Archive for the ‘Management Practices’ Category


Engagement in words

  • Fact 1 – Multiple studies point to a significant relationship between employee engagement and the financial performance of a company.

  • Fact 2 – Management’s policies & approach impact the level of employee engagement.



Feedback essential


The effectiveness of the programs you develop and utilize with new employees to promote engagement will determine

    • The trajectory of those new hires’ success in your organization,
    • The value they deliver to the organization, and
    • How soon they deliver that value

However, one cannot know, with confidence, if these efforts are adequate and accomplish their purpose unless feedback is solicited? It’s as simple as that.


The previous post, of this two part series, provides links to information that is relevant and foundational to this post New Employee Engagement Initiative, Day 1 – Part 1



Create a Questionnaire or online survey, if that capability is an option, with sections devoted to each of the processes mentioned below,

          • Orientation,
          • Onboarding, and
          • Training

These are the critical ones for monitoring and improving the way your company brings new people into the organization for optimal results, i.e. producing engaged productive employees in the shortest possible time frame.

Pay special attention to the goals described for the On-boarding Process.

Reminder:  Make it clear in the survey introduction, that completing the survey is a service that is valued by the organization.  

You might state something like this, “understanding what we are doing well and not so well in bring people into the organization is considered critical to the ongoing success of the organization and critical in identifying improvements to new employee programs.”

In addition to the important goal of learning about the effectiveness of your new employee programs, this process is also establishing, with new employees, your cultural norm of soliciting and receiving feedback from employees about various aspects of the organization’s operations.



This is the employee’s first experience with their new employer. How you deliver the information they need to know will send a message that will start to create an impression – how they see the organization and their relationship with it.


Here is a sampling of questions for Orientation, add others that are appropriate for your organization:

1.  Were the company’s personnel policies and procedures reviewed and explained to you?

– Pay process and procedures
– Vacation, sick leave, other time off
– Legal compliance and the organization’s responsibilities
– Legal compliance and your responsibilities
– Performance Management, goal setting, and the review process, timing etc

2.  Were you shown where to access policies and other information you would need during your employment?

3.  Were the benefits programs clearly explained to you?

4.  On a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the highest score, how would you grade the Orientation you received?

5.  What additional information would you have wanted to receive during Orientation?

6.  How can we improve the process?



The Onboarding process that I developed and used was designed to meet what I recognized as the requirements of today’s knowledge organizations with departments “linked” and dependent on one-another to achieve goals, in addition to meeting the needs, wants,  and characteristics of the people who are staffing them today.  See diagram below, Model of a Culture of High Employee Engagement.

The Goals of the On-boarding Process

–  Build work relationships that facilitate cooperation and teamwork

–  Provide the big picture of the organization’s success

–  Provide a picture and explanation of departmental inter-dependencies & interactions

–  Link employees’ jobs to departmental success & organizational success.


Slide1 2

Building Work Relationship

Cooperation and good communications are corporate cultural characteristics that are key factors in creating success for any organization. These characteristics are built on solid work relationships. The inter-dependence of departments on one another is a given in today’s linked business environment. Building good relationships within an organization facilitates the cooperation and communications that keep things moving vs. creating bottlenecks.

Providing new employees with a picture of how the organization defines, achieves, and measures its success.

Understanding the work of one’s organization and how each of the departments and employees fit into the big picture is another building block in developing Engaged Employees – it’s about wrapping meaning and value around what employees do each day.


In following up with new employees, the Onboarding process outlined above was graded as the most beneficial and effective part of the new employee process.   It was credited with creating a feeling of belonging to something important and putting their work into a context that demonstrated its value.


Here is a sampling of questions for evaluating Onboarding: 

1.  Were you provided with an organization chart?

2.  Was the goal of the On-boarding process explained to you?

3.  Were you provided with an overview of the departments within the company and their primary objectives.

4.  Were departmental relationship, dependencies, and interactions reviewed as well?

5.  Were meetings arranged with Supervisors and Managers of other departments?

6.  Which Departments?

7.  Did these meetings occur?

8.  Were introductions made to managers and staff in these departments especially those with whom you will  interact regularly?

9.  Were you able to spend at least 45 min. with each department you visited?

  • Did you learn about the work of the department?
  • Their challenges?
  • Recent successes?
  • Potential interactions with you and your department?
  • Were you introduced to staff, especially those with whom you would be interacting.
  • Did these staff member review their responsibilities and potential interactions with your work?

10.  Did you On-boarding experience achieve the goals as explained to you?

11.  Was the On-boarding process of value to you?

  • How and why?

12.  On a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the highest score, how would you grade the On-boarding process?

13.  How might we improve the On-boarding process?



Employees who do not feel competent to do their jobs well, will never become engaged employees

Train & Leave


Here is a sampling of questions for evaluating Training:

1.  How much of your training have you completed?

2.  Was the training you received adequate in preparing you to do all of the functions of your job effectively within the time frame that your manager seemed to expect?

3.  Were you provided with details about the various activities or functions you needed to learn in order to do the job satisfactorily with time frames for meeting learning expectations?

4.  Did the training seem to be a one size fits all approach or more oriented toward your needs, i.e. taking into account your specific knowledge and experience?

5.  Were you given adequate opportunity to ask questions and receive explanations?

6.  Was your training monitored for progress?

7.  Did you receive feedback on your progress and level of achievement?

8.  Was the training orderly, sequential relative to the way the work would be done OR were explanations about sequence and potential “steps” clearly described?

(Oftentimes work cycles are long and training begins somewhere along the continuum of a project’s time line.   When this occurs, you want to be sure the employee understands what came before, i.e. where they are in the process as they receive their training)

9.  On a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the highest score, how would you grade the Training you received?

