders’ plans for growth, what market conditions or legislative changes may impact your industry’s hiring curve, and whether you’re looking for any other functionality as a result of changing compliance needs. For example, in the next few years will you likely become a federal contractor of a certain threshold and subject to Affirmative Action Plan reporting for the first time?

Questions to bear in mind include:

  • Are the software application’s user logins unlimited? Or do you pay per user, or per job posting in the case of recruiting software?
  • Are there other HR modules you may wish to add in down the road? For example, learning management, performance management, etc.
  • If you’re using a single sign-on application available with a full HRIS, are the individual HR modules robust enough for your needs today and tomorrow?

How will we know if it will be easy to get to the data insights we need?

Think about the types of reports you run today, as well as what you wish would be easier to get insights on. Then, ask your tech partner if the available canned reports are sufficient to meet those needs. Find out if there’s a report building tool available to get insights on demand. If not, then what does it look like (in terms of time and cost), to get reports created by your vendor? Is it super time-consuming and/or expensive for those one-off requests?

Is it ok to ask to talk to other clients who are using the system; and, learn how they are using reports or have customized their own?

Absolutely it is. First, I recommend doing your homework and asking your own HR contacts for their feedback on different systems. Then, when you are late in the process with one or two final potential vendor partners, do ask them for references. Additionally, vendors may have existing content in the form of blogs, white papers, etc. that highlights customer use cases and illustrates how they’ve used products to solve specific customization and/or reporting requests.

Technology vendors always seem to think their customer support is terrific and available. What are some questions we might ask to get more specific answers?

I don’t disagree with that statement, so asking questions to get the actual data is important. Here are some suggestions:

  • How robust are the training materials available to learn the system? Better yet, don’t just ask this question…see how easy it is for you to find the training materials from the corporate website or within the support knowledge base. If it’s pretty easy to find materials when you’re not even a customer yet, it will only get better once you are.
  • How is customer support structured, and what is the average response time? I like this question because some providers will have tiered support services that provide more support for more money. Others will have the same level for every customer. If there is a tiered structure, then find out the difference in response time for each tier, as well as whether certain tiers only provide email support without phone assistance.
  • How long will product implementation take? This is a huge one as I’m sure we’ve all heard horror stories about systems that have taken more than a year to  implement! Know that the answer to this question will depend of course on what type of system you are implementing…an ATS should take less time than a full HRIS, of course. And some systems with multiple modules will not be implemented all at one time. So clarify whether implementation is likely to take only weeks or months and months…and then do your homework to validate whether the expectation set was the reality for other customers who previously implemented.
  • Finally, know that you play a huge role in the length of your own product implementation…many times implementations draft on because the customer isn’t responsive even when the vendor is.

What are the biggest internal obstacles to making a change to your HR technology stack?

In my experience, they fall into these buckets:

  • Budget
  • The staff bandwidth of your HR department
  • Getting employee and/or hiring manager buy-in to change
  • A lack of desired integration options
  • A lack of awareness about new features available in the market
  • Inertia – the pain of making a move from an existing system

Specific to an applicant tracking system, how might we also consider the candidate perspective?  What is most important and what issues have you had engaging applicants or employees in the past?

When considering the applicant experience, it really comes down to interface and time…particularly in the last few years. So you have these considerations:

  • What is the employment application length and is it easy to navigate?
  • Is there a mobile-friendly interface?
  • Can candidates find your job postings where they would expect them? (e.g. integration with external job boards, social media posting)
    • And on the onboarding side…the time it takes employees to complete new hire paperwork; update employee data.
  • Is it a joy for your workforce to interact with your HR software applications?

We are planning to implement a new HR technology that allows users a more self service model. What are some ways I can get employees to embrace the new technology?

I’m a huge advocate of informal videos and animated GIF images to help people pick up on things easily. Additionally, depending on the make-up of your workforce, you might consider in-person workshops or webinar training to help people understand the types of things they can input in the self-service model, as well as how often they can make changes, how they know the change was successfully entered, etc.

 

Check out the complete show notes for this episode of “The JoyPowered™ Workspace Podcast.”

ExactHire Tech-Based Employee Experience E-Book

 

Say ‘No’ to HR Inertia – Make a Case for Change

Making a business case for any kind of human resources process change starts with a discussion on how the change can make the company more profitable–though identifying the improved outcomes that lead to potential profit isn’t always an easy task. Furthermore, change naysayers may be mired in the mindset of “this is how things are done around here.”

In my experience, inertia is the most formidable obstacle to adopting new HR technology. It manifests itself in many ways, and in this blog I’ll share how comments ExactHire recently collected during software research calls substantiate inertia’s insidiousness. Additionally, we’ll discuss potential responses to act on that inertia in such a way that change is possible and more profit is realized for the organization.

Software Cost

Particularly in the case of a full human resources information system (HRIS), the cost of HR technology can quickly increase as modules for many aspects of HR are adopted by employers. While cost is a common objection that derails well-intended HR departments from exploring the latest technology options, in ExactHire’s 2018 Tech-Based Employee Experience Survey, a notable 40% of respondents indicated that their budget for HR technology spending had increased over the past year. Additionally, 48% of respondents had the same budget in 2018 as the previous year. Consequently, at least the majority of respondents aren’t experiencing contracting financial resources in their quest to find affordable HR technology.

88% of respondents maintained or increased their HR technology budget in the past year.

Nevertheless, cost is often the first red flag management throws when the topic of new technology is broached. Here are some of the stumbling blocks we uncovered in our research calls:

Objections

  • “We have been using our existing HRIS for 7 years now. I have shopped other systems, but management won’t agree to move away from our current application because they feel we haven’t gotten our money’s worth yet.” – Director of Human Resources, non-profit industry
  • “Our applicant tracking system was here when I arrived and there’s not a strong desire to move to anything else within our budget. As far as onboarding goes, spreadsheets and email are not ideal, but our lower volume of hiring makes it doable.” – Director of Talent Acquisition, software industry

Approach

Get at the heart of others’ concerns about cost. For example, there should be a difference in approach if others feel you’re already overspending for current software compared to if they are content with an existing software application and not in enough “pain” to make a change that may cost more.

Armed with an understanding of others’ motivations for objecting to change, consider how your organization’s future growth plans should impact any changes you make today. Ideally, the technology you use should be capable of meeting your needs for tomorrow, too. However, the optimal scenario exists when you can scale a platform to meet those needs over time without overpaying for features you don’t need prematurely.

