Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lesson #8: Welcome to the TEAM!

Smart coaches never hire great players and just hope that they figure out on their own how to best become part of the team.  This is far too important to leave to chance or luck.  They carefully manage the transition of a new player into a productive team member.  That often means a well-planned and detailed orientation to the team where they learn the history of the team they have joined, what the strengths of the team are and what goals have been set for both the near and long term.   This helps the new player get into the right mindset of the team. 
To help the new player become a productive part of the team in the shortest time possible, they assign the new player a roommate who can help incorporate him into the team and what is expected of him as a part of that team.  This gives the new player a person to learn from and ask questions of.  As part of this process, the roommate often takes the new player to make introductions to the key staffers he will need to know…coaches, trainers, therapist medical staff, payroll staff, etc.  This is never left to chance because there is far too much money on the line to risk having the new player become isolated, a loner or jaded on whether he should have joined this team in the first place.  The team needs him to start “earning his keep” as soon as possible, and this detailed orientations process is the best way to accomplish this. 
In business, it is equally critical to transition from “finding” to “keeping” your great employees. The orientation process helps to introduce your new hire to the company and the company family. Matching new hires to a partner who can look out after them during these first few critical days, weeks and months really helps them start earning their keep much sooner than just handing them a shovel and saying, “Get to work.”  Even little things like “Here’s how to use the time clock,” can help to ease the transition of a new hire from “outsider” to “key team member”.  This is vital to the success of your company and should never be left to chance.   
At my company, we introduce every new hire to everyone in their chain of command in the first day of their employment.  This goes from the supervisor, to the department manager, the operations manager and the general manager.  They also meet critical personnel such as the customer service representatives in the front office as well as the HR and finance managers.  Each person they meet welcomes them and reiterates that they have joined a great, winning team!
Help protect your investment!  Orient your new hires in a carefully planned way.  Marry them up with a steady, reliable worker on your staff so they will very quickly have someone to teach them the ropes.  Introduce them to all your key staff in the first day so that they can feel that everyone in the organization really wants them there.  The money you save will be yours and the team you run will be all the better for the efforts! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lesson #7: Workforce Retention Starts on Day One

Earlier in my career, I worked in a major state university and remember being surprised that the university was going to institute a mandatory meal plan for incoming freshmen.  Like a lot of people, my first thought was that this was simply a plan to drive up food sales at the campus cafeteria.  I was intrigued to learn that, in fact, a mandatory meal plan is one of the most effective tools to increase student retention a university can adopt.    
New college freshmen, away from home for the first time and thrust into a whole new social environment, can easily become isolated and alone.  They get up (alone or with at most a single room mate), go to class and sit surrounded by strangers, grab a burger (alone), eat it alone in their dorm room and repeat this pattern day after day.  Many students have difficulty with the transition and lack a support group of friends to socialize or study with.  They get frustrated and their grades suffer.  In a very short while, they are leaving the university to return their homes and friends. 
However, by taking part in group activities such as regular meals in a cafeteria, these same students quickly feel like they belong.  They develop support groups and make friends…all of which result in increased student retention. 
At our company, we adopt this lesson to increase our workforce retention over the long term.  One a new hire’s first day at work, the entire department takes that person out to lunch.  In the casual social environment of a quick lunch break, away from the pressure of learning a new job skill and proving yourself to the team, a new hire can start the process of fitting in very quickly.  It builds on the relationship between the new hire and their supervisor.  It helps the new hire talk about things other than work they may have in common with everyone else at the table. It helps them begin to understand what kind of company they have joined and see the pride that everyone else has for our team.  It’s a great way to form a bond that can last for years…if it is started effectively (and casually) on day one.  What are you doing from day one to ensure that your workforce stays intact over the long term?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!