10.  Your suggestions for improving the Training process:


Once surveys are returned, I believe there is great value in conducting a meeting (a video conference if necessary) with those recent hires to review the survey responses and promote a dialogue that can take the organization to the next level in how new employees are brought into the organization.

Such a meeting typically involves employees from several functional areas – another plus.


Beyond the benefits and goals already mentioned for the New Employee Feedback Program , there are additional benefits to be derived in adopting a MEETING FORMAT to review the feedback, they are:

Check markFacilitation of development of a mind set that encourages  building work relationships which tend to create open communication, cooperation, and fosters trust (a basic building block for Engagement),

Check markAttaching value and importance to what employees do (another building block for Engagement,

Check markDefining the behaviors the organization values with action not just words on Mission, Vision, and Values statements,

Check markDeveloping a bond between organization and employees that translates to commitment, i.e. Engagement,

Check markDeveloping employees who think about how work is done and how to do it better, a hallmark of the Engaged Employee.


A TRUE STORY about the outcome of a meeting with new employees to hear their Feedback:

We were discussing new employee experiences with training at our Biotech Company. One of our new techs volunteered that her training had not been very effective and went on to describe why – “the why” she figured out after about 4 months on the job.   The complex process in which she had been training had a 3 – month completion term from start to finish.   She had come in somewhere in the middle of the process and this is where her training had begun.  

No one had attempted to explain this to her and since she had no idea about the process from start to finish, she had no idea about what if anything she needed to know about what had come before her starting point and its impact on the place where her training had begun.  

It wasn’t until she had completed one cycle and was beginning another that she realized there was a serious fault in how the training had been delivered. Her training would have been fully meaningful and better understood had she been given a foundation on which to build her understanding as training progressed.   She suggested at the Feedback Meeting that a flow chart be created to describe all the processes that went into creating the product from start to finish and that each new employee be provided with an overview of the production process as they begin their training and then shown where their training will begin on the flow chart.

This plan was adopted not only in one department, but also in other departments. It resulted in better training outcomes in which new employees reached full proficiency sooner and with fewer errors.  Employee productivity, especially output quality, improved.

There had been an ongoing discussion about how long it was taking new employees in some departments to reach full proficiency, and costly errors were a concern.   Failure to meet deadlines was blamed on under-staffing and staffing was increased with minimal improvement in outputs. Managers were charged with looking into the situation to determine potential solutions, but no one solicited any feedback from new employees about their training – the attitude from managers was – it is what it is.  


If all of the efforts toward improving Engagement are to have the desired positive impact, what is learned cannot end up in a report in the bottom drawer of an HR department cabinet.

The knowledge and information collected  must be shared with other management, followed by back and forth communications on the meaning and value of the information and how it should and will be used.

SPECIFIC ACTION PLANS and timelines for implementation need to be created to address deficiencies and the monitoring and feedback process with new employees as well as other staff needs to be ongoing.

The success of the organization depends on it.

HR departments operating at a high level, are ideally suited to looking at and understanding the organization as a whole, then gathering information on various operational pieces with initiatives such as this New Employee Feedback Forum, and sharing these findings with other management and working with them to identify and facilitate improvement strategies to the various parts that will benefit the whole.   An HR department that is not up to this task, needs to be upgraded with professionals who are.





“…………over 80% of the global workforce is actively disengaged”






Before we move on to New Employee Engagement Initiative Day 1 & New Employee Feedback, a look back to THE HIRING PIECE  

The selection process has to be executed with Employee Engagement in mind, see post Hiring for high levels of Employee Engagement. If the organization has been successful in training managers to identify candidates who are most likely to become engaged employees, you will be well positioned for the next step, actually creating that engaged employee and monitoring engagement and management practices in your workforce through employee feedback.

Why “Management Practices?”  We know employee engagement and management practices are linked, see post Management Practices Impact Engagement.





  • It starts with the programs you create for bringing new employees into the organization, and
  • Continues with monitoring and surveying those new employees about those processes (Feedback), and
  • Monitoring and surveying all employees about their work environment across a range of factors.

Bullet #2 is the primary focus of this post.   However, reviewing some basics will set the stage for the importance of both engagement and early feedback from new employees.

Employee engagement is important because it’s about the value employees deliver and it affects the bottom line. Please see previous post Engagement =s Commitment.

Fact: organizations that collect data on workforce behavior and create reports on engagement have concluded that over 80% of the global workforce is actively disengaged, i.e. unmotivated.

This represents a cost to employers.   The organization is paying a salary for an expected output and outcomes and not getting full value back.

You can extrapolate further and calculate the impact on:

  • product and/or service quality,

  • customer satisfaction,

  • waste & injuries due to errors, and

  • employee dissatisfaction resulting in turnover.

burning money

Understanding the importance of Employee Engagement vs. the fact that today’s organizations are dealing with an Engagement crisis should raise your concern about Engagement levels in your organization and encourage the implementation of initiatives to promote it starting on Day 1 of employment;

  • Develop new hire programs and measure their effectiveness, also
  • measure the engagement of existing staff followed by implementation of remedial programs to improve it.




>>>> Getting feedback on the effectiveness of these programs, also essential <<<<


The effectiveness of the programs you develop and utilize with new employees to promote engagement will determine

  • The trajectory of those new hires’ success and productivity in your organization,
  • The value they deliver to the organization, and
  • How soon they deliver that value

Slide1 2

You can’t know, with confidence, if your efforts are adequate and accomplish their purpose unless you ask for feedback? It’s as simple as that.

