Transcript: What really works in Performance Management

Hi, there, and welcome to the 4th in our series of podcast from The HR Uprising. My name is Lucinda Carney. And I’m your Host. Today’s topic, is, what really drives performance, anyway.

Just a quick shout-out. Thank you to those of you who’ve been in touch, who’ve been telling your colleagues, who’ve been downloading, subscribing and generally, giving feedback. We really, really appreciate it. Please do keep it coming.

So, this week, I’m really going to get stuck into this subject, because I’ve got plenty to say, and I know we all don’t have lots of time. So, I don’t want to make the podcast over long. But it’s something, which is topical maybe, overly topical.

I mean let’s hear it, we’ve all had those headlines, haven’t we? The appraisal is dead. Long live the catch-up. Are our annual performance reviews as dead as the dinosaurs? We’ve heard that Deloitte, and Adobe, and Microsoft, and Apple, and any other aspirational organisation has ditched the appraisal. But have they, really? Have they, really?! Is it working?!

This is such an overhyped topic, in my opinion. The purpose of this podcast, is, to cut through the hype, to make sure that all of us as HR professionals, understand what the evidence is around what drives performance. Then we can use that to apply that in our organisations.

So, as you know, those of you who tuned in last week, we were talking about demystifying O.D. So, part of O.D. is about strategic alignment between people interventions and delivering organisational value. To be honest, you could say that’s exactly what performance management should be about. It’s a people management process that should be aligned with the needs of the organisation, and delivering business value.

However, the way in which it’s been carried out in many, many circumstances, means that it has no quality when it becomes a once-a-year appraisal. And to be honest, that’s just common sense. It’s hardly surprising, that if you make everything culminating the 3-hour end of year epic, where frankly everyone has lost their will to live by the end of it, of course, it’s not going to be effective.

However, it’s ditching it as in taking it out of the window altogether. Is that really going to result in quality year-round conversations? The Managers in your organisation, unless things have changed dramatically, since I was in the corporate world 10 years ago, which I’m pretty sure they haven’t, they’re not going to say, oh, great, they’ve ditched the appraisal. Therefore, I’m going to create new habits, and chat with my people all year-round, and give them quality feedback.

It just isn’t going to happen like that. You still need to nudge people. You still need to give them processes. You can hear, I get a bit irritated about this one. For me, what I think we should do, is, go back to what is the evidence of what drives high performance. Let’s not get taken in by the headlines. And let’s make sure that we are embedding evidence-based performance management practice within the businesses and organisations that we lead.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to use the basis of this podcast as a research review, that we had carried out for us within actors. So, we actually commissioned Psychologist, Dr Nuno da Camara to carry out this for us. If anyone wants to download it, I will put the link. I say that, because it is a research piece.

So, there are lots and lots of references in it, that wouldn’t come over on the podcast. So, I will share the key findings. But if you want to know, where they come from, and the studies that they refer to, all of those are in the white paper that you can download.

Okay. So, in a nutshell, what the evidence actually shows, is that, there are 8 key evidence-based practices, that will increase employee performance in the organisation. Now, there is a high-level of common sense here. I don’t think anything I’m going to share with you, is going to be surprising.

But it’s worth you thinking about whether or not, it’s embedded, and actually happening. So, we can all know that these things that we’re going to go through, are the right things to do, but are they actually happening.

Now, Stephen Covey said, common practice, common sense, sorry. Common sense is not always common practice. Or, it’s not even that common. Anyway, after that misquote.

So, what are the 8 evidence-based practices? There’s good evidence for, that you should look to embed in your organisation if you want to deliver good performance management or good employee performance and drive high performance.

I’m going to summarise them quickly so that you can know, where I’m going with this. I know some people like some structure.

  • Goalsetting. No surprise there.
  • Strategic alignment.
  • Coaching and development in terms of the manager style.
  • Feedback and recognition.
  • Communication and transparency. I think that’s an interesting one for us to reflect on, whether that’s really happening in our organisations.
  • Adding on to that, we’ve got the climate of performance, sorry, climate of trust. Are we actually driving a climate of trust?
  • And then we also got rewarding performance, which is also something that you might find to be a little bit contentious.
  • Then the final one, which will be, perhaps no surprise, is about training. But not just training people, it’s actually about trained managers.

So, those are the 8 points, where there is a lot of evidence out there about high-impact practices, that will actually correlate with improved performance. I think that’s a really great place for us to start, when we’re looking at changing our performance management process. If you want to move away from once a year, is it enough just to ditch the appraisal? So, right, get on with it. Or, do we need to put a structure of some description in there, in place, in order to make it work?

Okay. So, let’s start with goal setting. Well, actually, goal setting and feedback, which you’ve heard me mentioned earlier, are probably, the best-researched item out there in terms of what drives high performance. And I think if you think about it, even in your personal life. If you sort of went into some personal, whether you want to lose weight, you’d set a goal. If you’re working on some personal development, you’d set a goal.

So, why is it so common for us not to set goals for people in the workplace? It’s really bizarre. One classic issue, which we’re going to challenge the leaders in our organisation, is quite often, no one actually understands what the overall business goals are. And actually, if I link to strategic alignment, which is the second evidence-based practice, these two sit together very, very evidently.

So, if I as an HR professional, and I’m aware that, at the start of the year, if you’re lucky the Board know what is expected. But no one gets any performance targets cascaded until moth 3 or 4, then I would try and change that. And I did do that in the organisation I’ve worked for.

