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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 You don’t want to risk losing your new superstar under piles of employment forms and reels of outdated videos.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. 

 

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Photo by Nastuh Abootalebi on Unsplash

Employer Strategies for Successfully Hiring Justice Involved Job Candidates

My gut tells me that many employers are open to the idea of hiring individuals from the justice involved community, but have historically avoided the opportunity for a variety of reasons. Whether they previously had an abundance of other candidates to consider or were intimidated about the steps involved, many organizations haven’t proactively included this untapped talent pool.

After all, they haven’t been sufficiently motivated to do so. That changes now.

Why you should consider hiring the justice involved population

Today, employers can’t afford NOT to look at every viable employee population. Increased awareness and support for inclusive hiring practices coupled with historically low unemployment suggest that the time is ripe for employers to implement strategies that successfully source and retain justice involved individuals.

Here are a few of the benefits to employers who engage employees who are formerly incarcerated or on work release, parole, or probation.

Better job candidate flow

Low unemployment is especially crippling for industries that traditionally experience high turnover in hourly positions and/or with a contingent workforce. With nearly one in three American adults holding a criminal record (ACLU, 2017), employers who are able to successfully engage this population are poised to win the war on talent.

Text Recruiting | Hourly Workers | ExactHire

Giving justice involved individuals another chance is the right thing to do

The formerly incarcerated combat a pervasive social stigma in many facets of their life, and it often impedes their ability to find work. In fact, according to the same ACLU study, 75% of formerly incarcerated people will remain unemployed a year after release. When someone has served his/her time, society should give them a second chance–not a re-sentence once they are released.

Reducing recidivism pays for itself

According to a 2018 special report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, across 30 states 5 out of 6 (a staggering 83%) of state prisoners released in 2005 were arrested at least once during the 9 years following their release. Recidivism, or the “tendency for a convicted criminal to reoffend,” is on the rise.

And, it’s no surprise when we consider the absence of sufficient resources to support transitioning justice involved individuals back into society. This makes it hard for the formerly incarcerated to get over what some call the “three hots and a cot” mentality.

Consider that the Gross National Product (GNP) is losing an estimated $78 billion to $87 billion annually as the justice involved remain unemployed, according to the aforementioned ACLU report.

Employer tax incentives

Companies who hire the formerly incarcerated may be eligible for hidden hiring incentives such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. WOTC is a federal tax credit available to employers that hire individuals from specific targeted groups that have consistently faced significant employment barriers. Among these targeted groups are “qualified ex-felons” who are defined as individuals who are hired within a year of being convicted of a felony, or being released from prison from the felony.

Create a supportive network to succeed with the justice involved

It’s one thing for companies to be compelled to act based on the benefits mentioned above; however, in order to realize success in hiring and retaining the justice involved job candidate population, your organization must implement an internal infrastructure that can accommodate their unique needs. Additionally, it should utilize established external resources that may already be available in your area to help transition the justice involved back to work.

This is easier said than done, as there is not an abundance of model employers showing the rest of us how to do it. And, perhaps that deficiency is part of the explanation for the slow adoption of hiring this population.

The best intentions are only a fraction of what’s required for success in employing the justice involved. Employers must put systems and services in place to get this source of talent back to work. According to SHRM’s Getting Talent Back to Work Toolkit, employers should focus on

  • Reliable Checks – working with reputable background checking agencies to make sure the data you use to make decisions about a candidate’s suitability for employment is sound.
  • Relevant Assessment – ensuring your organization’s methods for assessing criminal records on an individual basis are relevant.
  • Reasonable Risk – comprehending and assessing the reasonable risks associated with hiring this population so that you can proceed confidently.

Within these three categories, there are many steps organizations may take to set themselves up for a higher percentage of success in employing the justice involved population. Here are some ideas for consideration.

Make connections during the pre-release period

Consider offering a candidate training program for incarcerated individuals six months prior to their release. Just as you would approach tuition reimbursement for an in-demand nursing student, ask pre-release individuals who have been identified as good candidates for a commitment to work for your organization for a period of time so that they may receive important life skills and a starter wage. This type of arrangement can go far in building employee loyalty in a tough employee retention market.

Develop relationships in your community

Employing the justice involved is a careful undertaking, and can be enhanced by positive and close relationships with local sheriff departments and other representatives at the Department of Corrections (DOC), staffing agencies and other transitional support agencies.

Set expectations with internal staff

For success in employing the justice-involved population, you need to dedicate internal resources to properly setting expectations and training existing staff members on how to undergo this initiative in a productive way. Be realistic and transparent around challenges that may surface, and develop strategies about how your company will address those challenges before you find yourselves in the moment.