If feedback from employees of any sort is avoided in your organization, it is worth asking why this is the case.   I can assure you, the answer to that question will, of itself, be enlightening.


Here are some of the responses I have heard when asking companies why feedback is not solicited from employees.

    •    Employees will expect us to do something with the feed-back  – FAIL
    •    We already know everything we need to know – FAIL
    •    Everything is just fine – FAIL
    •    I’m in charge – FAIL

Is your organization “Feedback Phobic?” What’s the rationale behind it?

There are several very important reasons for soliciting new employee feedback impacting both Employee and Organization Development.   Here’s just one that deserves some attention. It is more focused on the Organization Development side than Employee Development.

Do you often wish there was a way of getting fresh eyes on the efficiency and effectiveness of operations at your organization without having to bring in an expensive consultant?

An excellent source, at the very least a place to start, and more often than not – ignored, is getting feedback about your operations from recent hires.  

These folks are not yet immersed in and married to departmental or organization routines – the way work in done, the processes that are in place. They are seeing things through fresh eyes. The way you wish other employees and managers were able to see things.

These new employees also present an opportunity to learn about the “best practices” which may have been used in the other organizations with which they have been associated – however, new employees are not likely to volunteer such information without some indication that it is wanted. The new employee feedback process I will outline provides the opportunity for communicating that sharing best practices as well as new ideas for improving how work is done is valued and wanted.

You might find long term employees resent the idea that a new employee might have something of value to contribute or especially that management may want to hear what it is.   This is especially true in organizations where the status quo is something to be guarded at all cost, new ideas and ways of working are few and far between and are only entertained from those in managerial roles and with longevity in the organization.   (Sounds pretty awful when it’s written out in plain English doesn’t it?)


Back to the new employee, those first few months on the job, and gathering information about the execution & effectiveness of new employee programs

Those early weeks are the building blocks for what will come later in the way of performance from your new employees, so companies need to know about the effectiveness of the programs they have put into place.

I like to survey employees who have been with the organization for 3 – 6 month and have completed a good part of their training and are “doing the job.”

The “doing the job” piece is critical, since it allows the new employee to evaluate how effective the training has been.

Make it clear in the survey introduction, that completing the survey is a service that is valued by the organization.  State that understanding what we are doing well and not so well in bring people into the organization is considered critical to the ongoing success of the organization and critical in identifying improvements to new employee programs.

Further, I like to include words in the introduction that describe the value of their “new eyes,” their insights into the quality and effectiveness of how work is being done gained during training and their early weeks on the job.   Insights that can be invaluable in reviewing work processes to make improvements.

Once surveys are returned, I believe there is great value in conducting a meeting (a video conference if necessary) with those recent hires to review the survey responses and promote a dialogue that can take the organization to the next level in how new employees are brought into the organization.  Such a meeting typically involves employees from several functional areas – another plus.

Beyond the reasons stated above, there are additional benefits in adopting a regular process for soliciting this type of new employee feedback in a MEETING FORMAT, they are:

Check markFacilitation of development of a mind set that encourages  building work relationships which tend to create open communication, cooperation, and fosters trust (a basic building block for Engagement),


Check markAttaching value and importance to what employees do (another building block for Engagement,


Check markDefining the behaviors the organization values with action not just words on Mission, Vision, and Values statements,


Check markDeveloping a bond between organization and employees that translates to commitment, i.e. Engagement,


Check markDeveloping employees who think about how work is done and how to do it better, a hallmark of the Engaged Employee.


In the next post (Part II), I will provide a step-by-step process that I have used very *effectively to collect feedback (and a TRUE STORY from the process):

*When I say effectively I mean having feedback meetings that have contributed to positive change and created measurable improvement to existing departmental  processes and to orientation, on- boarding and training programs.

See Part 2 of this post:     New Employee Engagement Initiative Starting Day 1 – PART 2





TRUST is basic component of cultures where employee engagement exists at a high level.   More on Trust next time.

The following practices, which are essentially management deficiencies, are the other factors that are noted as playing a significant role in the level of employee engagement.  In companies or departments within company where engagement is low you will find some or all of these deficiencies.


Placing the wrong people in the wrong jobs; It takes more than direct experience and the right degree to be the right person for a job.  It takes enthusiasm and interest in the work.  Train interviewers to identify interest and enthusiasm.  If interest and enthusiasm are there, even the most reserved candidate will display these for the job you are attempting to fill as you describe it to them or when they describe their past accomplishments in a similar position.


As to both content and time frame for completion, and the lack of an on-boarding program will leave employees feeling frustrated and unattached to the job and the company. (On-boarding is not orientation)


With little opportunity for learning and growth a motivated employee is transformed into a bored employee.


They feel their jobs are meaningless. A better model for Performance Management is needed: One that illustrates alignment of employee efforts with departmental and organizational goals.



Often it will be high turnover rates that start to attract attention followed by work quality issues and absenteeism.   However, in the economic conditions of the last few years, people have remained in their jobs out of the lack of options, so management deficiencies may go un-noticed while dis-engaged employees negatively impact productivity.  
Once the labor market improves, low engagement can become high turnover with the additional problem of difficulty in finding the replacement talent you need.

I strongly recommend Employee Perception Surveys done every other year to learn about how well you are doing in promoting employee engagement.   

An Employment Perception Survey is like taking a temperature.   Low scores will tell you something is wrong, but you will need to dig deeper to pinpoint the extent of issues and potential solutions.

Also, remember, “perception is reality,” your survey responses will lead you to correct real issue and correct erroneous perceptions – both are a problem.

These are some of the areas where an EPS would provide information about the efficacy of management practices and whether or not they promote employee engagement.