I remember that literally, people would complained about the fact, that they didn’t get their targets until 3 or 4 months into the year, by which time, you know, you’ve only got 8 months left to hit it. That we actually got the business planning process to start early in the year, in future years, and the Board to buy into the fact, that if people didn’t know what was expected of them early enough, how on earth could they achieve it?

So, you can see that the key aspect of high performance, is, having people understand what is expected of them, and ideally, aligned it strategically. I am going to mention the acronym SMART in there. Because actually, I’m quite a fan of that, because it links to the evidence-based practice.

So, it is about people understanding specifically what is expected of them, if you think of the S. But there’s also an S to me, which is stretching. So, goalsetting theory shows that a goal that is seen as stretching that’s achievable, is actually, more motivational to somebody than there are goals that are easy.

So, setting a goal is key. Making sure that they are relevant is the R that I use often if you went down SMART. I would say, specific stretching measurable. I then say achievable and agreed. So, where someone’s made a commitment to it.

So, the Manager and the individual have discussed that goal. They’ve agreed that it’s stretching, but achievable. So, there’s an agreement. It’s not just being imposed on someone. Or, quite often, I hear people say, realistic. Well, that’s fine. But that’s also achievable. So, relevant, is, the R for me, that’s key here. And that’s about strategic relevance. So, we covering out through that. And obviously, T for time, is, the final one.

In terms of the first two evidence-based practices, we’re talking about goal setting and strategic alignment. Making sure that I can see how my goals are strategically aligned, it gives me, the “why” of why I’m doing this.

So, are they strategically aligned with the business goals? Are they strategically aligned with my career aspirations? Both of those would give me a “why” to do it and the motivation. I need to be clear on what’s expected, and they need to be agreed.

That is such total common sense. But really not that common. And actually, I would say, if you want to ditch the annual appraisal, and get people just focussing on agreeing goals and giving feedback against them, then brilliant.

But the reality, is, that is not what managers are used to doing. And you’re going to need to put some sort of structure in place, and of course, some training that’s going to help those managers learn those new behaviours.

Because after all, if you’re trying to move towards continuous conversations, we have got people in the workplace, who are busier than they’ve ever been. They’ve got more distractions than they’ve ever had. And we know that people management as a tool or a method, a profession isn’t necessarily valued.

You have got hordes of people managers in businesses today who frankly don’t give a damn about people management. They were the best engineer, or they were the best salesperson, or they were the best project manager, they are not necessarily passionate about people.

In fact, there’s too few people managers in my opinion, who lack the people gene. But that’s a completely different angle. So, to my mind, we have to help managers realise how important it is to manage people well, and give them the tools and methods to do that. just saying, I’m going to ditch the appraisal, is not going to do that. People will go backwards. They’ll just do nothing. That’s my opinion.

So, okay. we’ve talked about our first two evidence-based practices. The next one is about discussion. And again, coaching style of management, there’s nothing really new here. This is about the manager asking questions, understanding what the individual wants, where they want to go, what do they think they can achieve.

Now, to my mind, you cannot set a SMART objective and agree it, without having a coaching style, using open questions. So, have you got managers who are able to coach? And actually, I was at the CIPD Roundtable yesterday. It was quite interesting, because one of the guys said that they started teaching coaching skills to the sort of new forthcoming talent.

And this talent as they taught them how to coach, would go through their coaching programme. And this talent as they taught them how to coach come out of the coaching programme and say, wow, I never thought that’s what coaching was like.

I do think back to my experience, where managers go, oh, I’m going to go and coach them how to do this. I thought, um, you’re going to coach them how to do this! that really sounds like coaching, doesn’t it? I don’t think coach sounds the same as coaching, where you’re asking questions.

I felt that there were quite a lot of quite autocratic managers, certainly in the 90s who went on a coaching course, or thought they knew how to coach, and basically, they just went and told people how to do things. And they called it coaching.

In this context, we are saying much more true coaching, where you’re helping people consider, where they want to develop, and you’re empowering them to make decisions for themselves. You can see, we know again, if someone tells you that you’ve got to achieve something as opposed when you say, well, what do I want to achieve? That is all part of the buy in. And for people to perform, it therefore, makes sense, if I buy in to that, and I feel that I can develop as a result of that coaching as well.

So, their coaching might be allowing you to think something through for yourself, then you can see how people are going to perform better. But again, we use this term coaching, you may have managers out there, who think they’re coaching, but actually they’re not.

Feedback and recognition, this is my fourth evidence-based practice. Now, the evidence that we have, and this was done on a research review from a couple of years ago. And I’m aware that there was an article in the Harvard Business Review this year recently about coaching, sorry, about feedback and different aspects of feedback. I’m not sure they’ve contradicted it.

But fundamentally, this was one of the most powerful things. They said that basically, researchers couldn’t emphasise enough the importance of managers going beyond the formal as in once or twice a year appraisal, and giving ongoing feedback to employees throughout the year. So, that is the key thing, that you can get people to do.

Now, there is an emphasis here on recognition, as in positive feedback. That too make sense. I’ve done some reading on EuroScience. It says that really, when we receive feedback, it engenders our fight-or-flight response. So, when, if you say, oh, can I give you some feedback? Uh, uh, let me give you some feedback. Instantly, how do we feel? You know, we get the fear response, don’t we?