Do you need all the bells and whistles now? If not, is it easy to add them later? Making a case for change is easier if you plan to implement functionality over time so you aren’t drinking from the fire hose–or paying through the nose.

And while financial “hard costs” (e.g. software implementation charges, monthly access fees, etc.) are the most apparent expenses associated with technology change, motivate management to consider new technology by focusing on the opportunity cost of not making a change and its potential long-term impact, too.

Scarcity of Time and Staff Bandwidth

In the same way that scarcity of time can be an advantage in an opportunity cost discussion, it can also perpetuate inertia. For many employers, allocating the staff resources necessary to explore and implement a new software platform is usually a bigger obstacle than an increase in access fees. A significant barrier to coaxing employers away from HRIS platforms they don’t like that much is time…the time associated with the implementation process and the training that stakeholders must undergo to use a new system effectively.

And even when an HR application isn’t liked that much, inertia may still be victorious as prospects implement additional native modules (e.g. recruiting, performance management, learning management, etc.) just because they are already part of the existing system–even if the system is poorly suited to the employer’s overall needs.

Objections

  • “I don’t know if we are going to stay with our existing software vendor…the more we tap into its various modules, the harder it is to pull away from it; meanwhile, the service is poor.” – HR Generalist, retail industry
  • “I actually had another vendor come in and give us a sales pitch…but the others in the room were reluctant to consider an alternative to our existing software at this time because the idea of a three- to four-month implementation process is daunting.” – Human Resources, physician group industry
  • “We handle recruiting manually with spreadsheets and do posting to third party job boards ourselves. We have applicant tracking, onboarding and other HR components in our HRIS, but they are too difficult to set up. It’s not worth our time to set them up. We would have to hire another full-time person just to set those modules up.” – HR Manager, portfolio company management industry

Approach

While it’s human nature to avoid situations that are expected to be unpleasant or even painful, to address the “change will take too much time” objection you must focus on the long-term impact of staying with a solution that is a mismatch for your employer’s needs. This approach can be aided by hard data on how many man hours are spent working around a system, redundantly entering data and/or manually completing tasks that could be automated for better efficiency. Then, calculate the cost of those man hours to come up with a quantitative answer for considering the return on investment for a new application.

Data is the key to determining whether a short-term disruption associated with software adoption is less expensive than the financial wake left by your existing software-assisted workflow. Bear in mind this takes a fatalistic approach of HR software vendors’ ability to successfully support clients through implementation in a reasonable time. However, employers’ fear of system change can be minimized by selecting a vendor with a strong track record of timely implementation assistance and ongoing support.

What if being short on time is significantly compounded by a small HR department? While you may be able to get over the hump of increased access fees, and you’re willing to dig in to switch systems, you still only have so much staff bandwidth to get it done along with all the other fires that pop up in the world of HR.

Ask this question: If there were no budget or manpower constraints, what would we be doing differently to support our employees and our organization’s mission? Even though you may think shirking the reality of budgets is like living in a fantasy world, your brainstorm will paint a picture of the ultimate vision for employee experience and clarify which HR-related tasks are most important for organizational success. Remember: retaining the best employees supports profitability.

With true vision in mind, process stakeholders have a starting point to examine the opportunity cost of individuals’ collective time. The true priorities of the department become evident and draw attention to the resource constraint that may be created by doing things the existing way relative to the cost of implementing change.

Buy-in and Support

Lastly, the inertia of static HR processes is often maintained by a difference in perspective between HR, employees and managers. One of the primary reasons making a business case to senior management remains a challenging task is because the language and analytics traditionally used by HR professionals may not be as intriguing to others in leadership roles. For instance, while turnover percentage and time-to-fill are reliable indicators to many in the human resources arena, these HR metrics don’t necessarily translate well to CFOs, COOs, or presidents.

Objections

  • “At the beginning of 2017, my organization needed to fill 70 open positions. We hired way more, but voluntary terminations have increased by dramatically more than the number of hires made–it’s the nature of the difficult work. In fact, we hired almost 400 people. Full time employee turnover is at 48%, and part-time turnover is an embarrassing 201%. Our management thinks we need to fix recruiting, but turnover is more attributable to poor experience. Our stats don’t lie.” – Director of HR, non-profit industry
  • “The three big barriers are: the bandwidth for our HR department to implement something new; getting buy-in from the field (it takes bandwidth to get buy-in); and, the cost to make those changes.” – Director of Human Resources, healthcare industry

Approach

Getting buy-in and support for technology change starts with HR software product owners getting on the same page as employees and senior managers. As the two comments above illustrate, different factors can be at play when it comes to stalled out tech decisions. However, the remedy for both objections starts with telling others what’s in it for them–and with language that is easy to understand.

Organizational decision makers care about the bottom line, and so remember that when attempting to alter their inert opinion on your existing software tools. For example, when adding applicant tracking or employee onboarding software, some HR leaders focus primarily on justifying these new applications by focusing on efficiencies gained and/or staff time saved.

While these metrics have merit, they also fall outside the common terminology of many finance and operations leaders. Because efficiency and staff time saved in HR are difficult to quantify and not as directly attributable to the bottom line, these savings may be discounted or dismissed entirely.

However, focusing on what direct impact those efficiencies can have on the revenue growth or profitability of the organization changes the conversation completely. Identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that impact business outcomes and then describe how those business outcomes can be positively changed as the result of new technology implementation.

Don’t forget to be prepared; come to management with a solution, not just a problem. Record benchmark levels for your KPIs and organize your findings in a manner consistent with how management prefers to process information and make decisions. Consider a SWOT Analysis supported by cost projections in which you are illustrating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

It’s also important to get buy-in from existing employees–particularly those who will be heavy users of new software. And, in the HR technology space, that often includes all employees when you consider the self-service options available with employee onboarding, time and record keeping, payroll and performance management interfaces.

Spread the word to gather internal support by regularly communicating about potential change, conducting research with potential users and assuring others that due diligence now will likely prevent the organization from finding itself with a need to adopt new technology later–when it’s potentially more painful to do so.

Most importantly, create triggers to constantly re-evaluate how technology is aligned with your organizational goals and how it is impacting your employee experience. Take action on lessons learned and communicate the impact of changes made to others so that your HR technology system is considered legitimate and positive to your workforce.

It Takes a Village

Don’t fall victim to the tendency to put off what you could do today until tomorrow. In addition to rallying the support of senior management and employees, look to your technology vendor to help you make a case for change.