  • Perception of jobs and the work
  • Work environment
  • Attitudes toward quality and quality efforts
  • Commitment to the customer and customer relationships
  • Management support
  • Career advancement/opportunities
  • Opportunities for training and development
  • Ability to improve work/Feedback
  • Overall understanding of the organization’s goals/priorities





Once you’ve “hired for engagement” what happens next, and how well it’s done, in the areas of On-boarding and training, will determine the trajectory of a new employee’s success in that organization, the value they deliver, and also positively or negatively impact the productivity of those working with them and around them.


In earlier posts I talked about the benefits of the Employee Perception Survey (EPS) and follow-up fact finding initiatives.   In one post in particular “Find out what you don’t know,” I presented some examples of what one might learn in analyzing employees’ responses.  This type of information is invaluable in determining the effectiveness of processes and programs that impact productivity, retention, and customer satisfaction and can act as a roadmap for areas that should be targeted for improvement as well the ultimate goal of an improvement strategy.


 “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.”     Charles Darwin

A business reality as well – Is your company responsive to the need to change?

The programs that I’ve implemented for On-boarding and Training of new employees were direct outcomes of Employee Perceptions Surveys and the information gathered from follow-up interviews with employees across all functions.  They represented completely new approaches to the process of bringing new employees into the company.

In survey followup, employees specifically called out poorly orchestrated and delivered training as an issue in our company that needed to be addressed.  From past experience in working with other organizations, I am very comfortable in stating that this is likely an issue in many organizations.

Poor communications and cooperation between and amongst work groups and departments was also cited and connected to frustration with waste in time, effort, and money.  These issues are all traceable to the way new hires are introduced to their new jobs in their new company.

If you do not currently conduct a new employee feedback program (3 to 6 months after hire) on the effectiveness of your Orientation, On-boarding and Training Programs, I would strongly suggest doing so.   You are missing an opportunity to fix what’s not working in those critical first few months of employment.  Some suggestions for effectively obtaining this type of feedback will follow in a future Post.

Getting feedback on Steps I and II is about protecting and enhancing the “Return” on the investment the company has made in hiring a new employee.

On-boarding is NOT orientation…….

which might include a summary of benefits, a review of the employee handbook, etc.  On-boarding is about “getting down to business.”

Regardless of a new employee’s level in the organization, a new job in a new company is stressful.  Even at the highest levels, failure in the job typically occurs within 18 – 24 months and is most often linked to the failure to build the relationships needed to function successfully and failure to achieve goals and objectives because these were poorly communicated and understood.

When exploring EPS findings relative to poor communications and cooperation between and amongst work groups and departments and waste in time, money and effort, what was learned was quite startling.

  • Employees could not articulate the current objectives of their department or the top 4 – 5 objectives of the organization nor did they have a copy of these to reference*.
  • Employees were not sure about their current objectives and how they would be evaluated*.

 *Employee’s had worked on their Objectives with their managers before the beginning of the year and had received an electronic  and hard copy of the Corporate, their Departmental, and their own Objectives, which they had signed.

  • Employees did not understand how their work impacted others in other work groups and departments.
  • Employees did not understand their role or their department’s role in the bigger picture of the company’s success.
  • They had not developed good working relationships with co-workers outside of their own groups.
  • Employees in such functions as R&D, Quality Control, and Manufacturing had never been exposed to the impact of product failures and release delays on customers since they had little to no interaction with Sales or Technical support.   This lack of connection applied amongst other functions as well.
  • Clearly Silos were a huge problem.


These issues are inconsistent with a corporate culture that promotes an “engaged” workforce. 


How would employees in your organization do in the areas mentioned above?

On-Boarding – The 1st Step in building Employee Engagement

On-boarding – at least my version of what On-boarding should be – – is the first step in building employee engagement, the first step in connecting people to their jobs and starting to foster a commitment to the company and co-workers.

On-boarding is also ideally suited to the new generations in the workforce, Gen X & Y, since it feeds into their desire for empowerment, the need to learn, grow, and understand, as well as their desire to develop and build relationships.

 On-boarding, as I have designed it, is aimed at planting the seeds for developing an engaged employee by accomplishing the following:

  •  Teach new employees about the company’s business
      • Its successes and challenges,
      • Its competitors
  • Educate new employees about the work of the functional areas and how they interact and depend on one-another.
  • Accelerate new employee development by giving them a leg up in building the relationships that will contribute to their success in the job and promote good cooperation and communications throughout the organization.
  • Create a model of corporate, departmental and individual objectives that demonstrates the link amongst these and demonstrates Organizational Alignment.  (The employee’s specific objectives will be addressed in the Post on Training.)
      • An image of their efforts as being valued and a part of the bigger picture – their department and company success.
  • Create a sense of belonging and eventually pride in being part of something worthwhile

Using the goals above as a guide, the approach to an On-boarding Program should be scaled and designed to effectively work within an organization’s structure.




 I like to begin the On-boarding Meeting process after the new employee’s 2nd or 3rd week on the job.   This will allow them to first develop a basic understanding of their own department’s operations.

Meetings are arranged for the new employee with functional departmental management.  With large departments, I like to rotate the manger that will host a new employee.  A good time frame for the meetings is 1 – 2 hours.  Longer meetings with the goal of a more in depth understanding of the various jobs within the host department might be worthwhile – let specific circumstances be the guide.

These one on one meetings are the foundation of an effective On-boarding program.  I would not consider a PowerPoint presentation entitled, “about our company” to be an effective substitute for the process I am proposing.