Make sure that your organizational structure models success for justice involved individuals. For example, don’t have a single working area or department where justice involved employees represent a majority of the unit. This is their time to transition back into the workforce and recognize positive habits and behavior from others who have succeeded in the organization. If you offset that balance, then negative habits can be perpetuated with poor outcomes.

Invest in offering on-site services for justice involved employees

Some justice involved individuals fall circumstance to rising recidivism rates because they don’t have reasonable access to the services and support they need to get a foothold in the world after release. If your organization is serious about successfully employing this population, then consider offering some of these services:

  • Reentry resources – Links to and documentation about existing public reentry services in your community. For example, Orange County, California has a robust post-incarceration resource toolkit on its website.
  • Basic food needs – Make information available about local food pantries and agencies that make sure people don’t go hungry. Help employees apply for food stamp benefits.
  • Spiritual support – Consider on-site chaplain services so employees can nurture any of their spiritual goals and confide in a third party.
  • Medical care – Make sure that employees are afforded time to take care of medical needs and given information about how to obtain access to prescription drugs, including mental health care when applicable.
  • Basic paperwork – Remember that your justice involved hires may need important documents either located and/or reproduced such as birth certificate, Social Security card, personal ID card and/or driver’s license.
  • Substance abuse support – Recognize that some of your justice involved hires may struggle with substance abuse and therefore create an environment that is supportive of substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation so that destructive habits that often lead to crime aren’t repeated.
  • Ride planning – In order to promptly arrive to your workplace, your employees may need ride sharing programs, access to information about convenient public transportation options, and/or an employer-provided bus to transport employees to and from their current residence or halfway house to your job site.
  • Flexibility for required meetings – A common challenge for recently released individuals is maintaining availability for a shift job while also showing up for required probation or parole officer meetings that might happen in the middle of the day. With proper communication, offer these workers flexibility to attend the meetings that are critical for their post-release success.
  • Soft skills training – In some cases, justice involved individuals may have never learned about or been exposed to positive models for appropriate communication, social behavior, or even cleanliness/hygiene. Understand that services around these soft skills may be critical for employing this population with success.

Communicate your intentions clearly

Because much of employers’ hesitancy to hire justice involve populations is attributable to the stigma often associated with the formerly incarcerated as well as the company’s tendency toward compliance and protectiveness, clear communication is a driver of employment success for this talent group.

Clear communication includes both adjustments in traditional employment policy as well as external job advertisements, company culture content and screening and interview process design.

Remember that it is a violation of Title VII to reject applicants because of criminal records unless it is job related and consistent with business necessity. Employers have an obligation to clearly define what is job related and consistent with business necessity. They should reevaluate the role and scope of background checks in the hiring process, and use effective job evaluation to identify which criminal offenses will not work with which jobs.

Set realistic expectations with your justice involved candidates

Not every employer is going to be able to employ every justice involved employee. However, there is power and respect in being transparent about the opportunities and potential path available with your organization. I recently attended an event (more on that below) where they talked about the “ABC Jobs” trajectory for the justice involved:

  • Any job
  • Better job
  • Career

Which of those types of jobs can you offer this population? And, if it is just any job that has a low wage, how can you prepare that individual to succeed in that job and then move on to another organization (maybe one with which you partner on these programs) where they can achieve the next step?

This job pathing model can improve your community by creating work that improves individuals, makes your company productive and advances the public good through reduced spending due to rampant recidivism.

Anticipate potential setbacks

There will be ups and downs in any endeavor to create an infrastructure for employing justice involved populations…as there is with any other talent population, too. However, being aware of setbacks through conversation with other employers, local law enforcement, state agencies, etc. will bring to light things you can plan to address:

  • “Ban the box” legislation – Do you have work sites in geographic areas that are NOT subject to “ban the box”? If so, then take another look at your employment application and consider whether any questions about a candidate’s criminal history are potentially deterring qualified, but justice involved individuals from considering employment with your organization.
  • Shift challenges – Is your work shift schedule such that it makes it impossible to accommodate the needs of justice involved individuals who must attend parole meetings? As previously mentioned, take measures now to consider alternative strategies for meeting transportation needs and addressing shift requirements.
  • Recognize bias toward unexplained issues – I recently met someone who is employed with the city government and who was previously justice involved. She explained that it is not uncommon for little, unexpected things to happen that can adversely impact the positive trajectory of a justice involved individual. She encourages others to get the facts before jumping to negative conclusions. For example, she has seen malfunctioning ankle bracelets cause productive employees who have done nothing wrong to be hauled away by police on the job in front of co-workers. Without sensitivity to the root cause of such problems, bias and gossip could lead to a lack of support, or even wrongful termination.