Ask your vendor partners if they have case studies, blogs, e-books or other content that provide tips on how to make a business case, as well as specific ideas on which KPIs might be the most effective in demonstrating the financial impact of a potential change. If it’s important for your vendor to partner with you in discussions with your management team, make that request.

Daunting as new technology adoption may seem, know that you and your HR team don’t have to go it alone. Even when your existing system isn’t necessarily broken, fight the inertia of not wanting to bother with change, or not considering the exponential impact that additional efficiency may have on the employee experience.

Is Your HR Software Hurting Your Employee Experience?

Human resources technology is in a unique position to not only provide employers with employee experience data, but to also influence the quality of the employee experience, itself. For years software applications have allowed HR departments to more efficiently manage the administrative tasks associated with people management, but now through next generation interfaces, applications are enabling employee self-service in new and exciting ways, too.

From automatic prompts for new hires to schedule mentoring luncheons to instant access to an interactive, virtual organization chart, modern talent wants information on the go and on demand. But, despite the increasingly innovative ways in which automation can empower both employees and HR to process data, there should still always be a place for “actual human” engagement between applicants, employees, HR and management.

With so many options available in the HR tech space, and numerous factors impacting a successful vendor selection outcome, it’s no surprise that HR software often turns into a love-hate relationship with employers. The key to whether you have the most suitable HR software in place certainly depends on the degree to which it aligns with your people strategy, but also its ability to turn stored HR data into impactful workforce insights.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the following HR technology considerations for evaluating whether an application will have a positive impact on your organization’s overall employee experience.

  • Product implementation
  • Support and training
  • Integration vs. all-in-one
  • Employee self-service
  • Communication
  • Reporting and predictive insights

Product Implementation

You might ask how relevant the initial implementation phase is to the entire employee experience. After all, arguably it may only touch a handful of administrative users in human resources before the product is unveiled to an entire organization for use. However, how many of us have heard about painful software implementations that have taken (gasp!) more than a year!

While hopefully this is the exception more than the rule within your HR tribe, even month-long implementations can adversely impact the employee experience when you consider the hasty stop-gap plans that are used while waiting for a new product.

When selecting a technology vendor, verify whether implementation is likely to take weeks or months. Also, do research to substantiate whether this expectation has been accurate for other customers. If your plan is to implement more than one module of an application at different points in time, have a good understanding of how the vendor partner supports you in the first phase versus subsequent implementation phases (once the new client “honeymoon” may be over).

Support and Training

For many employers, the quality of the employee experience is influenced by the timeliness with which information is made available to employees upon their request. Some requests must be addressed by pulling data from HR software applications. Your organization’s ability to process these requests will depend not only on staff members’ ability to use the software effectively, but also the vendor’s responsiveness when your team needs assistance.

Take a hard look at your organization’s true support needs while thinking about the tech savviness of your own team as well as the quantity and quality of the vendor resources available. Will you be content to wait three days for a support ticket response from your vendor, or do you usually require same-day assistance? Is it easy to search for the training resources you need to learn how to use new software features? The faster you can get the information you need as an internal product champion, the faster you will be able to serve the needs of your own employees.

Integration vs. All-in-One

 

Should my organization adopt an all-in-one human resources information system (HRIS) or a series of stand-alone specialty applications?

This may be the most polarizing question in the HR technology space, and your preferred camp will depend on the needs of your employer. It may also depend on what you inherited from your predecessors when joining your organization. In fact, the chart below shows that many respondents from ExactHire’s 2018 Tech-Based Employee Experience Survey use both an HRIS and other stand-alone specialty applications. In fact, the two camps are not mutually exclusive.

  • HR Technology Product Mix
  • HRIS + stand-alone recruiting
  • HRIS + stand-alone onboarding
  • HRIS + stand-alone payroll
  • HRIS + other HR software
  • % Respondents
  • 38%
  • 8%
  • 13%
  • 22%

The following factors may help you determine which product mix is right for your organization.

Administrative pain points

Which pieces of the talent management process are taking up the most time for HR? When HR is buried in administration, “actual human” engagement suffers. If recruiting is the priority due to adding a new office location, for example, then a robust applicant tracking system may be desirable compared to a payroll company’s HRIS recruiting module. However, if hiring happens relatively infrequently but payroll is complicated, then an employer may prefer an HRIS with basic recruiting capabilities for the occasional job opening.

Data gaps and data redundancy

If end-to-end integration of data is the priority for your organization, then consider whether any sacrifices you make on features outweigh the opportunity cost of time spent on potential data export/import activities.

Or, if you plan on integrating separate solutions, understand how employees move through the virtual employment life cycle and make sure data remains accurate across systems and easily accessible.

Feature wish list

Will the functionality that applicants or existing employees expect from your organization (relative to your competitors) be available in an all-in-one system? Or, is there an application that you can use as your data change “single source of truth” that pushes information to periphery applications via one-way integration?

Growth plans

Do today’s tech needs look similar to your tech needs one to two years from now? If not, consider the scalability of any stand-alone applications and/or the ability to easily incorporate additional HRIS modules later.

Price

When evaluating different types of systems, think about what you need today and whether you are paying only for your needs today…or also for things you might need some day. Finding the balance between paying for scalability vs. paying for unnecessary feature bloat isn’t always easy. Spending more money on ultimately underutilized technology means less money available for other programs that may positively impact the employee experience.

Employee Self-Service

Customer self-service options abound in the information economy. From scanning your own groceries to using Alexa as your modern mix tape, consumers’ ability to help themselves is a killer advantage in the competition for market share. The same dynamic exists in the employment arena–employers that implement the right combination of personal interaction mixed with savvy self-service options are winners in the war for talent.

And not only does giving employees the ability to help themselves engage them, it frees HR to work on other experience initiatives. Additionally, it ensures the accuracy of HR data since it is regularly verified by the true authority on the data–the employee.

Be sure and have a clear understanding of how any software application’s self-service options may empower your own employees to do more. For example, look for applications that provide subsequent prompts for users to take advantage of other features that would be of interest based on their existing system usage or profile. By providing employees prompts to provide more information over time, software improves the user experience and avoids leaving employees feeling like they are “drinking from the fire hose” just to start using an application.

Communication

Think about your employees’ primary means of communication within the organization. Is it predominantly email, or do many conversations live in chat windows or even in Slack? Wherever correspondence lives, it probably does so because that channel is comfortable, well-established and easy-to-use.

