Category Archives: On-boarding/ Induction

Why Startups Need To Redefine How They Hire & Retain Talent

The global economy is at a critical juncture, with many countries now facing a very real risk of recession. With economies plagued by inflation, supply chain shocks, and slow growth, the risk of stagflation is becoming stronger by the day. In this uncertain climate, many companies, including blue-chip firms, have announced a hiring freeze. Yet others are laying off workers. But are pink slips inevitable during times of economic uncertainty? Or can they be avoided?

To answer that, we need to understand why companies fire employees during tough times. 

Many companies hire indiscriminately when the going is good. The hope is to scale up quickly and grow quickly. This isn’t sustainable. 

During the 2008 global financial crisis, Citigroup got a $20.5 Bn bailout from the government. That wasn’t enough for its financial health. The company also cut more than 50,000 jobs, making it one of the biggest layoffs in history. This means that the taxpayer and the laid-off worker bear the majority of the downside risk, while the company reaps the benefits when the economy is doing well. 

The Quagmire Of Hire And Fire

When companies let go of skilled employees, there is a massive loss of product and process knowledge that leaves with them.

In India in particular, it is common knowledge that the education system is not the best at equipping students with the skills that the modern workplace needs. Every year, companies spend crores of rupees and countless man-hours training and enabling new joiners before they start working. 

Granted, technology has eased the way by making organisational knowledge more digitised and centralised, but that assumes a level of discipline on the part of an organisation that rarely exists in real life. As organisational knowledge broadens, the ability to sift through it, make sense of it, catalogue and index it, and understand its applications becomes an overwhelming task. 

A recent report by management consultancy firm, Korn Ferry, talks about how the global economy could face a shortage of 85 Mn jobs by 2030. This is mainly because an entire generation of experienced workers would have exited the industry by then, but younger employees would not have had the time or experience to catch up to the skill levels required for the high-skill jobs they leave behind.

This highlights the risk that companies face when they let go of large swathes of people during downturns. When things return to normal, companies end up having to spend that money all over again to bring back this lost knowledge, resulting in little to no economic benefit from these strategies.

Then there are the intangible costs to consider. When employees spend 2-3 years or more at a company, they build a rapport with multiple stakeholders and functions. They have a better understanding of the company’s expectations. They build networks within the company that can lead to greater collaboration and higher productivity. 

These can be thought of as ‘Intangible Efficiencies” All of this is lost when they’re laid off and the process of building these intangible efficiencies starts again. It’s like the phrase “One step forward, and two steps back.” 

This has an impact on the morale of existing employees who have ‘survived’ the round of layoffs. As a very human response to such a situation, the remaining employees either start to look for another job, fearing further job cuts, or lose focus in a fearful, depressed environment at work. Consequently, there is a sharp drop in productivity among the remaining employees.

Of course, there’s a subset of employees who stick in their jobs for several years. These are hard workers who value stability and predictability. Often, they are in crucial middle management roles. These workers add enormous value to a company in the long run, but companies can scare them away when they develop a reputation as a ‘hire and fire’ workplace. 

So, while laying off workers may secure a company’s financial future in the short term, it may jeopardise its long-term prospects by scaring away qualified candidates. 

These hidden costs of lost organisational knowledge, lost intangible efficiencies, and declining employee morale are never quantified and factored into the savings from a “hire and fire” strategy. 

A Long-Term View Of Hiring

It’s high time companies emphasised the human in ‘human resources. For starters, hire wisely when times are right. Not skewing pay scales in an industry when times are good, to ‘acquire’ people is important for long-term survival. Usually, these highly-paid but insufficiently skilled people are the first ones to get the axe. 

After hiring, train, train, train. 

70 employees who are trained well might be more productive than 100 employees who have been hired in a hurry and put straight to work.

Consider hiring gig workers. Relying on freelancers, part-timers, and gig workers gives companies better control when they’re uncertain about long-term demand. Gig workers are the future of the workforce. Hiring gig workers can lead to greater productivity and lower fixed costs for employers. For employees, options increase, and earning potential also goes up.

Companies also need to build a culture of security, transparency, and honesty. If an unexpected financial situation has hit, leadership should do all they can to protect jobs. During the Covid-19 pandemic, leaders in several companies chose to take pay cuts to retain their employees. When that’s not enough, have an honest conversation with your employees. 

A recent study of white-collar employees in the US by Insight Global found that 78% of respondents were worried about losing their job in the next recession. More than half were willing to take a pay cut rather than get laid off. Pay cuts for workers at middle and entry levels aren’t ideal, but sometimes they’re necessary to keep the business afloat.

This was first published on Inc42

5 Ways to Elevate Your Sales Rep Training & Onboarding

The onboarding phase, in general, is the preparation and integration of a new team member in the organization.