The time is now

Is your organization ready to get serious about considering this untapped talent population? I hope the considerations outlined in this blog inspire exploration of this talent pool and fine-tuning of any of your existing initiatives.

Author’s Note: I recently attended a remarkable “Second Chance Staffing Visioning Event” held in January 2020 at Butler University and in conjunction with Allegiance Staffing. This interactive session was a kick-off to a joint research project between these partners and others to explore the job performance of those with criminal backgrounds while on the job. There is not yet much (or current) research in this specific area and the event brought together individuals from social service agencies, businesses, and the government–including thriving employees who have been justice involved. I’m excited about the direction of this research as it perfectly aligns with making a positive impact and with the challenging job landscape. Given the lack of formal studies in this area, their goal is to conduct a more detailed empirical analysis of the relative workplace performance of justice-involved citizens, as well as identify factors affecting this performance. Such a study requires the assistance of local employer(s) willing to share data regarding employees’ attendance, aptitude, and attitude, and they are currently in the process of securing these partners.

 

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.

Improve Employee Experience by Starting a Book Club at Work

If you want to create a consistently, stellar employee experience at your organization (and why wouldn’t you?), then finding ways to foster personal and professional development should be an integral part of your plan. Implementing an optional office book club is a fantastic way to encourage employees to try something new, improve themselves and connect with one another.

We recently hosted our inaugural book club session at ExactHire and read Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I had wanted to start a book club internally for quite awhile, but the timing just hadn’t been right until now. However, one chance conversation with a co-worker about interesting books ignited a spark of interest and our subsequent plan to meet 1-on-1 to discuss our first book. Naturally, I advertised the opportunity to the rest of our small organization and…voila! Traction. Before I knew it, six of us were signed up and ready to read!

This plan fit in perfectly with my own new year’s resolution to read twenty-six books in 2019; however, I was more excited to connect intentionally with co-workers in other departments and share different perspectives on something new and something more universally safe. What do I mean by “safe?” When you can look at other companies’ experiences, successes and tribulations, then it’s easier to challenge convention and have a strong opinion because it’s someone else’s situation.

However, the great thing about a book club in which people organically contribute is that you naturally start applying the concepts from the books to your own work environment. With internal trust, you can reflect on what has worked well (and what hasn’t), as well as use the book to reference a common foundation for handling scenarios in the future. For example, it will be easier to be more “radically candid” with each other at ExactHire moving forward–as many of us have studied the approach for doing so together.

Why we started an office book club at ExactHire

There are so many benefits to reading, such as gaining new perspective and improving your vocabulary; however, these basic benefits are multiplied when you also have the opportunity to discuss books within a comfortable group setting. Even though we’ve only had one discussion so far, I’m already seeing internal advantages such as

  • climbing out of a creative rut that can strike during the post-holiday gloom that often characterizes mid-winter,
  • breaking down communication silos by inviting members from all departments to participate,
  • feeling more connected with each other considering we have a very remote-friendly workforce,
  • better relating to the perspectives of co-workers at different position levels,
  • higher participation rates in development because it is opt-in-oriented with low barriers to entry,
  • giving more people the chance to have a voice, and
  • providing the perfect opportunity to practice listening more effectively.

How to start your own employee book club

When planning your office book club, think about how your culture will impact the level of formality in your discussions, and whether you use consistent discussion questions or switch it up every time. Additionally, the size of your organization may determine whether it makes sense to have many cross-departmental groups or champion department-specific groups. ExactHire is a smaller company and so I will share the steps we took to launch our book club.

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Generate interest and make it optional

The catalyst for our own ExactHire book club started with a conversation; however, yours may begin with a group email, a post to your company Slack channel or an agenda item in a company meeting.

Don’t write a novel of expectations for how it will operate at the onset (though some of you might think my invitation is quite lengthy below), but do emphasize to employees that the club is optional and should be educational and fun.

Office Book Club | Work | ExactHire

Stick with appropriate book genres

Give people a framework of what types of books should be expected and which genres would work best for a company book club. For example, titles about leadership, business, entrepreneurship, professional development and even some self-help books are all great options.

I recommend that the founder(s) of the book club select the very first book. Then, have all members vote on future sessions’ selections. Remember to keep book topics diverse and push yourself to read things that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on your own–that’s a significant driver for many to participate in a club so that they are accountable to expanding outside the box of their typical reading preferences.

Make it easy for people to participate

The company should buy the books (or digital titles) for participants. It’s fine to encourage people to use any existing unlimited e-book/audiobook subscriptions they may have or to check their local library first, but ultimately the organization’s investment in a few books is a small price to pay for the employee development return on investment it stands to gain.