The same must be true of your HR technology in order to engage applicants or existing employees to use communication tools to collaborate on the employee lifecycle. Consider the following questions to assess a software application’s communication tools.

  • Is it easy to email someone from the software application? And if that person responds, is his response also documented in the software interface?
  • Can users easily connect with one another and take action on pending items within the application (e.g. assign tasks, make notes, update progress)?
  • Is it possible to schedule events within the software via calendar integration?
  • Do other integrations exist between the software application, social media sites and other related third party sites?

The more your human resources technology aligns with the communication style already preferred by your employees, the better. You want the tools you make available to your workforce to enhance its productivity…not disrupt it.

Reporting and Predictive Insights

One of the most exciting aspects of smart technology is how it enables us to transform stored data into actionable information–allowing employers to spot trends and take action. Emerging HR technology goes a step further and uses artificial intelligence to analyze existing data to predict future outcomes. These predictive insights are the competitive advantage employers need to attract talent that is the best fit for the organization and retain that talent for maximum productivity.

Insights traditionally originate in the reporting dashboard of your HR software. And, the degree to which you will be able to run customized reports and use existing data to make decisions about new hires or new HR processes will vary across software applications. In fact, in the aforementioned survey, only 42% of respondents indicated they have no issues extracting the information they need from their existing HR software.

  • Reporting Ease
  • Easy to report on desired information
  • Struggle to report on desired information
  • Cannot report on desired information
  • % Respondents
  • 42%
  • 43%
  • 15%

Many HR professionals regularly struggle to pull the reports they need even though the data is stored in their system somewhere. Causes of this struggle are often attributable to

  • siloed data living in different systems that are not integrated,
  • a complex HRIS that doesn’t have an easy-to-use reporting interface,
  • redundant data between system modules that is up-to-date in one module but not the other, or
  • having access only to canned reports without the ability to build custom reports on demand.

Your software shouldn’t be holding your employee data hostage.

Best-in-class HR technology gives administrative users access to a virtual workforce explorer to pull incredibly specific data insights on their employee population. Additionally, look for more functionality to marry data from one aspect of the employee life cycle to another to make better decisions. For example, do insights about your best performing existing employees allow you to better vet applicants with similar attributes? More specifically, does your software application prompt you to easily make those correlations?

Alleviating the Pain to Improve Employee Experience

Employees’ opinions about their own experience constantly evolve, and even the smallest radar blips can cause significant declines in satisfaction and engagement over time. The good news is that human resources technology is your tool for measuring the employee experience and capturing insights on how to improve it.

If you have reservations about your current system, then use the considerations presented in this blog to begin evaluating your next steps for incorporating HR software that is better suited to your organization. In our next blog, we’ll address strategies for making a business case for new technology adoption.

 

Which is Celebrated More at Your Organization–Talent or Tenacity?

How do you know when it is time to throw in the towel on your latest project? The answer will vary from one individual to another, and perhaps it is dependent on the current environmental circumstances, too. I have to say…January in the Midwest is an easy time to be a quitter despite all the best new year resolution intentions. So many things are stacked against you…the cold, the ice, the deprivation of consistent sunlight and the post-holiday withdrawal. So what keeps some of us going despite the odds?

Well, a tolerance for bearing subzero temperatures and a lifetime of Indiana winters is probably a decent start. But when it comes to losing weight, getting that degree, earning a promotion or achieving that lofty departmental goal, what matters more: talent or tenaciousness?

I think most reasonable people would say “a little of both.” However, Angela Duckworth makes the argument that “grit” counts for more than most people tend to believe in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She comments that most people would say that being a hard worker is more important than being a “natural.” Surprisingly, though, research studies suggest the subconscious proves the opposite. For example, this study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has shown that individuals presented with two different musicians’ profiles (one celebrating talent-based achievement and the other citing effort-based achievement) tend to pick the talent-based “natural” as the more successful musician upon hearing a musical selection–even though the two different selections are actually played by the same musician.

In this blog, I’ll share how concepts from Duckworth’s book can be applied to fostering grit and tenacity in your life and in your organization. First, let’s understand the relationship between talent, effort and achievement.

Why do we overemphasize talent?

One might argue that having a bias toward talent is a form of self-preservation. Would you rather beat yourself up for not having the swimming skills of Michael Phelps; or, would it be easier to chalk up your lack of pool prowess to the fact that Phelps was born to swim and isn’t even in the same category as you?

When we compare ourselves to genius…or even to a perceived “natural”…then we don’t have to feel bad about falling short because our relative disadvantage is out of our control. It then becomes easy to discount the long hours of practice that an expert has expended on his skill to achieve greatness.

Talent alone is not a means to greatness

But still, talent can’t be ignored, right? I mean, Michael Phelps does have a seven foot arm span which hasn’t hurt his gold medal prospects. There is in fact a place for talent. But what is worth more…talent or effort? And, what combination equals achievement?

In her book, Duckworth proposes that “with effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.” And so you must start with a little bit of talent…but natural talent left unpracticed will fall short of skill honed through effort over time. In fact, she argues that effort counts twice:

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

So, you might conclude that the more effort applied, the more your skill improves and the more you are capable of achieving even if you start with very little talent. Can you think of an example from your own life where this equation rang true?

I can. I played varsity basketball in high school and managed to be a starting forward my senior year, but my position was tenuous at times. I was decent, but less accomplished than the other starters. The one thing that over time distinguished me from the others was my ability to shoot with my weak hand on the left side of the basket. All the other players would generally practice with only their dominant right hand, but I started to see a knack for shooting–if only reasonably awkwardly–with my weak left hand when under the basket on the left side.

Seeing a spark of talent for doing so and with the encouragement of my coaches, I continued practicing with my off hand everyday until it felt like a natural move during the game. My flexibility to play both sides of the lane made me a valuable player in the starting spot and I even favored the left side because it gave me a competitive edge–particularly when I was fouled with an “and 1” opportunity rather than stuffed after shooting into a defender’s arms with my right hand on the left side.

Talent is a starting point for skill, but consistency of effort is what matters in the end. And while it might be fairly easy to examine this with the lens of your own life, it is applicable from an organizational standpoint, too. So, do the tenacious have a place at your organization?

Four elements of grit for your workforce

“A combination of passion and perseverance makes high achievers special.
High achievers have grit.” – from Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Duckworth identified four elements of grit in her book: interest, practice, purpose and hope. While the context of these was mostly focused on curating grit in individuals in her book, employers can use these same components to inspire conditions for creating gritty workforces.