I think one of the best ways of conditioning us not to be fearful, is about, giving people specific quality positive feedback. It’s about building trust, isn’t it? If they realise that you’re not always there to shoot then down. And actually, you’ll catch people doing things right. Then again, that’s a classic one-minute management I did from 20-30 years ago, that book, Catch People Doing Things Right.

So, it’s recognising good performance. I think you could argue that, almost on a ratio of 5 to one, if you need to get people to listen to you, when you need to tell them who to do things differently, then you need to also tell them when they’re doing things well. Let’s go back to small children. You know, reward charts. I’m not saying you have to have star charts. But you know, it might work. It might work in the workplace.

But are we just critical? Or, is there just a feedback vacuum? I think that’s more often the case. Because people just almost, they’re so busy again. We all doing, doing, doing, doing, and we take for granted what people do well, without stopping, and pausing, and going, actually, that was really helpful when you gave me that report. You’ve saved me 2 hours by having put in that report from Excel, and put some commentary around it for me. So, thank you so much for doing that. It’s so much better than just going, oh, a great job. Well, great job for what? What did I do? It’s nice, but not effective.

So, specific positive feedback is a great starting point, because then it leaves it open for you also, to be able to give specific developmental feedback.

That’s said, you’ve got to have courage to do it. And you’ve got to create the time. Because, if I don’t enjoy giving people developmental feedback, but I think if you set that climate up, where you’re talking to people regularly, you can go in and approach things, and find a way of doing it. it’s about creating the ongoing climate.

So, we’ve talked about goalsetting, strategic alignment, coaching and development, and feedback and recognition. So, we now, halfway through the key evidence-based practices around what drives high performance.

Now, the rest of them, those perhaps I supposed ones that are very much about how the manager operates. The following 4, or maybe a bit more organisational. Obviously, they do affect manager too.

So, the first one, is, having a climate of communication and transparencies. Now, this is a wider climate of it. People should not be going to an appraisal, and get a surprise. So, that links back to, should I be having ongoing conversations? You shouldn’t do a 360 feedback and have a surprise. I was talking about that in one of the earlier podcasts.

And my fear with the ditch appraisal brigade, is that, actually, there’s a whole lot of ratings. Because a lot of these firms still have to work out how to distribute reward. And actually, rewarding performance is something that has evidence aligned against it.

So, if you take away any of the formal processes, how on earth are you going to allocate reward fairly? I’ve thrown out the appraisal. Well, the likelihood is, that is, going to occur almost as bad as it used to do in lots of places, where it’s behind closed doors. And that just creates suspicion. It’s also based on subjective evidence.

So, I question, you know, if you’re in an organisation, where you’ve got some sort of reward-based system, I believe that you still do need some form of culmination of that, where both parties that are involved, and there is a transparent, fair process.

Now, it doesn’t mean that we like the outcome of it. But we respect the fact that, that process is well-managed, and it’s fair. So, for example, if there are ratings, then a calibration process exists, ideally, where I’ve seen it worked. I know some people say the manager doesn’t discuss the rating, and then goes off to the darkened room, and comes back, and you are told your rating. Or, the manager just fires it out to you through your software, and it lands.

Ideally, I would say, a manager should talk to you about the performance rating, if there is going to be one. They should say this is indicative. It may change. But this is why I think you are this. It then goes calibration, and then it comes back. And if it’s changed, the manager should sit down, and be able to talk about why it’s changed.

That would be transparent and fair. And people would know what to expect. That would build a climate of trust, which is our next evidence-based practice. If people don’t trust the overall processes, then they’ll become cynical. They’ll go through the motions. But actually, the climate of trust that’s most important, is that that is driven by the manager.

So, if the manager comes out and says, oh, I’m really sorry. I want to rate you a 4, but actually no, you’ve got talked down to 3. If they don’t believe in you, or if you say, oh, I really value your time or one-to-ones, but then I’m permanently late for them so I break that contract, then I’m not setting up a climate of trust with my employee. And it’s really important to have that, if you want high performance.

So, it’s almost you could go through the motions, if you like. you could do your feedback. You could set your goals. But, if you are not congruent, and you don’t create a climate of trust as a line manager, then actually, a lot of that work could be destroyed. Equally, if you’re not transparent, and they’re suspicious about the processes, then this may not work.

I’ve mentioned rewarding performance earlier. And I know not everyone can do that. I mean I’ve worked with loads of public sector organisations. But actually, reward, there’s no way you’re going to do performance-related pay. In fact, it’s slightly frustrating. I do see that there is a culture to a certain extent, where you don’t get an increment unless you performed, which for me, I don’t know there’s evidence for this. But intuitively, I feel that’s almost motivating non-behaviour. It’s the most negative way you can introduce performance-related pay. But that’s just my opinion.

But rewarding performance, there is evidence that people have seen, that organisation should have a greater link between performance and reward. And I would put out to you, that reward doesn’t have to be monetary.

So, reward could be days of holidays. Reward could be going on a development programme. Reward could be being on an employee panel to take part in shaping the new culture. There are many ways, in which people can be rewarded. And actually, what’s more important is, understanding what motivates them. Some people may not be motivated by money. In fact, most people actually aren’t, when you dig below it. It’s what it does for them.

So, reward, there’s evidence to say, that linking performance with monetary reward is valuable. In fact, there is also evidence to say that, there should be a link between poor performance and lack of reward. You can look up those, and see what you think of that. I think this is about people understanding or feeling that it’s again, trusting that the system is fair, the process is fair.

Then this leads me onto my final point or the final point of evidence. It’s about training. But it’s not training people. I think there is something about people being developed. It’s about having trained managers.