Sales representatives are taken on board through best practices such as revising and attending guidance sessions, and preparation elements to accommodate new salespersons more closely to their environment and responsibilities. According to research by Glassdoor, organizations with good onboarding programs increase new employee retention by 82% and efficiency by more than 70%.

Ways to Maximize Efficiency During the Training and Onboarding Process

  1. Have a Standard Process

According to Harvard Business Review, 22% of companies have no formal onboarding programs. A standardized program can help to have a clear image in your mind that is intended to be long-term. Questions such as, “What basic tasks would each recruit complete in the first week?”,“What training courses do they complete in the first month?”, and ”What do they expect to do in the first quarter?” need to be answered through the program. Therefore, analyze the current onboarding program (or the one you plan to introduce if your company does not yet have one) and define unique events that a new sales rep should go through, and make them the norm for all hires.

  1. Document it

According to a study Human Capital Institute, 58% of company onboarding programs are focused on procedures and paperwork. It’s always a good idea to have some tools and reference guides on hand so they can update their memory on the fly. Creating sales processes and intelligence documents will save the new reps a lot of time and effort during their first couple of months on the job. Of course, you should provide your new reps with a comprehensive set of phone scripts and email templates that they can use right away; these scripts should cover the majority of the touchpoints in a standard sales cycle. Most good reps will later tailor these to suit their style, but supplying them with these tools upfront allows them to get up and start running much faster.

  1. Set attainable goals and milestones for new hire

Consider the following scenario: you’ve just landed your dream job, but during the onboarding process, you find that the job goals are unclear and you’re unsure what is expected of you. When new employees enter the organization, they must understand the goals for which they are responsible. Provide them with insights into the company’s principles, priorities, and long-term goals. When you approach the sales onboarding program with a target in mind, you will be able to remain focused on providing workers with the right insights to keep them motivated and efficient. This approach will also help increase employee retention

Check-in every week 

According to a study done by Enboarder, 72 percent of employees, one-on-one time with the boss are the most critical aspect of any onboarding program. Nothing is more motivating for new reps than understanding that you, the boss, care for them and want them to succeed. A weekly five-minute phone call from you will do wonders for a new employee’s morale and effort. Simply get in touch: Inquire how he or she is doing and whether there is something you can do to assist.

  1. Practice makes perfect

The stereotypical cliché hasn’t stopped being real, at least yet. The sales method, like any other part of life, can be mastered with repeated practice. This is particularly true for sales representatives since they learn at a faster and faster pace with repeated practice. As a result, ensure that the program contains a sufficient number of real-world practice scenarios.

Anything that has the new hires doing what they’re learning (while they’re learning it, not months later when they’ve forgotten it) will boost sales training stickiness and rep trust.

Conclusion

These five tips will increase the chances of your sales reps’ success, retention rate, and increase sales. Having an effective sales onboarding program is critical not just for the new sales reps, but also for the entire company. It may appear to be a lengthy and laborious procedure — and it is, but when done right, it will yield profits that are several times over. Standardization also decreases the amount of time put into daily tasks, and so, having a solid onboarding program in place will be beneficial for all organizations.

On-boarding for a Job Role STACK

Unless you have been living under a rock through the last decade, you have heard of tech stacks. A tech stack is the set of underlying elements of a software application. These are the frameworks, languages, and software products that everything else is built on. Every developer who joins a tech team needs to learn his stack.

Similarly, I believe that every business role has a stack. A stack that has to be mastered by anybody looking to do that role.

Skills

Skills are what we all need to know how to do in order to our job effectively. There are two broad categories of skills – Soft Skills and Functional Skills. In the context of this framework, the “Skills” being referred to are Functional Skills only. Every role demands certain core functional skills, that are essential for the employee to function in that job.

Good examples of these are Javascript expertise for a ReactJS developer, Negotiation and Presentation Skills for a salesperson and Accounting Skills for a credit analyst. While such skills can be trained for, true expertise comes only from experience. This is why expertise in such core skills is typically evaluated during the recruitment process itself. And once in the job, organizations trust employees to progressively get better the longer they perform the role.

In the context of role on-boarding, there is very little that can be done in a short duration program to build up these core skills. Instead, what is recommended are skill assessments and quick refreshers. Essentially, just show them a mirror and jog their memory.

Don’t spend inordinate amounts of time (not more than 10%) on skill training during on-boarding.

Tools

Can you imagine a carpenter without a saw or a blacksmith without a hammer? A skill is useless without the tools that go along with it. Similarly, every job role typically requires an employee to use a set of software and hardware tools and systems to perform their jobs.

Good examples of these are IDEs for developers, Canva and Amplayfy for content marketers and Microsoft PowerPoint for salespersons. Apart from industry-specific tools like these, most companies also have their own company-specific ERP, CRM, LMS, HRMS, etc. that the employees need to familiarise themselves with.