  • Interest. Passion doesn’t exist unless employees enjoy what they do most of the time. While intrinsic motivation may not happen on day one, creating an environment in which employees have the opportunity to consistently develop their interests over time is a step in the right direction.
    • Encourage employees to belong to special interest groups.
    • Encourage cross-training between departments.
  • The capacity to practice. For grit to exist, there must be a drive toward skills mastery–the perseverance to continuously improve. Does your organization make it easy enough for employees to do deliberate practice of their skills–free from distraction?
    • Ensure that employees have access to quiet places to work without interruption.
    • Encourage supervisors and direct reports to work together to set stretch goals. When those are achieved, set new ones.
    • Champion a culture of timely feedback so that employees understand what adjustments to make to master their skills.
    • Train leaders and mentors to be effective coaches for employees as they practice their skills.
  • Purpose. Knowing that your work matters is powerful external motivation that can persist even longer than passion alone. Savvy employers successfully connect the work of individual employees to the energizing purpose of the overall organization. When an employee finds her purpose, it can be the difference between just a job and her life’s pursuit.
    • Challenge employees to evolve their job responsibilities to meet emerging organizational needs and satisfy their own developing interests.
    • Ask employees to seek out professional mentors that can help them connect a strong sense of purpose to their interests.
  • Hope. Hope is stick-to-itiveness–the ability to keep going when it’s tough, and be resilient enough to have a growth mindset. Does your organization empower employees to believe they have control over their own outcomes?
    • Foster optimism rather than helplessness when breaking tough news with business explanations that are temporary and specific, rather than permanent and broad, according to Duckworth’s book.
    • Train mentors and managers to be encouraging and open-minded rather than rehearsed and standardized in their approaches.

What are you doing to foster grit in your workforce?

The good news is that grit can grow. I think of it like a contagious muscle…if you surround yourselves with other gritty people it catches, and the more you exercise it the grittier you can become. Of course the opposite is true, too, so don’t fall into grit lethargy!

Start identifying activities that are gritty

With the necessity of being interested, having the ability to practice, finding purpose and having hope…it can be daunting to know which activities will catapult your employees to be, as Duckworth calls them, “paragons of grit.” She recommends starting with the “hard thing rule.”

The “Hard Thing Rule.”

Do something that is both interesting and hard…and do it for more than a year.

As I was reading this I thought, finally–justification for me running my two kids around to multiple activities such as scouts, soccer, basketball, and choir year after year! My own comment when defending my actions to others was that I want my kids to be used to being committed to and involved with something that teaches them something new….so that as they become teenagers they are used to being busy and don’t fall into the jaws of poor life decisions.

But the key to success is to let your kids…or your employees…chose their own interests/activities. To become truly gritty, however, studies referenced in the book suggest that involvement in a specific extracurricular activity must last two years. So, perhaps consider two year terms for your employer’s committees. Endurance and stamina for a task apparently count more than intensity in this context.

Create goal frameworks

What if your employees have lots of interests and goals? It might be hard for them to decide what to quit and what to focus on? Duckworth recommends prioritizing goals within a pyramid-like framework or ladder. The top level goal is an end in itself that remains unchanged for extended periods of time; whereas, the bottom level goals are minor tasks that are done to support the middle level and top level goals. The bottom level goals may be frequently replaced in the pursuit of other goals that might better support the top of the pyramid.

Organizational Tenacity | Create Goal Frameworks

So then, one might say that a gritty organization is one with a sound and well-communicated goal framework. The primary organizational goal is a big, hairy audacious one that takes some time to achieve, but that gives meaning to all initiatives below it. Less gritty organizations don’t have clearly defined hierarchical goals; or, they have a bunch of mid-level goals that compete with one another more than support a primary initiative.

Does your senior management team have passion and perseverance for big goals, as well as the capacity to lead supportive goal setting efforts throughout the organization?

Champion a gritty culture

When you hang around groups with strong social norms, then you either adopt many of the same behaviors for yourself over time or you eventually leave the group. If you want gritty employees, you need to have a gritty culture that challenges people to pursue interests, practice them over time and persevere despite setbacks.

Is there a clear breakpoint in employee tenure at which turnover significantly drops at your organization? If so, it’s probably the point at which newer employees feel as though they’ve assimilated fully into your culture–the point at which they’ve adopted your norms as their own and they identify and embrace them…even champion them moving forward.

  • What are you doing, then, to assimilate people into your culture more quickly?
  • Are you training managers and mentors to be beacons of grit?
  • Are you living your core values everyday?

Tenacity catalyzes talent

In conclusion, it is clear that you can’t forget the role talent plays in achievement. However, talent is amplified when continuous effort is applied to hone skill and lead to achievement. If you want gritty employees who have the capacity to put in the effort, then you might hire tenacious people who have demonstrated past performance of sustained effort on extracurricular interests. This can be unearthed in the interview process.

Additionally, examine your culture and workplace practices to see where you might apply the four components of grit to foster greater achievement within your organization.

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7 Steps to Reform Your Company’s Work Habits and Effectiveness

I’ve been trying to get in the habit of reading professional development-oriented books more regularly lately. Not surprisingly, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg caught my eye for that very reason. Of course, trying to lose that last 10 pounds might have initially fueled my interest in this book, too.

Let me say that this book is TRANSFORMATIONAL. No joke. While the neuroscience behind habit formation and reformation alone is already interesting to me, I never would have anticipated reading such a rich tapestry of interwoven stories and cultural knowledge as a means to comprehend the science behind our daily rituals. Here’s a teaser of the topics awaiting you in this work:

  • The presence of kebab vendors and their impact on the potential for restless citizens to riot.
  • The astounding ability for patients with brain injuries resulting in no short-term memory to still find their way home.
  • The Mad Men-esque story of how strategic advertising focused on habit cues launched Pepsodent into early toothpaste dominance.
  • The investigative research that turned the Febreze product from forgotten to famous.
  • The path from habit to addiction, and the moral questions surrounding the culpability of individuals stuck in the habit loop.

And just as individuals can slowly develop habits over time, whether positive or insidious…organizations are susceptible to the same tendencies as a group. This blog is about taking responsibility for organizational behavior and introducing small steps that can help form and reform positive workforce habits. These seven steps–now applied for the workplace–are inspired by concepts discussed in The Power of Habit.

1 – Identify your employer’s habit loop(s)

According to Duhigg, the “habit loop” is comprised of a cue, a subsequent behavior, and the realization of a reward. As simple as that sounds, it isn’t always obvious to us which cues trigger undesirable behavior habits. Moreover, the anticipated reward is sometimes obscured in a collection of different possible incentives.

