Training Program, Workplace

Onboarding, first impressions and Lean

I thought about the use of lean in areas out of the manufacturing floor the other day when I was browsing Linkedin. I got across a post in which somebody was explaining all the goodies that a group of new employees received. The welcome pack included a company-branded backpack, coffee mug, drinking cup, and polos with the company logo! The cubicles had the basic office supplies and a laptop setup with a working email account. They also received their access credentials listed on a closed envelope. I was happy for them, but mostly I felt jealous.
Many companies fail miserably at onboarding,  I worked for one of them.  I had to go find a good chair, notepads, pens, a stapler, and other basic things.  I received my cell phone after two weeks, with no set-up for emails or use within the company’s private network.  I had to configure the phone myself.  Also, I had to ask around to make a list of the applications I need, request the access and then install them myself.  This reminds me that I also had to create a backup of my computer and installed the mirror image on a new one. The original computer I was given was more a paperweight than a laptop.  In case you wonder, yes the company had an IT department.
The first day on the job, there are a couple of basic things that should be ready for you. The example I mentioned at the beginning was very successful with that part.  It is a nice first impression, but that is not all that matters.
As per SHRM, new employee onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee with a company and its culture. It includes getting a new hire the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team. From this definition, what I described is only part of the process.
The orientation introduces the company mission, vision, and values to the new employee. The orientation includes the company policies, regulatory paperwork, and benefits packet. The employees’ introduction to their department is through onboarding. This is when they get to know their job and their co-workers.  The supervisor should walk the employees through the area and introduce them to the team.  He/she has to make sure that the entire team understands the position of the new hire and how it relates to others.  Introduction to key stakeholders for their job and to support personnel is necessary.  An important part of onboarding is a meeting between employee and supervisor. The meeting is for setting expectations and establish job tasks and responsibilities.  This meeting is a good moment to decide on dates and times to have one on one meetings. Periodic meetings are critical to check on their progress, needs, and concerns.
At the end of my first week at the job on that company I mentioned, I had serious doubts about whether I will stay long.  The orientation was excellent, the onboarding wasn’t and for me, that was a bad sign. I am not alone, about 20% of employee turnover occurs in the first 45 days. Something may be wrong with the way we welcome new employees.
Lean seeks to create more value for the customer. For the onboarding process, the customer is a new employee. What is important for new employees? What do they need? What problems they have with the actual process?
Part of the problem with onboarding is that the process is unclear. A good tool to see the actual steps to complete the onboarding process is process mapping. It is a good tool to identify opportunities, what is missing and what need improvements. Use a Future State Map to visualize the process after improvements implementation.
Some tools that will help to close the gap between actual and future state rea the following. We can use 5 Why to find the root cause of the problems encountered by the new employees. Onboarding is a process shared by various departments. To distinguish the flow and responsibilities a swim lane diagram is a perfect tool. Countermeasures for those problems often need standard work and visual management. When parts of the process have delays waiting, cross-training comes handy. Training on the work and cross-training will develop a flexible workforce.
New employees should feel from the first day that they are welcome. The backpack, polos, and others are a nice first impression, but it is more important to create a good onboarding process.  Lean will help to create a customer-oriented efficient process with minimal waste.
Training Program

Servant Leadership and Accountability

I came across an internet post of a proud CEO who posted that servant leadership is core to his company culture. I was very excited to keep reading and maybe learn a thing or two about servant leadership. Most of the writing was to explain that extreme accountability is key to success. What does accountability have to do with servant leadership?

Merriam-webster defines accountability as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. Every role we have in our life comes with responsibilities. When we accept the role, we also accept the responsibilities coming with it. For many people accountability is meeting the goals, do a good job. When you are a leader there is more to it.

The focus of traditional leadership is the success of the organization but for servant leadership, the focus is much broader. Servant leaders understand that the way they treat the employee affect customer service. When the company takes care of the people, the people take care of the operations and the customers. The way we treat the employees determines if the customer satisfaction record will be good or not.

Servant leaders understand that they are accountable for their actions. Those actions include their development and the development of their people. Creating an environment where people flourish is key. Here are two examples, Toyota and Barry Wehmiller.

Toyota leaders must take responsibility for driving Toyota towards perfection. They believe that their employees are the most important asset. Their success is the result of that belief and the development of their people. Not everybody has the talent, skills or desire to become a manager. Their point is that everybody has the right to have a fair shot at it if they want to. With its development program, Toyota does that. Leaders set up subordinates for success by learning and practicing the Toyota values. The core values are respect, teamwork, a spirit of challenge, kaizen mind and, go and see to understand. All these are opportunities for growth, in and out of the workplace.

Barry Wehmiller measures success by the way they touch people’s lives. Their business model fosters personal growth. They created a trust-based environment, allowing teams and individuals to have a meaningful role. This setting challenges them, inspires a sense of pride, and celebrates the best in each person.

Servant leadership is not about employee appreciation lunches, summer picnics, and Christmas parties. We need to start investing in the lives of our employees, create a positive impact. If we care, we have to walk the talk, just training is not enough.