 I encourage the new employee’s manager to escort the new employee to each meeting and to make the introduction to the host department’s manager.

 Ideally, managers, who will host meetings, have been briefed on how to conduct a good On-boarding meeting with a new employee.  For example, I ask managers to include the following:

  • The specific role of the department, also its
      • current objectives,
      • recent successes, and
      • challenges.
  • How the department may interact with the new employees department, areas of dependence, potential conflicts.
  • Nature of interactions and interdependence with various other departments.
  • I ask managers to make introductions to other members of the host department and have each of these employees take some time to explain their duties and goals.   When applicable, interactions that are likely to take place with the new employee and their department should be defined.
      • Managers should provide guidance to their direct reports about the goals of On-boarding and suggest approaches to their On-boarding briefings.

 Mangers have universally found these meetings professionally satisfying and have told me that they feel it does promote better cooperation and certainly a better understanding of the business and higher levels of employee engagement.  I wouldn’t under estimate the value of the sense of pride a host manager feels toward their department and employees as they go through an On-boarding experience with a new employee.


UPCOMING POSTS:  Training & Getting Feedback From Employees On Their Experiences As New Hires.







Whether you’ve hired the square peg to fit the square hole or opted for hiring someone for whom the job will be lateral move requiring time to acclimate to a new environment or the next step in a career, training, * support systems, and on-boarding are crucial components to the new employee’s first few months on the job.  This applies regardless of  level within the organization.

The effectiveness of these three processes will determine the trajectory of that new hire’s career with your company, the value they will deliver, and how soon they will begin delivering it.

* Support systems might include:  Mentors, Go To People, well written job SOPs, supportive team environment.

As stated in the previous post on On-boarding (Post on “On-boarding” )   failure to achieve goals and objectives is a major factor causing failure in the job within 18 -24 months; Poorly planned and delivered On-boarding and Job Training is a major contributing factor in these failures.

QUESTION:  The productivity of how many others is impacted by a new hire’s lack of proficiency due to poor training and onboarding?   How long does this situation typically last?  Most important, what is the COST?

Failure to provide effective training results in a cost


….. an often unnoticed yet pervasive expense that seems to fly under the radar in many companies.  Nevertheless, it is an unnecessary “cost” just like excessive errors & low productivity, spoiled inventory, over staffing, or excessive machine down time.   Interestingly, these kinds of costs are all of great concern, but how often is the connection made to poor training follow by an initiative to effectively address the problem.


So what constitutes effective job training?

Effective job training is built upon correct content delivered in an orderly sequence to create full proficiency in the shortest possible time and includes support systems that reinforce training and provide assistance when necessary.

AND…a shared responsibility between the employee and the manager for achieving the objectives of the training.


Appropriate and focused content


 Delivered in an orderly sequence


 With defined “milestones” within a time line


 Resulting in full proficiency in the shortest possible time.


Making sure training is being done well

Job Training is typically left to departmental managers and supervisors. While HR cannot do departmental training, a true HR professionals should have the skill set to evaluate the effectiveness of a training process.

HR should have an understanding of the work of departments, as well as having some understanding of the jobs within them to be able to ask the right questions to evaluate the effectiveness of training programs.  HR needs to provide guidance on training and HR does need to ask questions about how training is being done, the content, sequence, how it is being monitored and the timing to reach proficiency.

Detail on the training an employee has received should be part of each employee’s file.  This is as important as maintaining records of employees’ performance reviews.

New Employee Feedback, mentioned in a previous post, is another critical piece in determining how effective employee training is – and don’t hesitate to ask for suggestions to improve it.  Suggestions for a process to obtain new employee feedback will appear in a future post.


Lets look at the facts – the impact – of poor job training  


Training is so basic to productivity……..


It progressively increases the value a new employee delivers over a shorter time frame.  Well-planned and executed training reduces the time to reach proficient thereby reducing the time it takes to execute tasks.   Training is critical to creating an engaged employee.   Feeling incompetent and unsure of oneself will never create engagement.  Competence, proficiency, and productivity and the resulting “quality” of output are basic to delivering customer value.   It is astounding that training is so often done so poorly, with little planning, order, and monitoring of effectiveness.

Examples of what employees have told me about their experience as a new hire

In talking to new employees after 4 – 9 months on the job these are examples of what I heard at several companies during new employee feedback meetings.

  • I’m leaving because after 9 months, I’m still stumbling around and not comfortable that I will ever get the training I need to do this job well.   Training is just not important here and that’s a threat to my success.
  • There really wasn’t any formal training, no plan.  I didn’t know what I would be tackling from one day to another or how things fit together.
  • It was difficult to gain an understanding of what I needed to learn to do the job effectively and where I should be at any given time relative to learning the job, no road map so to speak.
  • I know that I am a capable person, but the quality of the training I’ve had for this job has me feel anything but competent.
  • I seemed to be getting training out of sequence with the order in which many processes should done because of where we were in the process, so I was really confused.  I made a suggestion to remedy this but I don’t know if it will be used.
  • After training was completed, there were no resources to use as a reference when I got stuck doing a complex process that I didn’t do regularly.  My own notes were only somewhat helpful.
  • People seemed to be doing the same tasks differently, so asking someone for help made things more confusing and I’m seeing that this creates another set of problems.


Details on the components and process of developing

excellent training programs – next post

Develop Training That Clearly Communicates – Productivity & Excellence Are Our Goals.






“TRUST” The underlying support

TRUST  is the underlying support for sustained high levels of employee engagement and retention.

Whether we choose to trust a product or a service and the organizations that provide these or trust in a relationship, personal or professional,

TRUST is the basis for commitment

In the employer/employee relationship, this commitment translates into pro-active work behaviors that benefit the organization and all its stakeholders, which includes employees themselves, customers, and other stakeholders.