Company Work Habit Changes

For example, in the book Duhigg recounts the story of a woman who had an embarrassing nail biting problem. Once she took the time, with outside help, to understand her habit loop, she realized that her cue to trigger the nail biting behavior was boredom, and her reward for doing so was the reassurance of pressure on her fingertips–something solid to ground her in an otherwise stressful day.

While scientific research tells us that innate habits never completely go away, we have learned that they can effectively be overwritten with new behaviors–as long as the behavior follows the same cue and leads to the preferred reward. For the nail biter, keys to change involved noting the number of times each week she had the urge to bite, and then replacing the biting behavior with tapping her fingers on her leg instead. With time, she was able to completely overcome her urge to nail bite by tapping her fingers anytime she became bored. After all, this new behavior still rewarded her with the pressure she craved on her fingertips…but in a more socially acceptable way.

What organizational habits bog down your employer? Do you suffer from

  • toxic communication styles,
  • the tendency for managers to skip 1-on-1 conversations with direct reports,
  • a culture of cutting corners when it comes to quality, or
  • inadequate and rushed employee onboarding processes?

Toxic communication styles could manifest in a number of different ways. But let’s say a common instance is managers who publicly undermine their direct reports by individually faulting them in internal communications and company-wide meetings. The cue for this behavior could be something as simple as the manager receiving a monthly report of goal progress from senior management, and the manager’s reward may be striving to look (arguably) good in the eyes of the C-suite.

It’s up to you to determine a positive behavior to replace this demoralizing and destructive blame game. For example, the manager might instead seek out the direct report to discuss the matter individually, and then together, come up with a plan to improve the goal progress the following month.

You might also explore tweaking the cue (in this case the email received with the monthly goal report) to make it less inflammatory and/or a means to remind the manager of the appropriate behavior that should follow.

Improved Habit Loop | Employer | ExactHire

2 – You gotta believe

While it’s true that habits can change, there’s a powerful obstacle in the way of habit transformation…cravings.

Duhigg explained how the repetition of the habit loop over time builds up anticipation of a reward in advance of actually receiving the reward. So, aside from simply altering cues and changing behaviors, a key element to overcoming bad habits is having the belief that it is indeed possible.

For the attendees of Alcoholics Anonymous (according to the book), that often boils down to the simple belief in an agnostic “higher power” plus a built-in support system to encourage you that you can succeed in conquering addiction.

For employees in your organization, fueling the belief in eventual habit change can happen in a number of ways:

  • Messaging from senior management that enthusiastically verbalizes belief in the new task at hand and the strength and ability of its employees.
  • Citing examples of past instances when the employer has realized positive change and what it took to get there.
  • Anticipating pitfalls that could lead to falling off the proverbial bandwagon and making plans about how to avoid those missteps in advance.
  • Empowering employees to be a part of the process by actively involving them in ideation, execution and evaluation of change management.
  • Pairing employees with peer buddies or mentors to whom they may turn when the urge to revert to past behavior resurfaces.

3 – Don’t underestimate the impact of small wins

An easy way to fuel your organization’s collective belief in the ability to change long-ingrained habits is by creating opportunities for frequent and attainable small wins. In Duhigg’s book, he details how Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps builds confidence in himself with pre-race rituals that form mini-habits on which he can build larger habits that enhance his performance and help him visualize his future success. Simple examples include his music playlist, the fact that he gets on and off the swim podium a certain number of times and his race week diet.

What small wins can you introduce at your company to build momentum for your organizational habit reformation?

  • Distribute afternoon snacks on Mondays.
  • Endeavor shorter, more digestible goals that are achieved over a couple of weeks rather than an entire quarter.
  • Take requests to play songs over the intercom on Fridays.
  • Hit a bong every time a new sale is made.
  • Offer a means for employees to publicly appreciate co-workers who go above and beyond during a specific week.

4 – Strong values support habit reformation

Consider how your core values support your existing company habits. Or, if you don’t have established core values that are officially recognized, you have an opportunity to create them and give employees expectations–essentially a plan–for understanding the right behaviors to fall back on when stress and time constraints take over.

In The Power of Habit, the story of how tension between surgeons and nurses at Rhode Island Hospital led to grave surgical mistakes was a powerful reminder that values and an organizational culture are significant drivers of habit. So contentious was the way in which many surgeons minimized the suggestions of assisting nurses, that on more than one occasion doctors operated on the wrong part of patients’ bodies despite urges from nurses to double check details–sometimes with fatal results.

Fortunately, however, the hospital amidst much public criticism and many malpractice lawsuits was able to engineer a turnaround. It instilled the importance of collaboration as a value and offered examples of how nurses and surgeons could implement protocols for working effectively together as a team before and during surgery.

5 – Focus on keystone habits first

Much like a keystone locks all the other stones in an arch into place, forming positive keystone habits can influence and change other habits for the better, as well. In his book, Duhigg tells the story of how mega coffee retailer Starbucks identified a keystone habit capable of influencing customer service in an optimal direction.

The challenge for Starbucks baristas was to deliver outstanding customer service despite the occurrence of cranky customers on a daily basis. I suppose in the coffee industry the instance of perturbed customers in search of their caffeine fix isn’t all that uncommon! Starbucks executives realized that “willpower” was their critical keystone habit at an organizational level, and they needed to turn it into a habit so that their employees could have the fortitude to be pleasant and helpful despite the occasional negative customer.

To do so, they built training curriculum around empowering employees to choose what their reaction would be to a negative customer well in advance of ever experiencing various situations. They essentially taught willpower and trained it as a muscle. That way, once the cue of a certain customer complaint arrived, baristas would already know the appropriate behavior to implement.

The book cited examples of how the identification of keystone habits can lead to widespread habit improvement. For example, people who start exercising (a keystone habit for many) often start budgeting expenses more regularly and getting more sleep. Families who eat together (another cited keystone habit) tend to raise more responsible, confident children.

Our ExactHire team recently rolled out the “Monthly Nom Nom,” which is a meal shared together the first week of every month. We did it as one of many ways to foster better connectivity in our office which is sometimes challenged by a very flexible work from home policy. Six months out of the year we plan a themed potluck, and the other six months the company springs for a catered, in-office meal. The result has been a better understanding of each other’s daily obstacles simply because better communication has been fostered by breaking bread together. Would the same keystone habit make an impact at your organization, or within your department? Or, perhaps one of these other habits could serve as your organizational keystone:

  • Wellness – Offering opportunities to feel better physically can have mental benefits, too.
  • Safety – Provide more confidence at work and in others’ effort to take precautions.
  • Customer service – Award incentives (aka “pieces of flair”) to employees who set the best example.
  • Continuous learning – Create opportunities and rewards for additional learning/training milestones (e.g. book clubs, certifications).