We pay for copies of our book club books, and we offer an optional employee benefit that pays for a portion of employees’ subscriptions to an unlimited online book service in exchange for their commitment to write a book-inspired blog quarterly.

And, remember that the book club itself is an employee benefit. Don’t forget to list it as such on your employment offers and the benefits list on your career website.

Make it convenient and accessible

Plan your book club discussion for a day when there are already a lot of people in the office. For example, at ExactHire we plan our book club to immediately follow the “Monthly Nom Nom” during which we all gather to share a catered (or potluck) meal together. Since many of us frequently work remotely, this is usually the day of the month with the most people in the office (serve them food, they will come)! Be mindful that the day you schedule your event isn’t already too packed with other meetings, and consider serving a light refreshment…or caffeine boost if it is immediately following a meal.

At ExactHire, we can never have everyone available to meet in person because we have teammates from Utah to Indiana to Germany! Therefore, we use Google Meet to video conference with our truly remote employees so they can participate, too. If you need to accommodate different time zones, be as inclusive as possible when scheduling the time of day for your book club session.

Finally, be intentional about the frequency for your discussions. Does it make sense to meet for shorter discussions bi-weekly to discuss a few chapters, or longer discussions that encompass the entire book on a monthly or quarterly basis? Within our book club, we’re starting with a quarterly cadence and discussing the entire book each time.

Do basic discussion preparation

The club founder(s) should lead the first discussion and should create an editable, shared document with ideas for discussion questions. This document should be visible to participants in advance of the meeting. Invite participants to throw question ideas on the document as inspiration strikes them, too. Also, remind people about the event about a week in advance in case anyone needs an extra nudge to finish the entire book on time.

Include questions about concepts within the book, but also list questions that will cause the group to take time to apply the concepts to real life examples from your organization, too. If you struggle to come up with questions on your own, do an internet search for notes and summaries on the book you are reading, and look for discussion guides that already exist online so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This approach is particularly helpful if you are designated to lead a discussion after you listened to an audiobook while driving or working out (without the ability to take notes).

Here are some question ideas to get you started.

  • What did you encounter in this book that you weren’t expecting when you first took interest in it?
  • Which parts of this book did you dislike?
  • What is one thing you are going to implement or do differently now that you’ve read this book?
  • Pick your favorite passage/story, read it out loud to the group and explain why it’s important to you.
  • What was your “aha” moment while reading this book?
  • What was missing from the book in your opinion?
  • Thinking about the concepts within the book, how have we already applied them well within our own organization. Give examples.
  • Which book concepts do we need to better incorporate within our workplace? What are the appropriate next steps for doing so?

After the first book club event, ask for volunteers to take turns leading different future sessions. Don’t force participation, but let people rise to the occasion. When people vote on future books on a survey, consider asking them to indicate if they’d also like to lead that discussion if their suggested book is chosen.

“Don’t force participation, but let people rise to the occasion.”

Encourage active participation

Fortunately, it isn’t too difficult to get a variety of people to join the discussion at ExactHire. Our first book club included comments from all participants and there was a healthy banter during a variety of questions. Of course, perhaps this was because our first book was all about candor.

If all your attendees aren’t as willing to speak up, be patient and keep discussion questions focused on the book concepts initially rather than how they specifically apply to your workplace. As confidence grows among the group, you may find that discussion naturally moves to how the concepts can be applied to your workplace. As trust grows within the group, you’ll see that more inclusive, engaging conversation emerges.

Include everyone in future book planning

At the close of your first meeting, invite everyone to send suggestions for future books to one person who will compile them into a survey so that people may vote on a winner. This person may be the designated leader of the next discussion, or a consistent point person within your organization.

I’ve already received a number of intriguing book suggestions for our next discussion in April, and I’ll be using a survey to allow employees to rank their favorites. Be sure and share your survey with the entire company for each future session in case different employees prefer to participate at different times of year. Attendance will vary based on schedules and interest in the chosen book.

There are a variety of digital tools you may use to collectively keep tabs on books of interest for future discussions as well. I enjoy gathering ideas from posts on Pinterest and podcasts and blogs. Then, I keep track of books on my “to-read” list using Goodreads–an online community of book lovers.

Happy reading!

While these steps have worked well so far for my company, don’t be afraid to experiment with different formats for your own organizational book club. Your company culture, core values and current business challenges will guide you in a direction that resonates with your own employees.

Just remember to keep it fun and leverage the events as an opportunity to foster employee development and maximize the employee experience!

cultivating-company-culture-exacthire

How to Not Screw Up Remote Employee Onboarding

Whether your team’s hiring its first remote employee or its 79th, don’t skimp on putting thoughtful intention behind your new hire onboarding program for remote workers.

