The LeanCor Way Series - Onboarding: First Impressions Are Everything

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“Its employees were leaving in droves, as many as 50 to 70 percent each year.” In his book, The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle tells the story of a call center that was facing major issues with employee retention.

To deal with this phenomenon, the call center ran some experiments to improve retention that included injecting a new, personalized approach into its day-one training. What they found through this experiment was that an individualized onboarding program drastically improved retention by fostering a heightened sense of safety and belonging for new employees.

First impressions are everything.

This notion is clear and consistent with industry research. 

As we consistently onboard team members at LeanCor with different backgrounds, the profound impact of creating a welcoming, intentional environment for them cannot be undersold. Team members want to feel invited into the fold from the start. Taking care of little details, such as having nameplates and computers prepared for new team members on their first day can go a long way.

Creating this environment for team members does not happen by accident. Since we launched the latest version of our onboarding process five years ago, we have been committed to proactively building a plan for each new team member.  This is something that requires an appetite for repetition and a significant amount of communication and coordination.  Feedback from team members is consistently positive and we have even seen carryover from onboarding into a desire for continued development from our team members.

In our onboarding approach, “job shadowing” is considered a bad word. 

The last thing that we want is for new team members to be victims of the classic question “what would you say you do here?” in our Office Space.

To be honest, our current approach to onboarding team members was the result of problem solving.  Our previous modus operandi was to welcome a new team member with a half-day of HR paperwork and then sit that team member beside a peer until the team member “got it.”  This was ineffective and wildly inefficient. Not only did it drain our current performers, but it delayed the transfer of work ownership to the new team member.

After reflecting on the purpose and outcomes for new team members, we determined that a structured, intentional approach to immediately developing and engaging them would be required. 

Today, every team member’s onboarding is tied to the following goals:

  1. Create common language. Every company has some core combination of terms, slang and acronyms, and we want to expose our new team members to this in a safe way so that there won’t be any barriers for on-the-job learning.
  2. Review basic operational principles. LeanCor is principled in lean thinking, problem solving and often has a differentiated approach to traditional third-party logistics. As such, we seek to educate our new team members in this approach early on and connect it to the big picture, or “why” behind the work.
  3. Introduce proprietary software. The majority of the software that we use in our operations department was crafted and developed in house at LeanCor, so this will be the first time that team members will be exposed to our toolkit - a toolkit that they will likely be using daily. 
  4. Build a team environment with leaders/peers. It can be challenging entering a new workplace if proper introductions are not made, and we seek to facilitate as many early connections as possible through the onboarding scheduling process.
  5. Establish the tone of the culture. Our leadership would agree that this is the single greatest asset at our company. We want to evolve and protect it by allowing new team members to be immersed in the various manifestations of our culture in an experiential way.

The question remains: "how do we attack all of these audacious goals in our onboarding?" 

At LeanCor, we do this with a tailored, two-week onboarding schedule that includes a combination of HR/corporate introductions, concept/process/tool overviews with operational leaders, online training, and what we call “Gemba time.”  This last piece is a focused, rotational form of on-the-job peer training that challenges our team members to train their new teammates to be subject matter experts. 

The Gemba time component was difficult at first with lots of additional efforts by front line leadership to make it successful. Through these efforts, we learned it's more effective and profitable to have team members learn the nuances of the customer work from their peers. This creates many learning opportunities through two-way dialogue and discussion.

Team members need to feel empowered to ask questions and need to be listened to if safety and belonging are ever to be established. They need to know that we care about them and want them on board.  Needless to say, our company has never had a 50 to 70 percent turnover rate like the Culture Code's call center, but we have seen team members stay longer, invest more in their careers and take on greater opportunities as a result of our changes.

Without a strong plan, company growth is not feasible. LeanCor is growing and we’re not planning to slow down.  It excites us to prepare more team member nameplates and computers.  We can do this, in part, because of the strong first impressions we make with our team members and the culture of learning that we’ve built.

Can you say the same thing about your organization?

Posted by Clint McCrystal

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Training and Development Manager at LeanCor | I am an individual with many interests, and I like to leverage both my creative and analytical skills.

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