Now, I know we’ve got listeners to this podcast all over the world. But in the UK, yeah, the skills of our managers are low. And the amount of time, there’s evidence to see, that we are investing less in training. Again, I’ve been in conversations with L&D professionals recently, where they are struggling to get managers to attend training.

Well, why is this? Again, you hear me say this a lot. I wonder, if it is, because they don’t get the “why”. Is your business placing importance on people management? Is the activity of a people manager, something which is, recognised and acknowledged as being important?

One of the businesses that I worked with, that did this really well, basically, stated that, if you’re a people manager, let’s say, with more than 3 or 4 people reporting in to you, they set the expectation that you should be spending a minimum of 20 percent of your time on people management activities. They also went further. They did obviously, train the managers in these. They help them to understand why it was important. It was about delivering engagement, and retaining staff, and developing staff, and lots of good stuff.

So, managers bought into that. But made it harder for them to avoid, if they didn’t have the people gene basically. Because they came up with an overall manager charter. Having that manager charter, there were 10 behaviours that were expected.

And interestingly, this is 15, nearly 20 years ago. What they said, with these managers, they needed to do one-to-ones monthly. Oh, what’s that? Talk to your people 12 times a year. Wow! Isn’t that continuous conversations? But they knew that just saying, ooh, have regular feedback. It wouldn’t get you anywhere.

So, they actually put in key structured ways of talking to people. They set guidelines. And they made that a performance objective for every single people manager in the organisation. That transformed the way people were working. Actually, they did deliver some absolutely outstanding results for a couple of years. I said, for a couple of years, because they were then sold. So, I’m not saying they stopped them. But it did seem to directly plough through.

Now, I’m telling you about trained managers, because that’s what the objective evidence said. My example here, was about a real example, about how an organisation put that into practice. This perhaps is a good way to start to wrap up the podcast.

Putting this into practice, the reason that people saying teh appraisal is dead, is, as I started at the beginning, is that, appraisal in its old form, where literally a manager will sit down once a year, and they will talk about, have you achieved your objectives? Have you achieved your behaviours? Have you done any compliance to that training? You name it. You’ve had it. An you maybe have gone through every single objective in detail, and then you go, ooh, oh, increase aspirations. What do you want to do with your life?

Now, you might have had a really tough conversation wrangling over, whether or not, you’re able to demonstrate strategic thinking. Or, whether or not, you’re a 4 or a 3 on one of your performance objectives. And then you’re supposed to segway naturally into a lovely coaching conversation about where you want to go with your life.

It doesn’t make sense to me, because what you’re doing, is, you’re imposing different types of conversations into one meeting. And to be honest, it would be a very long meeting, if you were to cover everything well. I don’t think you can cover all those things well in that one conversation.

So, going back to the business example, that I was talking about. What they did, was, they did say you have to have 12 one-to-ones. But they had also quarterly themes. So, you’re obviously focussed on performance that, let’s say, you visualise it as a clock, because there’s 12 numbers on it. At 12 o’clock and 6 ‘clock, it was about performance. So, are you performing against your objectives, setting objectives? It might be rating performance. And it might also be talking about competencies. Are you performing against your behaviours? Then if you visualise in the clock, it’s 3 o’clock, they would look at development.

Now, I really like this idea of looking at development earlier in the year. And the reason I like this so much, it’s because it makes sense that, if I’ve just set an objective, and I don’t know, if I’m going to achieve it or not, isn’t it that’s the time for me to get some development. So, they set the development then. They have a further check-in at the half-year point.

And then we start talking about career aspirations or talent management at 9 o’clock. So, towards the end of the year, because you’d know, if that person was on track to perform. And if they’re on track to perform, then they might be on track to go up the ladder in a career way.

So, that just seemed like a really logical way of dividing the year into 4 chunks, which would mean that you don’t have to have a super long appraisal. You can put it a different hat on as a manager at those different times of year. Then to my mind, in between those, we should be having one-to-ones, where we’re having those regular conversations.

So, hopefully, that makes sense. I’m sure it does make sense a lot to you. But hopefully, it’s quite logical, and something you can refer back to. I’ll just summarise the 8 evidence-based practices, before I close the podcast. And I’ll say, if you want to read through the research, you can download it. And we’ll put the link on the show notes.

So, the key evidence-based practices that you should put into place, if you want to drive high performance, is,

  • Goalsetting.
  • Strategic alignment.
  • Having a coaching style for managers.
  • Embedding a culture of feedback and recognition, making it positive.
  • Communication transparency
  • Making sure the culture there is transparent, which builds a climate of trust.
  • Think about whether performance should be rewarded. If there is a way of doing that, in a trustworthy, consistent way. it doesn’t have to be just money.
  • And don’t forget, trained managers. Finding a way for your managers to be trained. In order to do that, you may need to raise the bar in terms of how people management activities are viewed and valued in your organisation.

So, that’s it. That’s our thinking of this week on what really drives performance, and evidence-based performance management.

My name is Lucinda Carney. Please do hook up with me on social media, LinkedIn, Twitter. I would love to hear from you. Of course, send in your suggestions and ideas. So, you’ve been listening to The HR Uprising Podcast. Thanks so much. Thanks for listening.

Hello, and welcome to this week’s HR Uprising Podcast.

This is Lucinda Carney. I’m your Host. And this week’s topic is all about onboarding, everything you needed to know, and maybe, some stuff you didn’t think you needed to know.