In the context of role on-boarding, expertise on industry-specific tools is akin to having the core skills. It is not recommended that any industry-specific tool training be undertaken during the on-boarding program. Instead, it is recommended to focus on providing primers for company-specific tools. Most people are hesitant to learn new systems, and the on-boarding program is the best place to manage this trepidation through these introductions to the tools. Giving them access to manuals or help videos in a repository format will encourage deeper self-training at a later date.

Spend more time on training on tools (about 15%) over training on skills during on-boarding.

Attitudes

Attitudes are a mixed bag of soft skills, beliefs and habits that are required for working in a role. These dictate how well you can work or interact with others to form relationships, create trust and dependability, and lead teams.

Good examples of these are leadership abilities in team leaders, assertiveness in analysts and persuasiveness in salespersons. Beyond the role requirements, all companies have a clear set of values, principles and guidelines that they look to inculcate in their workplace. Every employee must learn, internalise and display these attitudes to fit into the company culture.

In the context of role on-boarding, such attitudes need to be communicated right up front. These are best done through meet and greets, icebreakers, evangelical sessions and value discussions with the employee. Given that these require significant face-to-face interactions, it is perhaps the most expensive part of an on-boarding program in terms of time and effort and might seem to have a lower direct benefit in role on-boarding.

However, attitudes are critical in integrating a new hire into the company on the whole, and deserve significant resource allocation (about 20%) during on-boarding.

Customers

Customers are the only purpose for existence of any business activity. Customers can be internal or external, depending on the nature of the job role. But in all cases, knowing about and understanding customers is critical to performing the job well. Such customer education is unique to role on-boarding, differing from organisational induction in its application.

Good examples of these could range from retailers for front-line FMCG sales, website visitors for SaaS inside sales teams and company employees for an HR team. A stakeholder mapping exercise would be a good starting point for identifying the customer for a role.

In the context of role on-boarding, the difficult question is determining the best approach for the customer familiarisation exercise. In the case of institutional sales, it could be one-on-one meetings with the clients and account planning exercises. In the case of B2C sales, it might be participating in surveys, focus groups and interviews. Attending reviews and meetings might be a good way to familiarise the employee with internal customers.

Customer familiarisation during on-boarding requires significant time expenditure (about 25%), but reduces the need for on-the-job training in the long term.

Knowledge

Knowledge required for a job role spans a matrix of Industry-Company-Employee and Information-Concepts-Expectations. This has been explored in great detail in the ICE Cube induction framework I and II which are linked here and here.

Good examples of knowledge needs are company background, regulations, company policies, business concepts, etc. A larger part of required knowledge are job role specific knowledge of concepts, processes, products, expectations etc.

In the context of role on-boarding, the knowledge requirement takes up the largest chunk of time. It is recommended that to the extent possible, the knowledge sections should be administered through e-learning and not instructor-led training. The knowledge content should be structured as a combination of course-ware and reference learning centers, with a focus on on-demand learning and personalization. Try and find ready learning resources on LinkedIn, Coursera, Udemy, etc. before starting to create your own learning resources.

Knowledge training forms the base of the entire role on-boarding program (about 30%) and needs to be planned smartly to manage time, cost and effectiveness.

* * *

The Job Role STACK approach integrates really well with competency mapping and organizational development. Ideally, we typically recommend getting veterans of each job role in the organization to define the STACK and its constituents. Post that, taking the common elements of multiple Job Role STACKs into a common company induction program becomes easier. The remaining STACK components then move into a relatively shorter role on-boarding exercise that finally gets integrated with on-the-job training and coaching.

Do let us know your opinions on job role stacks and whether you see them being applicable in your businesses. And if you are looking for an easy to use tool to create interactive content for such programs, do consider giving Amplayfy a spin…

P.S. This was first published on LinkedIn – Click here to see the original post

5 Major Challenges With On-boarding During Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic drastically changed the working pattern all over the globe. With social distancing and lockdowns in place, a large number of organisations transitioned to telecommuting with some even increasing their hiring to meet the expanding business demands. This greatly affected their onboarding process, making the training and induction modalities rather complicated. 

Integrating new employees into the company isn’t easy. And when one is largely functioning on remote working, it makes it even more challenging.

Let us look at the 5 major challenges with the onboarding process during the pandemic-

1) Inability to personalise the process-

Induction helps in integrating a new employee into the company’s culture while instructing them about their own roles and responsibilities within the organisation’s structure and functioning. It facilitates in establishing personal connections and a great working relationship among colleagues. 

However, in the absence of a face-to-face interaction, it becomes difficult to personalise the onboarding process. Instead of meeting the team and getting to know them in an informal and relaxed setting, the new employees would have to contend with a video call or even in some cases, an email message. This proves challenging in building a strong lasting working relationship among peers. 