6 – In with the old…AND the new

Given my personal affinity for marketing strategy, I was especially intrigued by the real-life examples of how various organizations have induced consumers–through marketing tactics–into adopting new purchase behavior. Given especially large organizations’ access to highly-sophisticated predictive analytics tools, it is fairly straightforward for a company like Target to predict which women are pregnant before they have even shared the news with the public.

However, Target learned that access to this coveted knowledge can certainly “creep out” consumers if handled too directly. Essentially, they found that the difference between a direct mail piece that says “congratulations on your forthcoming bundle of joy” and a normal coupon mailer that subtly inserts baby product coupons amidst other innocuous household product coupons is billions of dollars in revenue.

Duhigg remarked that to sell something new, you must first wrap it in something familiar. Let that sink in, and then think about its application to your workforce. How many times has management forced a widespread change without buy-in and success amongst employees? The key is to introduce change alongside something that is comfortable and palatable for the audience.

Consider the example of moving from printed new hire paperwork to a paperless employee onboarding software application. With any new software roll-out, user adoption can be a struggle if not prepared for carefully. One way in which you might wrap a new onboarding software platform into something familiar is by emphasizing the fact that new hire paperwork forms will still look the same as in the past (just visible from a screen rather than printed out), but now that forms will be completed electronically it will improve legibility and cycle time.

7 – Don’t underestimate the value of social relationships

Just when you think it can’t get more varied than kebabs to toothpaste to Febreze to gambling addiction, Duhigg shares a compelling history of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycotts and Rosa Parks’ impact on the civil rights movement in America. He used these stories as a backdrop for understanding the dynamics that must be present for a widespread habit change to take root.

Not surprisingly, core relationships (such as with close friends and family members) are essential to igniting support for one’s objective. However, these relationships only reach so far into the potential network of supporters that are necessary to enact change at a critical mass. In the case of Rosa Parks, her refusal to move to the back of the bus sparked a revolution whereas African Americans who had done the same in previous years in Montgomery had not made their mark in history. So what was the difference?

According to Duhigg, it was the “power of weak ties.” Unlike her bus-riding predecessors, Rosa Parks was a member of a vast number of different social networks (through work, community organizations, ladies groups, church, etc.). She had a large number of loose acquaintances–aka weak ties. While these individuals weren’t her close confidants, they were likely to help her movement as a result of

  • peer pressure,
  • the wish to avoid ridicule or letting others down, and
  • as a simple form of self-preservation through reputation management.

Her large, loosely woven network was the fabric of change in the early civil rights movement. However, the final ingredient to changing the perceptions and habits of many Americans at that time was the emergence of strong leaders (e.g. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) and their ability to give new habits to people who would champion them on their own. For example, African Americans arranged carpools or walked to work instead of riding the buses.

So, from an employer standpoint, what can your organization do to leverage the social ties of your employees? After all, getting buy-in for change from your workforce will be much easier if employees perceive that their peers are on board. Consider the following:

  • Appoint well-liked, high-performing employees as employer brand ambassadors to help carry out and support new changes.
  • Make it easy for employees to share good news about your organization by providing suggested content for social media posts and emails to outside community influencers.
  • Encourage employees to talk about changes within their own corporate peer networks and brainstorm ideas for transitioning smoothly.
  • Make sure senior management offers employees a specific plan for which new behaviors to implement in the face of old cues and triggers.
  • Enlist the help of vendors, clients, partners and employee family members to help support employees’ efforts to implement change and form new habits.

The Power of Habit emphasized that half the battle of remaking a habit is becoming aware of it and then recognizing the habit loop with its cue, behavior and reward. Now that you are better equipped to do so, you have a responsibility to make a plan for positive change in your own life and organization. I hope your first step in that direction is grabbing this book and reading it for yourself!

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7 Tips for Embracing the 80/20 Rule With Employee Talent

I’m sure you’ve heard of the 80/20 Rule before, but have you ever thought seriously about its impact on your talent management initiatives? Whether you like it or not, the Pareto Principle (another name for the rule) is likely at work within your workforce. Therefore, as few as 20 percent of your employees are driving about 80 percent of your productivity and success.

I started thinking about this principle after attending a very engaging program from my local SHRM chapter, IndySHRM, this week. The topic, “Total Rewards for a High Performing Culture” was jointly presented by Susan Rider and Karl Ahlrichs of Gregory & Appel Insurance here in Indianapolis. I enjoyed their presentation, and one of their slides discussed using a normal distribution (aka “Bell curve”) to segment the productivity of your workforce. This isn’t a new concept and has historically aligned with forced ranking performance management systems that assigned numerical ratings to employees grouped into three basic buckets–below average, average, and above average.

Taming the Long Tail of Performance

I support the idea that above average producers produce more per person than your large bucket of average producers, but it wasn’t until I came across this Josh Bersin article in Forbes that I thought about the “Power Law” distribution (aka “long tail”) as more accurately representative of the spectrum of employee productivity. And in my opinion, it is easier to support this because it optimistically suggests that everyone can move to being a “hyper performer” if they are in the right role. It doesn’t force the organization to have a set number of below average “1” ratings (on a scale of one to five for example). And, unlike a Bell curve, there aren’t an equivalent number of people above and below the mean.

 

Bell Curve Power Law Distributions

One of the hottest trends in human resources over the past few years is to rethink the performance management process and abandon the forced ranking systems of old. The good news is that the long tail distribution model supports that move and won’t disillusion people who have great potential by forcing them into the lackluster “average performer” bucket because there can only be a certain number of “above average” performers.

The bad news, however, is that your true top performers…your “hyper performers” as Bersin calls them…may impact your organization’s success to an even greater extent than you thought before.

You Must Treat Hyper Performers Differently

Does the header of this section make you feel uncomfortable? As an individual charged with human resources, talent management and/or business operations in your organization, you understand the necessity to value, engage and respect all employees…both from a legal and company culture-enriching standpoint. However, equality and equity don’t mean the same thing.