So, onboarding, is it the missing link?

The reason we thought this was a relevant topic to discuss. It was all down to a LinkedIn discussion that came up about 3 weeks ago. I have had a conversation with a colleague about HR terminology. And we sort of said, oh well, onboarding, is this just the new word for induction? I wonder, whether it was, or whether it wasn’t, and posted that question out on LinkedIn. It was amazing.

I think there were 9,000 views of the post. 45 odd comments. It was fascinating. There were lots of themes coming through. There was really great stuff. And actually, I will post the link to that thread, if anyone who’s interested to read down them, to discuss that. Because I thought there was some excellent content.

Thank you to everybody who contributed it. I don’t want to read out individual names, because there were too many good ones, and that will just make it a podcast about reading out people’s names, something which would really dull, wouldn’t it?

So, this is where it stemmed from. There’s clearly something to talk about here. On top of that, not only is there something to talk about onboarding, it’s a huge cost that as businesses were overlooking. As you know the HR Uprising is about us aiming to rise up, and add value in our organisation. It strikes me, that this would not be a bad place to start for many of us.

So, this is the topic for this week. Now, before I go into that, however, I want to say a huge and most sincere thank you to everybody, who supported us last week. Many of you know that we officially launched last week although by the time you hear this, it will be 2 weeks ago. We’ve had some initial people listening and giving feedback. But we pushed out all of our content, and launched on Apple iTunes last week.

To such an extent, that I was able to say thank you at the start of my interview with David James, to everybody, because we actually made it into the Top 10 Business Podcast on iTunes, which was so, so amazingly humbling. And really, really fantastic. I appreciate so much all the comments that we had from people and support.

Saying that I said that last week, and this week, I need to say an even BIGGER THANK YOU, because not only did you put us into No. 7 on the Business Podcast last week, we then went up to No. 1, and held that No. 1 spot all over the weekend. It was amazing to just feel like that. I’ve never had a No. 1 top figure. Sorry about that. It was just really great, because it’s great validation that maybe, what we’re doing is of value, and of interest to people. And it’s encouraging, because that just means that we’re going to try even harder to carry on, giving you quality content.

Not only do we reach No. 1 and stay there, we also were mentioned just new and noteworthy in the Apple Podcast as well. So, that’s pretty impressive when you think you’re up there with Love Island. So, there you go. I’ve clearly made it.

Anyway, I jest, but the other reason I wanted to talk about the topic of onboarding, was because one of the things that came through in the conversations and some of the feedback from our initial podcast, was that, many people who listened to it, were like people who just knew me. They said that a lot of the content was more broadly relevant than just the HR. So, I’ve figured that having done a little bit of homework on onboarding, this is definitely a topic that is relevant to, both HR and managers. So, it was a really good one to look at this week.

So, I’m going to give you a heads-up on the quick structure we’re going to look at here.

  • We’re going to briefly explain what onboarding is by the consensus of the social media and the type too.
  • We’ll also look at why is it so important?
  • Why is it even worth us bothering about?

So, the structure of this podcast, the idea here, is, I thought I’ll just chat briefly through,

  • Why is onboarding even a thing?
  • Why is it something we need to consider?
  • What is it?
  • What’s the social media consensus of it?
  1. And some thoughts that we had by going out and talking to people. We came up with 5 different types of onboarding.
  • Let’s say, 3 different types of people that require onboarding.

So, it became a really broad topic. And let’s see, whether this is your experience.

So, first of all, why is onboarding important?

Well, largely, we want to add business value, because of the cost of losing people. It’s so scary. I looked at figures, and there’s a range of figures out there. But two stood out. One was at SHRM, The Society of Human Resource Management. And the other was Harvard Business Review. But there were plenty of other similar information, including meta-analysis.

The figures that you’re seeing, was that, something like, or up to a third of people were actually choosing to leave the business within their first 6 months. Well, how scary is that? Particularly, when you consider that figures I’ve seen, was that, the cost of bringing someone on board, is equivalent of 6 to 9 months’ worth of the previous incumbent salary.

So, you’re bringing someone on board, to get them up to speed, it’s costing you. Let’s say, you’ve got a 30-grand person. Let’s say, it’s costing you 20 grand to get them up to speed, and then they leave. We then have to go over that all over again. So, it really does again bring home this fact that, we spend loads of money on recruitment, and then it stops in many cases.

Certainly, in my experience, hopefully, not in your organisation. And that’s what I think onboarding needs to be, because we need to consider, why are we operating a process or we’re part of a process as custodians of the people’s stuff, we’re operating a process that’s broken, and there are gaps in it throughout the talent journey, let’s say, where money is haemorrhaged.

Going back to the point of The HR Uprising, is, we want to bring value. We want to support each other. And this is in bringing value. I think some of these ideas, or I hope some of these ideas that have come out, I’m going to show in this podcast, might be helpful to you in your organisations.

So, why do we want to do it?

Because we want to avoid the haemorrhaging talent and cash, and add more value to the business.

But what sort of period of time, are we talking about when we’re saying onboarding? Or, in my question, was, oh, is it like the old days? You know, good old induction, where you enter and sat on the training course for 3 days. Or actually, as a pharmaceutical sales representative, which is an early job I did, it’s a 6-week training course. Imagine the cost of that. Even then I’m not sure, if you arrive, you’re ready to go. There’s still plenty of learning that you need to do on-the-job.