2) Ineffective Communication-

Effective onboarding is crucial for employee engagement, retention and for boosting the overall productivity of the organisation. With telecommuting, it may not be possible at times to know everyone in the team and the new employees may get confused about whom to approach for clarifying or obtaining certain information. They may also be unaware about the hierarchy within the organisation or may feel reluctant to ask questions.

On-site Induction allows the new members to get to know their colleagues and establish a cordial relation with them, which allows them to approach their peers for help or clarification regarding a particular situation. In the absence of this relationship, the employees may hesitate to reach out to others which leads to communication gaps.

Also, without facial expression, gestures or tone of a person’s voice as a guide, it is often easy to misinterpret a message as critical or curt when it comes through the email. This, further hampers effective communication, which in turn greatly affects the overall productivity of the organisation. 

3) Ineffective employee engagement-

Onboarding is crucial as it introduces the new employee to the company’s business culture and value systems. They also understand the code of conduct essential to every member and learn to build a good working rapport with their colleagues, other senior managers and the organisation’s leaders. 

This may be very difficult to communicate through a virtual induction program and may result in many employees feeling unwelcome or unable to identify and integrate themselves with the company’s culture. This greatly affects their participation and engagement with the organisation and leads to lower employee retention.

4) Inability to monitor employee performance-

Monitoring the employee’s performance and progress is an important step in integrating them into the company’s work ethics and culture. Feedback is important as it clarifies assumptions and expectations, helps people improve and learn from their mistakes and builds confidence. Constructive feedback also helps in reinforcing positive behaviour and generating a strong work culture. It is therefore essential that the new employee’s progress be monitored and reviewed. 

This however, becomes challenging in a remote working scenario. Not only is there a disadvantage of physical distance, but even the process for documenting and monitoring the employees’ performance may be unclear or not adequately defined. As a result, they may underperform or fail to achieve the targeted milestone. This would not only affect the individual’s growth but also the company’s progress at large.

5) Unavailability of essential equipment-

Digitization of modern business has made it impossible to function well without appropriate technology. Most new employees are provided with their own laptop and other essential software, tools and programs that are necessary for their work. This particularly becomes challenging during the pandemic, especially if the employee has to be trained to use a particular software or program. Some organisations may also find it difficult to reevaluate their employment benefit schemes to make it relevant to the current situation.

These are the 5 major challenges with onboarding during the pandemic. They can however, be overcome by making the necessary changes to the Induction program and leveraging mobile technology to make the process more engaging, interactive and effective. 

Why is an Induction Program important?

An induction program is the process used within organizations to onboard new hires into the organization and familiarize them with the new role and company culture.

As you would expect, new hires are typically stressed and nervous about the new job, and the induction program helps them to get warmed up for the challenges that lie ahead. During the course of the program, new hires get an opportunity to learn about the new work environment, company culture, and their own role. A good induction program ensures they go through this without feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

A good induction program will include activities like-

  • Organizational hierarchy and structure
  • Introduction to the different departments within the company
  • Introduction to key members of staff
  • Guided tour of the office space
  • Introduction to employment terms and conditions
  • Rules governing working hours
  • Expected behavioral standards and dress code
  • Information pertaining to benefits, incentives and appraisals
  • Job description along with key duties and responsibilities
  • Specific job-role training

Benefits of Induction Program

  1. Drives Productivity – Productivity is a major aim of business, and a workplace with comfortable employees brings more productivity at work. Good Induction training empowers your team with the skills needed to get their jobs done correctly and more efficiently. It defines the right track for one to follow in terms of the job profile and also seeks to build a positive aura in the team with respect to the organization.
  2. Saves Cost – Giving a certain amount of time in the beginning, leads to faster time-to-performance, which saves a considerable amount of time and money. Further, by investing time and money into induction training for your workforce, you show that you value them, which in turn, can improve loyalty and staff retention, saving your business money in staff turnovers.
  3. Improves Communication – Letting everyone know who is in the organization and their first point of contact sets the basis for good employee/management communication. It instills a level of confidence as to where they sit within their teams and who their leaders and mentors are.
  4. Improves Retention – Employees leave their job in the first year if they don’t receive adequate training, or if they find it difficult to know about the organization, and, the roles and responsibilities. Typically, employees that do receive induction training are more likely to stay and progress within the company, as they are given a transparency regarding the organization context.
  5. Healthy Environment – Getting an employee to know about other employees as well as the people in charge of the organization, creates a healthy environment that prevails as long as the employees work in the organization. Induction leads to a comfortable and friendly environment. And overall, with a comfortable environment around, people come out with more ideas and it paves the way for more creativity.

Induction training, is a great way to train staff, visitors and contractors on their roles in a company. It increases overall performance and job satisfaction, benefiting both the business and the employees. It significantly improves staff and visitors’ first opinions about the organization, sets their expectations and gives them the tools to make a great start at work.

References-