We label these pro-active work behaviors as indicating “Employee Engagement”

High turnover is a negative outcome in organizations where trust and ethical behavior are seen as lacking or on the decline.   There is no positive correlation between high turnover and high employee engagement and productivity.

Here are results of two surveys, with slightly different goals and focuses that look at the impact of trust in organizations.

The first survey focuses on the behaviors that impact the development or destruction of trust amongst and between various interacting groups.    The second survey looks at the effects of declining levels of trust on turnover and specific employee behaviors at work.

A Survey of Trust in the Workplace by Paul Bernthal, Ph.D  was done in the mid 1990s.   This survey examined trust levels amongst 4 groups, peers, leaders, other teams, and senior Management in 57 organizations.   The full survey details may be accessed using this link  Survey of Trust in the Workplace, Dr. Paul Bernthal

Just about half of respondents expressed the belief that trust was an issue in their organizations.

The results also indicated that demographics such as position in the organization, tenure, even industry and company size did not affect ratings significantly or consistently.

Some of Dr. Bernthal’s findings are as follows:

  • Trust in senior management tended to be the lowest vs. trust of other leaders, peers and other teams.
  • The level of trust in senior management stood as a predictor of the general perception of trust in the organization as a whole.
  • Those who were seen as trusted leaders were seen as demonstrating behaviors such as consistency, dependability/reliability, support during risk taking, and keeping direct reports’ best interests in mind.
  •  “Trust Building” and “Trust Reducing” behaviors were identified however, *there was more universal agreement on “Trust Building” behaviors.



It is interesting to note the differences in ratings depending on who is doing the rating and who they were rating amongst Leaders, Peers, or Direct Reports 

  1. Communicates with me openly & honestly, without distorting any information. Consistency in words and actions – # 1 trust builder (Most important from leaders)
  2. Shows confidence in my abilities by treating me as skilled, competent associate. (Most important from leaders)
  3. Keeps promises and commitments (Most important from direct reports)
  4. Listens to & values what I say, even though he/she may not agree. (Most important from peers)
  5. Cooperates with me and looks for way in which we can help each other. (Most important from direct reports, peers)



Again there are differences in ratings depending on who is doing the rating and who they were rating amongst Leaders, Peers, or Direct Reports.

There was not as much agreement on the behaviors that reduce trust.

  1. Acts more concerned about his/her own welfare than anything else. (Most damaging in leaders)
  2. Sends mixed messages, I never know where he or she stands. (Most damaging in leaders)
  3. Avoids taking responsibility for action (“passes the buck” or “drops the ball”) (Most damaging in direct reports)
  4. Jumps to conclusions without checking the facts.
  5. Makes excuses or blames others when things don’t work (finger-pointing,) (Most damaging in direct reports)


In 2010 Deloitte conducted a survey titled “Ethics and Workplace Survey: Trust in the Workplace.”   Previous versions of this survey had focused on Work-Life Fit, Ethical Behavior and the impact of leadership transparency on productivity.  This survey focused on the impact of Trust in the workplace in addition to areas reviewed in previous surveys which also impact trust.    The full survey can be found by clicking on this link  2010 Ethics and Workplace Survey: Trust in the Workplace.

A summary of the salient points relative to employee trust in their employer:

The survey found that the recession that began in 2007-2008 has diminished “two important forms of business currency—trust and ethics.”

  • 48% of employees who plan to look for a new job when the economy shows signs of stability will do so because of loss of trust in their employer.   This loss of trust is directly related to how business and operational decisions were handled over the last two years, E.g. lack of transparent leadership communication.
  • Executives seem to concur and believe that trust (65%) and transparency (48%) will be leading factors in voluntary turnover as the economy recovers.
  • Fairness is another factor that will drive turnover.  40% employees feel that they have been treated unfairly and that they have been victims of unethical behavior.
  • 39% of Executives also believe this is true.

I don’t think it would be a stretch to assume that these folks with one foot out the door are not exhibiting high levels of commitment or engagement in their current roles and productivity and creativity are suffering.

The responses to this question in the Deloitte survey clearly shows that trust between employer and employee is valued regardless of role in the organization and is  acknowledged as having a positive impact in several critical areas.

Responses were separated for Employees and Executives

Question:     Of the following items, which do you believe are the most positively affected when an employee trusts his or her employer?  


55%   Employees                              46%    Executives

Teambuilding and collaboration

39%   Employees                              29%   Executives

Productivity and Profitability

36%   Employees                              66%   Executives

Ethical decisions

35%   Employees                              16%   Executives

Willingness to stay with the company

32%   Employees                              43%   Executives







Develop training that clearly communicates………………….. PRODUCTIVITY & EXCELLENCE are our GOALS!




……….And what happens when you don’t!


A word about the effect of leader expectations on individual and departmental performance which extends to the impact of a leader’s expectations on the outcome of training as well.



Scientific research reveals: 

  • A leader’s expectations of his subordinates and the way he treats them has a significant impact on their performance and developmental progress.   This area was also addressed in an earlier post on Engagement & Management Practices

  • Superior leaders have a unique characteristic of being able to create high performance expectations that their subordinates fulfill.

  • Less effective leaders fail to develop similar expectations and the consequence is lower productivity and less development of their subordinates.

  • Subordinates, more often than not, appear to do & accomplish what they believe they are expected to do & accomplish.