Go ahead, pick out your worst fear about hiring remote workers below.

  • If I can’t see them, will they just do their laundry instead of work?
  • Our employees need to be “on” during our regular working hours, how can they if they’re roaming coffee houses around Europe with a 6-hour time difference?
  • Company culture and connectivity will suffer if we can’t play ping pong in person together, won’t it?

Did you have trouble picking just one? That’s okay, so did ExactHire when we started allowing employees to work remotely over seven years go. Our organization has come a long way since then, and–with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic–we have adopted the mentality of “remote first.” That is, truly distributing the workforce in such a way that remote work is the default setting–not just an option available to some. SaaS companies like StackOverflow and HelpScout are worth further investigation if you’re considering this cultural pivot for your employer

Remote first = distributing your workforce in such a way that remote work is the default mode.

Another relevant read is Remote: Office Not Required by Basecamp Co-Founders, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. This book details Basecamp’s evolution into a remote first organization, including both the pitfalls and unexpected wins along the way. There’s no shortage of inspiration on how to make remote working arrangements possible for your organization these days.

In this post, I’ll focus on how to not screw up employee onboarding once you’ve committed to hiring a new fully-remote employee. For someone who is brand new to your organization and away from the office from the start, consider these items for your onboarding checklist.

1 – Make expectations and goals crystal clear

In the absence of in-person onboarding activities, picking up on body language and being a bystander to water cooler talk is more challenging. Therefore, organizations should put themselves in the shoes of new hires and brainstorm the details that new employees won’t necessarily absorb on their own.

Being transparent about expected working hours (despite time zone of new hire), explaining how organizational culture manifests itself and sharing milestone targets about what job success looks like at three months, six months and beyond are just a few of many possible details.

For example, in Remote, the authors talk about how it’s important for Basecamp to give its new hires a heads up that they may be bombarded by social media follower requests when joining the organization. Because their company is remote first, it has become common for employees to connect with one another on social media in order to get to know each other more quickly in the absence of traditional face time in the office.

2 – Make over communication a way of life

Nothing can trip up a remote working arrangement more quickly than a shortage of sufficient communication. If your company wants to make remote work work, then you need to embrace many modes of communication (“different strokes for different folks”) and in particular, abundant written communication.

Particularly if your remote employees are spread across different time zones, a bigger portion of your company’s internal communication will be asynchronous–with employees reading email, chat messages and Slack updates anywhere from minutes to hours after they are originally sent.

To amplify the effectiveness of asynchronous communication, be clear about your needs and consider capturing screenshots and creating short videos to better explain tasks and challenges to co-workers when big time zone differences diminish the ability to connect in real time.

Consider your communication culture and whether it makes sense to go to the extent of asking people to update their status when away from Slack, instant messenger, etc. While ExactHire doesn’t quite go this far, we do have an internal document that lists general working hours for all employees since individual availability varies widely depending on the day of the week.

3 – Organization is everything

While we’ve already established that communication is critical, committing to written communication goes deeper than the one-off messages and company announcements that happen on a daily basis. In the same way that ExactHire maintains a support knowledge base full of training documents for our customers about our products, employers with remote workers have an even greater responsibility than traditional employers to document policies, project statuses and resources in an internal knowledge base.

And, it’s not just about basic documentation, but also the style or approach you take for documentation and communication. For example, at a previous employer I was quickly indoctrinated into the organizational norm of referring to all employees by just their initials in written communication, as well as the practice of hiding unwieldy URL addresses behind anchor text in interoffice emails. Mind you, this was a decade ago…before it was a tech-based cultural norm to go to such formatting lengths.

Internal consistency in communication supports effective organization.

Additionally, having easy-to-use tools to track items is essential. For example, in addition to Slack, ExactHire has leveraged platforms such as Google Docs, Trello, Basecamp and Jira for internal collaboration on a daily basis in recent years.

4 – Paperless employee onboarding

For both new hires and existing staff members, the employee onboarding process is full of opportunities to miss details. Take the pressure off of remembering which employees should be prompted to complete which new hire documents, tasks and forms by leveraging employee onboarding software.

An effective onboarding platform automatically presents the right paperwork, onboarding tasks and training prompts to different new hires based on factors such as their geographic location, FLSA status, security clearance and role type. Because additional to-do items are only presented to new hires and internal onboarding process stakeholders when certain basic prerequisites are already satisfied earlier in the process, the experience for the new hire is positive and stress for the staff member is minimal.