Continuous Improvement, Training Program

Delegation done right

For years I heard what some considered a wonderful piece of advice. If you have too many things to do, or you don’t like to do something, delegate! Some people delegate only if it is completely necessary because they are buried in work. Sometimes comes after the realization that you can ask somebody to do what you hate so much. Either one of these reasons is wrong.

Many leaders don’t delegate citing reasons like lack of time for training. They think it is easier or faster if they do it or that only they have the necessary skill set to complete the task. Another reason is the fear of not meeting deadlines or the expected results. I used the same excuses to not delegate. Then I realize that delegation is an excellent tool to promote the growth of our employees. If it is done right, it is also perfect to gain some extra time that we can use for continuous improvement activities.

The first step to develop your team is to decide which tasks you can delegate and which cannot. Identify those tasks that even if you hate them, you are the only one that can do them. Group tasks based on criticality, level of sensitivity or confidentiality. Also, categorize them by skill level and effort.

Delegation is not transferring the responsibility of completing a task. You are still responsible for it and for setting up your employees for success. Match the necessary skills to complete the task with those of your employees. Choose the one that matches better. The next step is to sit down with him or her to have an honest talk about why you want to delegate and why to him or her. Explain the development opportunities but do not hide the challenges coming with it. Never let your employees alone on this journey, design a basic training program and execute it. Do not pretend to dictate every step of the way. Allow your employee to think on his/her own and develop his/her way to do it, trust but verify.

As part of the training, set up expectations, what needs to be done, milestones and due dates. Provide instructions, contact names and relevant information ahead of time. Also, establish follow-up dates to make sure everything is on track.

Delegation done right can be excellent for both parties but make sure that you are delegating and not assigning a task. Delegating is one of the core concepts of management leadership. The person who delegated the work share the responsibility for the outcome with the person doing the work. By delegating you enables the person doing the work to decide how to achieve it. It gives him or her the authority to do the job and offers opportunities to develop new skills. If none of these happen then you are just assigning a task.

Training Program

Why a job description is important?

Whenever you are evaluating if you are a good fit for that position posted on the bulletin board or you have been promoted, the job description is your best ally to learn the primary functions of the job, required qualifications including physical, work conditions and relationship with other positions.  This document plays an important role in your onboarding process and provides the basis for future performance appraisals.

If you are the hiring manager, the job description (JD) will be a great tool to communicate all the critical information regarding the position.  Clear and complete information detailing the responsibilities and expectations of the job are very important to minimize or eliminate confusion and the feeling of not knowing the expectations.  A  JD is also a legal document, you want a well written JD to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) or in case an employee files a lawsuit.

To ensure the job description is aligned with the company goals and culture, I like to incorporate it into the training program, being the spine of the training program design.  In a continuous improvement or lean culture, the job description includes the skills and requirements to support the activities associated with it.  Every task needs to be covered during training, this is a good way to ensure the onboarding is successful and show respect by establishing a good foundation for the employee’s success.  Nothing better for a good employee-employer relationship than to start with a well-designed training created with the employee on the mind.

The Beginning, Training Program

Got a new job?

Don’t waste time learning the “tricks of the trade.” Instead, learn the trade. ~James Charlton

Different times in my life, for various reasons; I decided to embark on a new job.  For years,  I worked for the top three competitors of the same food category.  The transition between them was fairly easy because although different companies, being the same business segment they also had a lot of similarities.  But then one day, I decided to shake up things a bit and went out of my comfort accepting a job offer in a new industry.

How you set up yourself to be successful in a new job?  During the interview process, you advertise all your skills and experience and now its time to show it.  As a manager, I recruited many people during my career and my objective is to help them to be successful.  With that in mind, I guide them through a couple of steps, which are the same I followed.

The first thing is to make sure that you fully understand your role.  Get that job description and read it, highlight those items that are not very clear, ask what they mean.  If you did your assignment, during the interview process you ask most of the questions but ensure you know all the expectations; performance appraisal goals, work hours, travel and others.

My second step is to meet the key people.  Start with your own department and continue with all the others.  If you are in a new industry, you will have to learn the process and those things that are different and unique to this new one. A good way to do this is to ask the department managers for an overview of their processes and if it is possible to spend some hours with the people who perform those processes. There is no better way to learn than going to the gemba and see.

This step is very important because can set the tone of how your relationship with all these people will be.  Be respectful of their time. listen carefully, learn from their experiences.  Let them explain to you those things they are proud of, make questions, engage in the conversation and ask for advice.  How can you help them?  What they think should be your top priority? Identify the people who are willing and able to help you, those with more experience who can be like a mentor for you.

How much time you spend to go through those steps depend on you, the company and of course your boss.  I think this process can be anywhere from a month to three months.  Knowing how your department and your role relates to the whole is very helpful to create your work plan.  If everything went as expected, also you build the foundation for a successful work relationship with your peers.  You don’t need any tricks, just work letting your experience be an asset but not a roadblock to your learning process.