From: Management of Organizational Behavior by Hershey and Blanchard



Build TRAINING around acquiring knowledge about the company and the department and around the job’s DELIVERABLES & ACCOUNTABILITIES .  Adjust according to the employee’s knowledge and ability when they walk in the door.  Try to avoid “a one size fits all” approach to training.

Primary goal – create understanding and proficiency over a set period of time so the employee is able to execute responsibilities and achieve objectives.  

 Training, and specific components of the training, should be pegged to a time line that is being monitored by both the employee and the manager.  

Training should be a shared responsibility. 








Poorly structured and delivered training has a negative impact on hiring ROI. 

A company or organization pays full salary from day 1, but typically does not reap the equivalent in output from day 1.   The longer it takes an employee to reach full productivity the lower your return on the cost of the hire and all the monies paid out from the start date.  

The inability to do the job well also impacts the level of engagement an employee will achieve.

Their lack of productivity also impacts the productivity of those with whom they must interact.  Ultimately, all of this sub-optimal output affects the quality of service and products you deliver to your customers.

Hiring the square peg that fits the square hole to avoid training is not the answer, that just presents different challenges at another time, see post Selecting for High Levels of Employee Engagement.  

The answer is to “select” the correct combination of skills, education, aptitudes and experience – temperament counts too! Then create effective On-boarding and Training processes.



At Company A, following the analysis of the Employee Perception Survey, follow-up initiatives and solicited new employee feedback, it became quite clear that too many employees felt less than competent in executing their job responsibilities.

The training process for most jobs consisted of manager’s completing and filing a check off form.   All this form really indicated was that the person knew certain techniques that would be used in their job.   Completion of the form had nothing to do with being able execute job specific processes. It didn’t indicate an understanding of the order of execution of processes, the ability to understand and follow regulated procedures or understand the repercussions of mis-steps.  Bottom line, Checking off the list of skills on the training forms did not mean competence in executing job responsibilities and deliverables.  These training forms were little more than pieces of paper for the file to satisfy company procedures written to meet the requirements of outside regulatory agencies.

Sound familiar?

 Actual job training was neither planned nor sequential relative to the order in which processes were executed and there was little monitoring of how an employee was doing.  New employees were left with little choice but to constantly ask others for assistance.  This was a case of the blind leading the blind.  The lack of understanding about quality procedures and regulations was pervasive resulting in deterioration of adherence to them.  Improvised solutions were being applied in production to get product and components through quality testing.

Employees for most jobs should have been fully proficient within 4 – 6 months.  In doing a review with managers on the status of the readiness of staff to perform all of the functions that were part of their job descriptions, we found that even employees with 12 months of service could not meet this basic expectation. These competency shortfalls increased the workload of others, caused errors and production delays and inconsistency in product performance from one lot to another.

Focusing on two critical departments, it became very clear why we were in this troubling situation.   Managers were asked three simple questions,

  1. What does the person coming into  job B need to know and/or learn to be successful in the job?

  2. What progression should these things be taught for an orderly process?

  3. What is the typical time line for delivering, evaluating progress, and completing various phases of this training?

Managers could not provide a thoughtful answer to these basic questions nor any outline that indicated they followed an orderly plan for training new employees beyond confirming basic skills on that check-off form.  Training was a “seat of the pants” process.

How would your mangers answer those 3 questions relative to the jobs in their departments?




An orderly plan for training was developed with each manager using a milestones approach.

It goes something like this:

  • Define what an employee in a specific job needs to know and learn in order to be successful in that job.

  • Taking into account the skills, experience, and knowledge the new employee brings to the job, what do they need to learn and know?

Now let’s break it down.  In what sequence should learning of material occur?   What should a new employee know and be capable of doing at various intervals, e.g. 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months.

  • If a work process is lengthy, and you will start the training in mid process, do explain that.   Also, provide a flow chart, a diagram, or a description of the complete process and where the training will begin.  Important also, are details about the output produced by the already completed phases of a process.

  • Evaluate the employees progress at regular interval before moving to next steps.

  • To enhance a new employee’s productivity as they go through training and upon completion, encourage managers to create SOPs or reference material, and provide mentors and go-to people.


 Create a training plan for the employee based on their knowledge vs. job requirements and review expectations with them so that they understand their goals.


  Define where the training in a process will begin and what has happened earlier in the process.


  Review progress with the employee regularly and as the milestone completion dates approach before moving to next steps.


 Set the next group of milestones.


  To enhance the new employee’s productivity during and following training,  put support systems into place.




Research on how we learn (using technologies such a MRI) is providing us with information on the learning process, our limits and how to improve learning and retention.


  • We have maybe 20 minutes of intense learning time before the brain says “enough,” so alternate learning with practice, discussion, etc.   

  • Working memory (what we use during the day) has a small capacity and retains information temporarily.

  • To retain what we have learned, the information must move to another area of the brain where long term memory is located – the Basal Ganglia.

How does that happen?

                                       S L E E P  







  • Break training into more manageable sessions of maybe 1 hour each and introduce variety into the process.

  • Use active learning techniques

Create or describe problem scenarios and ask trainees to come up with ideas and strategies to resolve them.  Make training Inter-active.

Include opportunities for discussion of the material being taught.



Have trainees – train one another or simply describe to one another what they have just learned.



Include practice time as part of training sessions

Give trainees assignments to complete after your training session.


  • Keep stress and fear levels low during training (and at other times) because these emotions cause unclear thinking as they reduce the  levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters.










Remind your trainees about the retention/ sleep connection.

Suggest to your trainees that before going to sleep, they review newly learned material or create a plan for how they will use the new information the next day.

Creating Onboarding, Orientation and training programs is essential.  Getting feedback on the effectiveness of these programs is also essential.