So, the consensus from what onboarding was, or maybe, the duration of time that it related, tended to be, that it was, the point in time, from when an interested candidate has accepted your offer, and it goes through to the point, at which they are a performing and an engaged member of your organisation.

So, I guess you could find that, it’s actually, some people never make it. And that let’s say, it’s probably a 6 to 9-month period. I’d say there might be a month to 3 months, in between leaving their old job and joining you. Then perhaps, 6 months would be the onboarding phase. Certainly, that would seem like common sense. Because very often, a probationary review period is 6 months, isn’t it? So, that might fit.

So, we know why it’s important. We know what period of time we’re talking about. And essentially, we’re saying that it’s not the same as induction.

What therefore, are we talking about when we’re saying onboarding?

Well, definitely, there are bits which are induction, in my view. The terminology I’m probably using here, this isn’t induction. This is more operational onboarding. So, I’m old enough to remember people actually joining a business, and sometimes, not even having a laptop ready when they turn up. Maybe, even not having a desk.

Now, that was going back a bit. But even then, there was a big no, no. I mean, how to make someone feel wanted or not, if they don’t even have the tools to do their job. So, really, there’s no excuse, if we don’t do that anymore. And clients I’ve worked with, I’ve seen they’ve often got this sort of operational onboarding process set up as a tick list. Do you know what? That’s absolutely fine as long as it happens in good time, and you’ve got it down to a fine art. That’s the minimum, which you should do, really, isn’t it?

So, what else you might want to do?

Well, of course, this is where I sense it’s more like induction. This is about the transferring of knowledge. Now, there are loads and loads of comments on the LinkedIn Group about this, and how you might do it. And it’s quite broad.

So, some of it, is, here’s about transferring knowledge in terms of the knowledge to do your job, the knowledge that you need to do to access specific information that you need. And how can we give that to people in a way that is digestible.

Because sitting on a training course, that might give you an insight into the company’s culture. It’s pretty inspiring, if you get Senior Managers or the CEO to come to talk to new recruits. But lots of it could be done in smaller chunks, and probably more effectively. Not only that, how much do we really remember from an induction programme?

So, how do we give people the knowledge to get the answers that they want when they want them. How can we make it more accessible to them?

And this is where it might come into things like, it’s people too, because more and more the knowledge in people’s heads in organisations. So, should we be thinking about inducting people by helping them to understand who has the answers, and allowing them to get introductions to those people, and have those relationships from day one so they can go and help themselves, and get those answers?

So, I think that’s quite an important way of thinking about the knowledge one, is, really nebulous. How do we give people the knowledge that they need when they want it in digestible chunks so they can be really, really effective in terms of achieving what is it that they need to do, and they get up to speed faster?

And that moves through to the next point, which I’m calling performance induction. Scarily, some of the same research showed that only 40 per cent of organisations or businesses, this was about 5 years ago, when they called it, actually set people short-term objectives and milestones, achievable ones.

So, I’m not talking about your full annual objectives. Actually, those are a little bit dated, anyway, aren’t they? We want short-term objectives even for people who are fully established. Actually, this is about allowing people to know what the focus of their job role is, in giving them some tangible achievements that they can do from day one. So, they feel like, they are getting sucked in.

So, if you’ve got someone joining a customer services team, it’s not you just sit there, listen to calls, and read through the User Manual. Because I don’t know about you, that I would lose the will to live, if I had to do that. It’s about maybe, you are going to go through the User Manual, but why don’t you update the screenshots, or listening to the customer calls. Perhaps, you can give the feedback to those customer calls.

How can you get that person involved in doing practical things?

Let’s say, I was updating the User Manual, one of my deliverables might be to update the User Manual, or provide, to refresh the feedback, or to write the Frequently Ask Questions, update the Frequently Ask Questions. Again, none of these are particularly smart, because we shouldn’t use the word update.

But hopefully, you’re getting the idea of what I’m saying, is, can we come up with tangible small chunks of useful productivity for that person, that they can do as part of their induction so that adding value, and they’re learning at the same time.

Now, that is an area, where HR and Managers ideally need to work hand in hand. Because in my experience, is that, Managers are pretty poor at setting objectives on the larger scale. So, they may need a bit of help, thinking about what would be a good small chunk induction objective.

But undoubtedly this feels like an area for competitive advantage and value add. Because some of the same research said, why people leave businesses, and in that first 6 months period? One of them was 23 percent, in fact, of that particular piece of research. It was down to them not having clear guidelines about what was expected in those early days.

So, we should be setting. We should be using our performance management from day one, setting people’s goals, milestones, and giving them feedback against it. If you think about it, how on earth can we pass someone’s probationary review, if we haven’t set them something tangible to achieve.

Now, I know I’ve heard HR colleagues in the past saying, why on earth did they pass their probationary review, and then now, they’re telling me what they want to get rid of them. Well, probably, because they didn’t give them a structured induction, a set of objectives to achieve in the first place. So, they didn’t know what the person was capable of. And maybe, had we done that, there wouldn’t be a performance management problem later.

So, it sounds obvious. But clearly, from the results, very few people are doing it. So, it’s definitely worth thinking about, are we setting short-term meaningful objectives?

And this also could be clever in terms of gathering knowledge. So, you could set people objectives to go and sit down with a key stakeholder, and gather information on how this department is supporting them, and to feed it back to the team meeting.

So, they’re getting a relation with the stakeholder, and they’re bringing that information back to the team meeting, is, adding value. It’s part of that real job, how can we make that job as real as soon as possible? So, that was my performance.