5 – Create inspiration with preparation

It’s stressful enough for a new hire on her first day at a new job in a traditional office. Now imagine how much more awkward a remote employee’s first day on the job can be if the employer is unprepared for her arrival.

Prepare new hires to hit the ground running quickly by sharing a super detailed onboarding plan and training schedule with them before their first day. Include links to your internal knowledge base and make resources for additional learning easy to find and searchable. This written documentation will easily fill the gaps between video conference calls and virtual job shadowing sessions with co-workers.

From a hardware standpoint, outfit new employees with the equipment they need to start work on day one. Your approach to this will vary depending on whether you ship a computer, phone, headset, etc. to your remote employees or have a policy in place that allows them to bring their own device (BYOD) to work. Regardless of your approach, make sure that all equipment and software access follows internal security protocols and that new hires are trained on how to handle secure data and what to do in the event of a breach.

Be sure to give new hires access to relevant communication groups, recurring calendar events and internal online resources in time for their first day–along with instructions or a description of each item’s objective. There’s no quicker way to alienate your remote employees than to forget to add them to your monthly all-hands meeting call, and then interrupt it fifteen minutes in to invite them to join last late.

6 – Tell your culture story

Fostering connectivity can be a struggle in a remote-driven workplace–especially in an organization that has transitioned from a traditional in-person office to a distributed workforce. While veteran employees instinctively understand the core values, mission and unwritten ways of doing things, newly hired remote employees won’t become a thread in the organizational tapestry without understanding its roots and also being prompted to share their own background.

Create a series of videos about key aspects of the company’s past that can be embedded into the onboarding process. Host a monthly company trivia session where employees log into Google Meet or Skype to answer questions and compete for swag.

Telling the organizational story to new hires is a best practice, but savvy employers will also build in the opportunity for its diverse new employees to make their own mark and share their own background. This might be accomplished with a virtual employee directory that features fun facts about new hires; or, occasional “lunch and learn” webinars that invite new employees to do a show and tell about their own city/country or hobbies and interests.

7 – Promote peer mentoring

Mentoring is not a new concept for employee onboarding; however, adopting it as a practice for a remote workforce is an emerging trend. From job shadows with veteran employees in a new hire’s first few days to monthly milestone check-ins with a designated “buddy,” virtual mentoring has a great deal of possibility for remote-friendly workplaces.

When creating a virtual mentoring program, account for factors that may influence likely success between mentor and mentee; such as, time zone difference, job role, interests and behavioral tendencies as evident from an employee assessment.

Take 1-on-1 mentoring a step further and invite mentors and mentees to quarterly tweet-ups or video conferences in which newer hires have a forum in which they can ask questions of mentors in real-time and within a group format. By listening to the questions and answers of peers, as well, new hires will likely shorten their own learning curve.

8 – Make time for face time

When done right, remote work allows employees to focus for longer periods of time without interruption. While distractions may occur in both the office and at home, there’s a distinct difference between immediately responding to someone knocking on your door versus waiting a few minutes to finish a task before responding to an email.

Utilize video conference platforms such as Zoom or GoToMeeting to allow all employees to synchronously connect whenever the need arises. Perhaps your cultural norm is even to ask employees to always use video chat rather than voice-only phone calls when connecting for a meeting. However, when planning such video calls, and to be considerate of potential time zone differences, be intentional with the time allotted to focus on social connectivity rather than just covering things that might be more efficiently discussed via email.

Even in modern, 100% remote first workplaces, there’s a place for in-person interaction. Many employers that have largely distributed workforces still make time at least once per year to gather in person for social connection–as an entire organization. And while this type of event can inflate the company travel line item significantly, that is the tradeoff between having the overhead attributable to a physical office location versus employing a remote first approach. If that approach would break your budget, then consider smaller meetups between departments instead.

9 – Feed off of feedback

Emojis were once reserved for text-happy teenagers lamenting their latest breakup; however, in recent years they’ve earned their place as a remote work mainstay because they help express tone and emotion in a situation that might otherwise omit context for one’s mood.

And while it might still be a stretch for some to include them in email messaging, they thrive in messaging platforms such as Slack. And, they’re particularly helpful in a remote workforce when employees may have never met in person and do not yet understand the nuances of their peers’ personalities. Emojis are one way of leveraging feedback on a micro level so that remote employees can gauge how they’re communicating or performing.

On a macro level, employers hiring remote employees must give and receive feedback early and often throughout the onboarding process.

  • Gather new hire input in the pre-boarding phase to make sure that incoming employees have a firm grasp of the resources available to them to get started.
  • Hold virtual town hall meetings for new hires three months into their employment tenure for ideas on how to improve remote employee onboarding.
  • Make sure that supervisors have a regular cadence of offering constructive feedback to direct reports throughout the first year of employment, especially.