Next post:   Getting feedback from new employees.








Smiling Group of Professionals



“Skills Shortage” “Qualified Candidates Shortage” – REALLY?


We have a skills shortage in areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  This is not a new issue.   However, a skill shortage or the inability to find qualified people, beyond those STEM areas is an illusion created by failure of process and execution.




It’s not a supply problem.  It’s an execution problem OR more honestly, a failure in execution.


Quite frankly……….. the claim that it is difficult to find qualified people to fill jobs, is more often attributable to……

        • the application of a misguided recipe for candidate selection,
        • an aversion to training,
        • a shortage of interviewing skills for identifying and selecting “talent,”
        • an aversion to making hiring decisions, and
        • discriminatory hiring practices. 

Companies are searching for the square peg that fits the square hole. Job openings are listed with requirements drawn so narrowly that they even include experience using the same software in use at the hiring company.  In addition to having the same job title – with the same responsibilities – in the same industry, some also want a candidate who has performed the job in the same way.  Please see post: Hire for Employee Engagement – It’s not the Square Peg!

With such qualifications required to fill a job, how can it be anything but difficult to find people to fill an opening.

You would suspect that no one has ever learned a new piece of software or a new skill, and yet, because of the pace of change………the exact opposite is true. 

People at work are successfully being introduced to new software, processes and procedures on a regular basis driven by technological advances. 

……And it’s not just the “Square-Peg Mentality.   We also see…….. 



Against the  UNEMPLOYED,  Against the OLDER WORKER

people blurred


DISCRIMINATION against the unemployed, is another mis-guided practice that leaves highly qualified and educated people on the sidelines, unemployed while companies talk about their inability to find qualified people.



Rather than eliminating these people without even a look at what they offer. we need to TAKE A LOOK AT THEM INTELLIGENTLY.

  • Look at what that “unemployed” person has accomplished in their work history.  
  • Look at what they have been doing as they look for work.  
    • Have they kept current with seminars, training, and other professional growth activities
    • Have they extended themselves to help others with volunteer work, 

      and most of all……

  • that unemployed person needs to brought in for an interview, just like other people with equivalent skills and experience.

We are barely coming out of the worst economic downturn since the depression.  The so-called recovery has been sluggish in comparison to other recoveries.  I would think this is widely known along with the understanding that most long term unemployed are in that situation due to factors unrelated to performance, attitude or ability.  

As the economy contracted so did businesses; less customers – fewer employees needed.  Many companies completely shutdown, shutdown divisions, or product lines.  Some became acquisition targets at attractive prices.   Staff redundancies resulted in terminations that had nothing to do with ability but whether or not you were an employee of the acquired company or the acquirer.  

Over 8 million jobs were lost (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).   As of this month, we are close to having gained back approximately the number of jobs lost – might sound good, but it’s not.    Why?    it is estimated that there are 125,000  new entrants to the workforce each month.   How many is that since 2008?   Gaining back close to 8 million jobs gets us only “half way down the field.*

Bottom Line:   A majority of the unemployed were thrown into an untenable and unprecedented situation in our lifetimes and they probably represent the largest segment of the workforce receptive to becoming Engaged Employees.  They deserve at least a level playing field in their job searches.

DISCRIMINATION against the older worker; 

Another source of skills and expertise sitting on the sidelines while companies declare, “we can’t find skilled people;” a total fail to execute effectively.  

We need to TAKE A LOOK A THEM INTELLIGENTLY as well.   They also deserve a level playing field.

  • Look at what that older person has accomplished in their work history just as you would anyone else.  
  • Evaluate them on their ability to do the job as you would anyone else.

Step back from stereo-typing, step away from discriminatory behavior.


Discrimination of any kind is illegal, unethical, morally wrong and is also bad business policy.


Discrimination of any kind is not the hallmark of a rational well thought out and executed hiring process designed to bring onboard qualified, capable people.  

Discrimination is the exact opposite.


We have to do a lot better – there’s an awful lot riding on it!


Once again, for at least some of this problem, we go back to interviewing skills also touched upon in the post on “Square Peg” hiring.   

A skilled interviewer should easily be able to determine, skills and attitude, and if a candidate is unemployed, how they came to be unemployed.  Reference checking is a valuable additional  action that can support a decision to hire or not.    

…… and the other issue that is beginning to surface.  Qualified candidates are declining to accept the salaries being offered.  It appears the some of the mismatch is not between required skills and candidates available.  It’s between the salaries offered and the salaries requested.

Peter Cappelli, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, argues in his book “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs” that employers can’t find qualified workers not because of a “skills gap,” but because employers’ hiring requirements are unrealistic, salaries are too low and overly rigid applicant screening keeps most people out

Yes, we are living in a risk averse period in the conduct of business and this is impacting if, when, and how we hire.

Unfortunately, I also know that nothing very impressive and little if any innovation has come out of being averse to risk, so let’s shake that off – and get back to innovating and intelligent risk taking before we forget how that works!

* We entered a very weak recovery in July 2009, following the deep recession that began in December 2007.   Through 2013, Economist referred to the recovery as “off balance.”   As we approach mid- 2014 the recovery is still called “wobbly.”   First Quarter 2014 GDP results were disappointing and below estimates.

There are some differences amongst Economist’s projections, but the ball park seems to be that in order to gain back all of the jobs lost in the recessions and keep pace with new entrants to the workforce we would need to produce at least 300,o00 new jobs per month for several years.  I cannot find any month where we have reached this number since the recovery began.

Further, and the reason why we have not seen that 300,000 number, that type of job growth typically requires GDP growth of at least 3%.   GDP and job growth statistics are widely available to review.

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