If you challenge, recognize and reward all of your employees equally, then your best ones (the left side “head” of the power distribution) will leave and your below average ones (the right side “long tail”) will stay. Then what happens to your productivity?

Long tail distribution head | ExactHire

So how do you disproportionately engage your hyper performers and your high potentials (i.e. on their way to being hyper)? If you don’t take action, then as Karl Ahlrichs said in the IndySHRM presentation, beware the sounds of smartphone pings in your office. They will be the precursor to your top talent leaving as recruiters engage them on LinkedIn.

Consider the following seven tips for motivating your most critically important high-performing employees. While many of these practices are good ideas to adopt for many groups of employees, their thoughtful application to the hyper performing group will reap the lion’s share of benefits…my estimate is around 80 percent, in fact!

1 – Understand motivators

When looking at your small group of hyper performers, don’t make the mistake of assuming that since they are all uber-productive, that they have the same long-term goals. One person may be purely driven by compensation; whereas, others might live for the flexible working arrangement you offer or the student loan debt assistance benefit you just rolled out.

Make strides to understand what motivates each unique person by using one or more of the following tools:

  • Have him take the StrengthsFinder assessment to unearth his five most prominent strengths. Then, try to align his opportunities with his strengths to bring him even deeper intrinsic satisfaction with his work.
  • If you used a behavioral assessment during the hiring process, such as the ProfileXT which shares primary interest categories for the individual, then double check that your employee has the opportunity to create…if one of her interests is being “creative,” for example.
  • Look back through notes from your employee’s interview or past 1-on-1 discussions to jog your memory on comments he made about what motivates him. Many organizations ask motivation-related questions during the hiring process and so you may already have the data at your fingertips. NOTE: Remember that a person’s motivators can change over time based on their current life experiences…so it doesn’t hurt to just ask, too.

2 – Conduct stay interviews

In lieu of an annual performance review, introduce the “stay interview” with the high performers in your organization. According to The Stay Interview by Richard Finnegan, employees–not supervisors–should set the agenda for these performance development meetings.

While the manager can get the discussion ball rolling using questions like “What are you learning here?” or “Why are you staying here?”, these are just conversation openers. As an employee answers these questions, the manager should ask follow-up questions to probe for additional insight in order to reveal the emotions or challenges at the core of the initial question responses, according to Finnegan.

3 – Communicate with context

My eight-year-old son recently reminded me that his elementary school has been studying Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People this year. The fifth habit is to “seek first to understand, then be understood.” The key to understanding the motivators of your top talent is to be a good listener and probe for additional information instead of just rattling off the next question on your list. In fact, a stay interview is a great time to do this exercise.

While listening is an essential part of communication, once you’ve heard your employees it is important to work with them to mutually discover how their interests may align with the overall objectives of the organization. When areas of synergy are identified, plan opportunities for additional development.

4 – Provide new learning experiences

With the 80/20 Rule in mind, consider the potentially high ROI on additional training for your best performers. These exceptionally productive employees may be hungry to learn new skills or be exposed to additional insights and perspectives; however, before you assume this note their motivations!

For the employees who do express interest, look for opportunities to send them to relevant conferences and courses. Involve them in the succession planning process and identify them as high potential candidates for specific roles. However, don’t tell an employee he is the shoe-in candidate as it can create entitlement and be counterproductive, according to a recent The Joy-Powered Workplace Podcast.

Gauge your hyper performers’ interest in a mentorship program. They may enjoy learning new skills while serving as a mentee to a more senior person in the organization; or, they might be motivated by the chance to help train other newcomers and up-and-comers within the organization. If you don’t yet have a formal mentoring program, perhaps one of your hyper performers would like to take that on as a special project.

5 – Offer stretch assignments

Speaking of special projects, your best performers may be at risk of becoming bored if they aren’t regularly presented with new challenges. Brainstorm with your senior management team, as well as your high performers, about any potential stretch assignments that could create a new efficiency and/or revenue stream for the organization, as well as give your best performers exposure to new skill development opportunities.

These individuals will appreciate the chance to explore new ideas, people and/or areas within the business, and it can be a good chance to feed their need to excel. At a minimum, this type of assignment can give them a chance to reinvent themselves and avoid burnout/boredom that may eventually seep into their daily work routine.

Additionally, being selected for a special stretch assignment is a nice way to award recognition to these exceptional individuals who are trusted to innovate for their employer.

6 – Customize recognition

We’re all hard-wired differently. While an extroverted, competitive salesperson may live for an unanticipated public mention of his name during the monthly staff meeting, an extremely introverted and stability-minded systems analyst would be quietly mortified to experience the same form of recognition.

If you’ve taken strides to understand your employees’ unique motivations, then your next step is to create customized recognition opportunities that will be welcomed by each individual on which they are bestowed. Maybe your systems analyst is a die-hard fan of chai lattes? Great, have your next 1-on-1 meeting at the local coffee house as a treat for her recent accomplishment.

7 – Disproportionately reward your stars

Consider this statement from the Bersin article:

“Just think about paying people based on the value they deliver (balanced by market wages and scarcity of skills) and you’ll probably conclude that too much of your compensation is based on tenure and history.”

Does that statement describe the state of compensation in your organization? If so, then you may have some work to do to keep your stars with your organization long-term. If your hyper performers, the 20 percent of them producing 80 percent of your company’s success, come to realize that length of employment is the most significant factor in improving their pay, then you’ve just crushed their motivation to work for you.

So what’s the answer? Why not recognize the substantial achievements of your most important talent with variable pay opportunities? While your fixed pay grades may limit you on salary increases, there’s room to get creative with one-time bonuses for important goal achievements that move the company forward (and arguably…pay for themselves).

But remember, not everyone is motivated by pay. So consider allowing your hyper performers to choose their own goals and corresponding bonus opportunities. A bonus could very well be a lump sum payment or additional paid time off; or, it might be the ability to enroll in a course (on the company’s dime) in which the employee’s been interested for some time. Involving the employee in the selection of goals and rewards allows her to take on a level of risk that suits her motivations as well as have a stake in her own reward outcomes.

A word of caution: with the privilege of selecting specific goals and rewards comes the responsibility of carefully measuring success and mitigating unintended consequences. Be sure to avoid creating an incentive for these unintended cobra farms (see #7 at this link).

Now that you’re equipped with some ideas for connecting with your best performers with the goal of keeping them productive for your organization, your next step is to reach out to them and better understand what makes them tick. While you hopefully already have a general sense of this for various high potential employees, you might be surprised by what you learn, too. Good luck!

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