Successful Remote Employee Onboarding

Make your objective to create experiences in which remote employees feel as assimilated and supported as traditional in-office employees. Remember that it will take some experimentation, careful hiring and an open mind. If you don’t get it exactly right the first time, gather feedback to make an adjustment and try, try again!

Download ExactHire's Employee Onboarding Checklist

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.

Consider ATS Integration with Predictive Index

7 Tips for an Awesome Office Holiday Scavenger Hunt

The ExactHire team continues its pursuit of the ultimate interoffice competition ideas, and is pleased to bring you the latest installment of the “Monday Funday” recap! Rather than simply provide a rehash of recent events, let’s break it down so you can recreate the fun in your workplace this holiday season! Here’s everything you need to know to plan a simple, yet fun-filled office scavenger hunt.

1 – Look into logistics

Before you get too far down the planning path, scope out the resources around your office and/or office building to get an idea of how far you might like your co-workers to travel in order to complete items on your scavenger hunt list.

Holiday Scavenger Hunt Road Sign

Posing by the road sign required the teams to go away from the office building to earn more points…but not too far!

While you want to add some items that have a greater degree of complexity, you don’t want them so far away that it becomes impossible for a team to complete many of the items in the time period allotted. Also, make sure you don’t plan holiday-oriented tasks that may not be inclusive of all religious preferences within your particular team.

Additionally, consider whether you want to run a digital scavenger hunt or a traditional one. With a digital scavenger hunt, you might require teams to provide photographic evidence of all the items they complete and text or email it back to the Gamekeeper. With a traditional hunt, remember to provide each team with a container/bag for collecting items they come across at each challenge. Then, they will have to present the items at the finish line for credit.

Lastly, as you think about how many employees will choose to participate (and it should be optional), decide how many players will be on each team and plan the teams in advance so that individuals have the opportunity to interact with people outside of their normal department or work area.

2 – Be timely

For many offices, productivity is one of the first things to suffer during the holiday season. Employees are thinking more about the next best place to hide their family elf or how many cookies they still have to bake than what is on their work agenda.

Give them a special occasion to embrace the holiday spirit, but be respectful of work schedules and keep it to no more than 15-20 minutes. That’s plenty of time to burn off some energy and bring people together for a quick culture-building activity.

In our experience, these types of competitions are best attended when they immediately follow some kind of department or all-hands company meeting. Everyone is already in one spot and therefore more likely to stay an extra fifteen minutes to join the fun. We do our Monday Funday events after our company meeting on the third Monday of each month.

It can be tempting for employees to rush back to work after a company meeting, but by keeping it within its planned time frame you respect their time. Bribery with an exciting grand prize or bragging rights doesn’t hurt attendance either (wink, wink).

3 – Allow people to prepare

When scheduling an office scavenger hunt, give your employees plenty of advance notice and ask them to RSVP to the event. From participants’ point of view, this allows them to budget time to take part in the event, and it allows the organizer (aka “Gamekeeper) to plan teams and the appropriate number of scavenger hunt tasks.

If you do endeavor a virtual hunt, make sure participants know that they will be asked to take pictures and/or video in advance. That way, they can temporarily make space available on their mobile devices for that purpose, if necessary.

Holiday Scavenger Hunt Email Invite

It’s easy to throw a quick email invitation together with some festive clip art.

 

4 – Be clear about rules

Some of your employees…you know the ones…will be more competitive than others. So make sure you have rules or an instructions sheet that clearly outlines what teams must do to successfully complete scavenger hunt tasks and win the contest.

In order not to give anyone an early advantage, hand out the rules and task sheet to all teams just prior to the start of the scavenger hunt, but provide a verbal overview of the rules at that time and take time to answer questions.

This is also an ideal time to make sure all teams are paying attention to the rules instead of reading the tasks and planning their first move. All but two of the teams fell victim to this temptation during our recent ExactHire holiday scavenger hunt and so the Gamekeeper awarded a bonus point to the only team that was able to successfully repeat one of the key rules of the game. And wouldn’t you know it? That was the winning team in the end–their single bonus point put them ahead when all the teams successfully completed all the tasks within fifteen minutes.

Here’s an example of the rules and task sheet we used for our holiday hunt.

ExactHire Holiday Scavenger Hunt Funday

5 – Have a back-up plan

As I mentioned above, during our scavenger hunt all three teams completed all scavenger hunt tasks within the time allotted. The Gamekeeper wasn’t expecting this to happen, and so be sure that you have contingency plans for awarding bonus points or presenting a tie-breaker task at the end in the event of a tie.