Then we move on to two new ones. I think these ones potentially fit in to that pre-boarding phase, which I’m saying, is, that point from which we give people a contract, and then before they actually join the business. It’s great, if we can do it. You know, if we can do the pre-boarding, we might go onto the phase, when they’re actually in the organisation.

But it may well take place, and will be a great way of gluing someone into the organisation, getting them to feel part of it, before they’ve even done day one. I mean, actually, could we do even some of the knowledge onboarding, before they join in day one. Yeah, can we provide some of the boring stuff for us to read through at home, without putting them off? I do remember receiving, I think, about 30 policies when I first joined a particular company. I’m not trying to advocate that.

So, let’s think about now about two other types of onboarding, which we’re going to call, social onboarding and talent onboarding.

So, what do we mean by social onboarding?

As we said, it’s something that can happen in advance of people joining an organisation. Well, I think, this is really about values and culture. That was the theme that came through really strongly in the LinkedIn thread. And people were saying that, people need to feel part of the values and culture of an organisation.

How can you do that? And also, how can you make them feel welcome?

Because going back to the reasons that people leave, other themes, were, not getting enough support for managers, not feeling part of things from day one. And you know, before you properly join somewhere, where you felt that there is a bit of a click, and how do you actually feel part of it.

So, social onboarding is about people feeling included, and perhaps, feeling understood and known as a person. We can use things like buddies, which I think, is a very helpful tool. Definitely, there’s a theme there that’s very useful thing to do. Because people don’t want to admit to their manager, that they don’t know things. So, actually having someone like, a buddy is really, really helpful, because they can ask them the silly questions, without feeling like they’ve lost face.

But in terms of the social onboarding, there are systems that might do this, where people collaborate as a collaboration tool. That I think, is great, if you’ve got something like that. So, you can collaborate with your team, before you even join. I do question, given the fact that, on social media, you have quite a high proportion of people who are actually lurkers, whether that would work for everyone. But it’s definitely a great thought.

One simple idea that any of us could do, I heard from Adrian McDonagh at EasyWeb.

So, onto social and talent onboarding, what do we mean by social onboarding?

And this is an interesting one, because it can absolutely fit with when we are pre-boarding, which is the term, of course.

  1. In terms of how we help people feel part of the values and culture of an organisation?
  • How we make sure they don’t feel they’re on the outside of a click?

This could even happen some collaboration technologies are out there, where you could in principle, help someone feels part of that team, before they even join.

Now, of course, that’s not going to work for everybody, because I’ve got a feel the world is divide into a third of people who join in on social media. A third of people who lurk. And a third who have nothing to do with it. So, that still means that two-thirds of people, in terms of social onboarding, technology is not going to be the only answer.

Now, I had a conversation with a gentleman called, Adrian McDonagh. Sorry, let me get his name right. Apologies, I’ll get there with your name in the end, Adrian. He’s from EasyWeb Group. So, I’ll give them a shout-out, because what they were doing was particularly good, I felt. They are growing strongly. There are being new people in there, all the time. They have started inviting people. In fact, I hope I’m not giving away their secrets. I hope to carry on doing this.

But basically, they would ask people before they join, just a few really simple questions. So, it might be what’s your favourite colour? What’s your favourite food? Do you support any football teams, et cetera? But questions getting to know them as a person. They get that data back from these people. They would also have the information on people in their immediate team. They would able to share with them.

But then on their first day, let’s say, my favourite colour is purple. My favourite food is chocolate, or a specific chocolate. I’m a supporter of a specific football team. They had a purple balloon on that person’s desk. They had their favourite chocolate. And the person next to them said, you know, how did Portsmouth get on at the weekend?

So, I just thought that was really lovely way of helping people feel part of something, and having that personal touch. Now, I realise that managers are busy. We are all really busy.

How could you do that in your organisation?

I wonder, is there someone who could take responsibility? Not necessarily HR. I feel there’s probably does sit with the Line Manager. But is there someone who could take responsibility for that personal touch? It’s worth thinking about it, isn’t it?

Certainly, if you give people those clear goals and objectives from day one, they’ve got all the systems they need. They give them knowledge they need. Plus, they made to feel a part of the team. Well, wouldn’t you want to stay in that business? You would think so, wouldn’t you?

So, that’s 4 areas of it. Then the fifth one, which I think, was, a relatively new one. I’m not sure it’s happening yet. It came about through a conversation with the Recruitment Specialist. They were explaining how much fabulous information they have about people, in order to determine that they’re the right person for the job.

So, of course, they look at their CV, and you know what qualifications people have got. You know what industries they’ve worked in. You know, if they can speak any languages. All of that fabulous on the CV. What happens when they join the organisation? Pretty much nothing. So, it just sits in the recruitment software, or on a piece of paper, doesn’t it?

Now, one of our key aspects in many ways, is, we want to help talent move around the business. We want to keep talent in the business. And if we know what people skills, and knowledge, and experience is from day one, by potentially sucking that information in, I guess the person could complete an online CV. But, if you could pull it through the recruitment technology, even better into your talent search system. Well, wouldn’t that be powerful.

So, that I’ve only been here a week, but someone can see that the skills that I have maybe able to help them. Maybe, I’ve got project management qualification. Or, I’ve got experience in a specific sector. And I can speak certain language. If people know that from day one, then again, the individual, they can get out there, and they can actually perform from day one. It’s got to be worth thinking about, don’t you think? It’ll be a different way of doing things. It would be really great to have that functionality and that information to your fingertips.

