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.
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.

Motivation, Workplace

What can I do to keep my team together?

These days, manufacturing job candidates’ offer is not enough for the demand. Lose experience is critical for the plant operation. The continuous improvement journey is affected as well. Many experienced employees started to retire, which makes retention more important than ever. Whatever happened during their first ninety days can determine how long they stay. What we have to do to keep our team minds away from thinking about getting a new job? A good pay rate and benefits are important but they are not everything.

Employees are looking for a workplace where they are treated with respect, where their ideas and needs matter. A place where they have the tools they need to do their work without safety issues or hassles.

Many new hires are millennials. What are they looking for in their workplace? They want to have a meaningful job, a place where they can make a difference. They also want to grow, learn and feel other people care about them. Millennials want to have a peer, mentor, or somebody who helps and advice not just train them. They are looking for companies that commit to their development the same way they will commit to the company.

What is common to everybody is the need to feel good, respected and that their leaders care about them. People appreciate working in a positive environment where they feel trusted and listened to. They want to feel the trust to talk about what affects their work performance.

This trust does not appear out of the blue, it is built over time. When somebody from the team is struggling, let’s remember them that all of us have bad times. Encourage them to overcome those issues, do not try to diminish them. Listened and let them the chance to vent. Treat employees like people, not a commodity.

Training during onboarding is a great chance to start showing that you care. For some high skill, critical positions it is easy for new hires to feel overwhelmed. There is too much to learn in a short period. High levels of stress can hurt performance. This is a perfect time to encourage communication. Reassure them to ask not just about procedures and policies but about how they feel as human beings.

The supervisor has the burden of making the employee feels appreciated, but the manager plays an important role. A small chat with new employees to say hello and welcome them to the team is enough to establish a relationship. Do not stop there, during the next couple of days or weeks talk with them again. This time ask how they feel, and what they need. Clarify what the job priorities are. It is important to clarify that nobody expects them to know everything. Encourage them to make questions, and clarify doubts.

Onboarding is not the only time for this kind of conversation. You already build the foundation for a respectful relationship with your employees. A relationship based on trust, do not stop listening or caring about their needs or concerns. Stopping will means the end of it.

There is no guarantee that this will incline the scale towards a stay in the company vs. leaving. But, it will help to keep them on the job rather than leaving. Do you want to keep your team together? Start by listening and being sensitive to their needs.

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.

Continuous Improvement, Motivation

To lead your team so they can led you

It happens time after time, I feel down and our employees cheer me up!

As leaders, we are responsible for the lives of our employees but yet many of us don’t understand that important piece of our job.  When I started to work as a team leader, my father told me a couple of rules that he always followed himself.  His first rule was to always respect the people, never ask them to do something you are not willing to do yourself.  The second rule was to never forget that you are responsible for them, their security, their learning, and their success.

Over the years I kept these rules as my north, nothing like practice to learn day by day how to be a better leader.  Through the years I learned that employees look up to their supervisors until they don’t.  When the supervisor shows no respect or care, people stop respecting them and after that their commitment and motivation are gone too.

I make a conscious effort every day to respect. lead, motivate, develop, recognize the good, teach the right way and never get complacent using continuous improvement as the road map to success.  Some days are better than others, but something of this is working because I have seen many of my employees to grow up to become great leaders.  I can tell the difference between employees that enjoy their jobs and those who do not.  When you find those employees on your way, their passion and attitude towards their work cheer you up.

Our job as leaders is to exercise our responsibility and keep working to positively affect the lives of our employees.  Motivation, positivism, and commitment are contagious, let’s spread it!