Better yet, have more tasks than you’d ever imagine any one team being able to complete. At ExactHire, we awarded different amounts of points based on the difficulty of the task in order to allow teams more flexibility to plan their strategy, if desired.

Mailing Letter | Holiday Scavenger Hunt

Mailing a letter to the big guy in the red suit!

 

6 – Celebrate with refreshments

At the conclusion of your scavenger hunt, if teammates gave it their all, they may be a bit winded. Have refreshments available afterwards to bring people together to recount the humorous events of the hunt, celebrate the winner with a special certificate (and perhaps traveling trophy) and give people a breather.

During the fall and winter holidays, warm spiced apple cider or a hot chocolate bar are often well received beverages. Additionally, a plate of cookies, holiday trail mix or some caramel popcorn are great accompaniments to give everyone a little reward for their efforts. As you plan your mini-menu, be mindful of any dietary restrictions present with your staff members and try to choose options that will appeal to everyone involved.

Consider coupling the post-event festivities with another “feel good” activity, if time permits. For example, during our recent hunt at ExactHire we took time to write down what we are each thankful for professionally and personally and then we displayed the notes on a prominent wall in our office. You can keep it pretty basic (as we obviously did in the photo below); or, purchase a stack of pre-cut turkeys or snowflakes and use them as the message notes.

ExactHire Office Thankful Message Notes

7 – Spread the joy

While it really doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to put together a seasonal scavenger hunt for your organization, it is worth celebrating and sharing with others. Document the fun (and maybe the unexpected bloopers) of the event on social media or in a corporate blog (oh wait–I just did that!) as a shining example of your positive employment culture and brand. Just make sure you get permission to use the photos and videos you post before publishing. And yes, I did check to make sure I could share some of our holiday antics below…

 

Your holiday office scavenger hunt is a great resource for showing future employees the fun side of working for your company. Go plan your next “funday” scavenger hunt today!

cultivating-company-culture-exacthire

Thanksgiving Video 2017 from ExactHire

There is so much for which the ExactHire team is thankful from the past year, and one of our favorite traditions is putting it together in video format to share with you! Please watch our short 2017 video to see the highlights and you may see the script below, too. Happy Thanksgiving!

ExactHire 2017 Thanksgiving Video

Thanksgiving Video Transcript

It’s time to give THANKS for the past year,
And for what we’re thankful, well…it’s quite clear

T is for Teamwork
Tag-teaming our booth at HR Indiana
Trendy laptop stickers with core values–their bananas!

T-shirt design contests, and of course
Team photos in snazzy shirts, you guessed the source!

H is for Healthy Competition
Hotly contested Monday Fundays
Hallway chair racing that leaves us in a daze

Hidden surprises in a cling wrap ball
Holiday ugly sweater contest…Ric Flair won it all

Heartbreaking rubber band archery injuries
Humorous corn hole champion certificate, and Harrowing mini, mini-golf games please

A is for Advancement — our products, our organization, ourselves
Activating a partnership with the talented DT Starts team
Authoring new content resources from onboarding to recruiting

Augmenting involvement in SHRM conferences and associations
Attempting to achieve new skills validation via HR certifications

N is for New Beginnings…like
New members of the team, and
Noshing on some schnitzel since moving to Germany…oh the dream!

Noteworthy farewell to Jeff who remains a silent partner
Nurturing office camaraderie, and undertaking home improvement projects to make 60% of our cribs look sharper!

K is for Keeping Perspective…making time for little things that make us happy
Kicking it into gear with TRX at the gym, and
Kisses for newborn babies, her precious new little him

Knowing that it makes sense to get away sometimes
Key moments in our families’ lives that give us smiles

Knocking the rivals down a notch with a team victory
Keen YETI accessories that make a statement…look at that man purse’s stitchery!

Kilometers traveled abroad in European style
Kind new best friends to greet us at home–relax for awhile

Killer 5K runs with a mom and her kiddo…time to refuel
Keeping it cozy with our loved ones at night when it’s cool

S is for Sharing Experiences and spending time together
Searching for clues during an escape room outing
Socializing on our weekly water cooler question for some weekend activity scouting

Sweet treat exchanges during the holidays
State fair lunch hijinks…deep fried you name it, five different ways

Sunning ourselves while eating strawberries downtown
Soaking in the melodies at Symphony on the Prairie in the best seats around

Savoring the flavors of the Monthly Nom Nom meal,
Sitting with each other and catching up is what keeps it real.

Most of all we are thankful for YOU!
As you give us all the opportunity to love what we do.

Happy Thanksgiving from ExactHire!