So, there is, where 5 different types of onboarding, if you like, or ways in which people require onboarding. This question I asked at the Festival of Work, because I presented on this last week. On average, people were doing 2 out of the 5.

I wonder, whether you’re doing more than that? Are you doing all 5? Well done! I’d love to hear from you, if you are. Or, are you doing a different combination? Is there something else that works in your organisation about onboarding that you’d like to share? We would absolutely love to hear from you, because this is all about collaboration, showing best practice, and sharing ideas that can help us deliver better value.

So, I also said that there are 3 audiences that perhaps, we need to think about with onboarding. And you might think, well, why 3? Ultimately, it’s just people who only starters. And again, I must admit that that was my perception until I sat down, and chat with Mervyn Dinnen. And he pointed out to me, that there are two other areas.

One, is, something called, cross boarding. And what he’s talking about there, is, about people moving from one area of a business to another. Well, have you ever thought about things like that? I certainly haven’t.

I realised that, that make total sense in different sectors or business units. Very often, the whole culture is entirely different. So, you can imagine that someone moving, even almost moving on to a different management style, can make a big difference to how they feel, and how quickly they become effective. Again, this where buddying, I think, it’s a really useful tool.

Then finally, the other area, which I’ve a bit of a cheat, maybe, is, about new manager onboarding. But I say, it’s a cheat, but actually, isn’t it really important? All too often, people who are promoted, let’s say, your best engineer is promoted to be the Line Manager. On Monday, they rock up, and they’re going to be the Line Manager. Well, it is an entirely different job, people management from being an engineer. Yet, we might expect them to be an engineer on Friday, and to rock up and be an excellent people manager on Monday.

Often, we promise them development, but does that happen? Often, it’s not until years later that, that actually takes place. So, how can we ensure that these people know what they need to do, in order to deliver a great experience. Now, there are many things that a manager needs to learn in terms of their onboarding. Maybe, it’s about development. But it is about knowledge, skills, dealing with difficult situations.

However, if we just going full circle, and think, this manager may never have had a good onboarding experience themselves, they’ve probably not seen it a role model, because generally, we tend to do the absolute bare minimum. So, their management might not have done it. They’ve never seen any processes that have demonstrated it doing well.

We know that in the UK specifically, we’re particularly poor at management development. And our management skills are not as good as they should be. Well, isn’t that a risk waiting to have them when we go right back full circle to why we need to do this? Because we need to give those managers the skills to onboard others effectively, if we’re not going to waste money on recruitment.

So, where I see that we can add huge value in an HR or a learning and development role, is, by helping the Line Manager to realise how important onboarding is as a process, and working to support them in delivering value, and doing a good job with it. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be them. Maybe, they can delegate this to someone in their team, particularly, something like, social onboarding.

But it just needs to happen, doesn’t it? And maybe, the reason it doesn’t, is,

  • We’ve never thought of it, or
  • We’re so busy with our head down doing task. That applies to, both the people manager and to someone in HR, L&D role. We’re all hugely busy and perhaps, we don’t have the opportunity to step back and think about, obvious though it is, spending the time doing something like this, could actually, be a way of adding tremendous value to our organisation. And it could be really tangible.

So, the questions I’m going to ask you, is,

  • What types of onboarding are you doing in your organisation?
  1. Is it a consistent onboarding experience for people?
  • What could you do differently?
  • How many people? What are the percentages in your organisation of people who leave within 6 months?
  1. And if there is something that you wanted to do, from what we’ve discussed here, or different ideas you have on onboarding, how could you measure that impact?
  • Wouldn’t it be amazing, if you can make tangible difference to the length of time that people stay with the business. Because that would be demonstrable value add. Get those figures out.
  • Think what is that you need to do? Maybe, it’s something you can use to make a business case for tech, or training, or support in this area.

Food for thoughts. So, I really hope you’ve found this of interest. Certainly, it’s a much bigger topic than I would have thought it was.

In summary, we’ve covered:

  • Why do onboarding?
  • What are we defining as onboarding, the duration of time?
  • We’ve covered 5 different types of onboarding. So, operational, knowledge, performance, social and talent. A
  1. And we’ve discussed the fact that onboarding is for more than people who are just new to your business. It’s also relevant for people who are moving within the business, or upwards in the business.

Hopefully, you’ve found that of interest. If you did, perhaps you could share the podcast with colleagues, friends, other people who might find it relevant and helpful. As ever, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to make contact on any of our social media channels.

You can see all of them on, which is, a really easy way to get all the links. We try to put relevant links in the show notes so it’s easy for you to get. We also transcribe the show notes. So, if there was something that you felt you’d like to refer back to, and you didn’t quite catch it, then there are transcriptions on those web pages as well.

All that remains for me to say, is, thank you very much. I’ve been your Host, Lucinda Carney. I appreciate your time having a listen to our podcast. I hope you’ll tune in again next week, where we will be having a conversation with. And the conversation with, is going to be with a gentleman called, Steve Graham. He is an NHS Professional Interim. So, we’re going to have a conversation about, what does it take to be a successful interim? So, if there’s anyone out there who’s considering being an interim, that is the topic we’re going to look at.

So, please tune in next Monday. And if you haven’t already subscribed, subscribe. It will already deliver. It will automatically deliver to your phone. Thanks so much for listening to The HR Uprising Podcast.