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How Should My Organization Handle Onboarding, Role Changes?

How Should My Organization Handle Onboarding, Role Changes?

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 7, Episode 13
  • Dr. Jim Harter shares Gallup expertise on employee onboarding, role mapping and role agility in this Gallup Research for Coaches podcast.

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with Jim Harter, Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Wellbeing for Gallup's workplace management practice, about Gallup's State of the American Workplace report and how organizations and coaches can help employees do what they do best, experience effective onboarding processes, understand their roles and be agile when it comes to role changes.

Our guest host was Mike McDonald, Senior Workplace Consultant at Gallup.

Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above.

[6:03] Mike McDonald: Our first conversation, our first point of reference is 60% of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is very important to them. It's a powerful number, and when we ask employees how important certain attributes are when considering whether they take a job with a different organization. We're talking about true competition, coaches. Considering whether I take a job with a different organization, employees place the greatest importance on role and an organization offering them the ability to do what they do best.

So just think about that as a pressure point of competition. Some organizations are going to answer that well; some are not. So Jim (Harter), if that's done well, where's the "win" on organizations that do that best or effectively?

Jim Harter: I think from the outset, organizations need to help individuals know how to diagnose what they do best, and how that aligns with something they're offering. So they have to be very clear, and extremely authentic about it -- and we'll show this in some of the data points you'll highlight -- because often, that's a "miss" in terms of how it gets carried out in organizations.

People intuitively know that they need a job where they can do what they do best, and the No. 1 reason people are changing jobs even before they know that is that they want some career growth. So a lot of employees aren't seeing that alignment in their current work, and they're looking for something that matches -- and they intuitively know they can get a job that matches who they naturally are and what their skill set has been and how it's been developed.

I think organizations can help an individual know how they can develop the skills that match their natural strengths is really important and a differentiator as well, to be assertive about putting that forward for applicants.

[9:55] MM: Jim Collison, when you are in a conversation and you have a great Strengths background and you know everything about Strengths and you use it effectively with a new candidate, how do you lead with intentionality with that detail to make that offer and that picture of what could be is really explicit for that potential candidate?

Jim Collison: Mike, I think one of the things the [State of the American Workplace] report says is that we have to get the right fit with these individuals as well. And of course, Gallup has a selection instrument … we kind of run at an advantage with our candidates. We kind of know in advance they're a right fit systematically into our process because we have this selection instrument that helps us do that.

Specifically, when we think about the tech talent, we really try to drill down in getting those individuals and through the interviewing process, we ask them a lot of questions. I spend a lot of time in our internships and some of our early onboarding, asking them, "What are you interested in? What kinds of technologies are you currently following?" We have this idea in at least the technology space that they're looking for interesting work -- what is interesting to them. So we spend a lot of time asking those questions.

Jim, you've got a book coming out, It's the Manager. We'll spend some time on that. I also think you can underestimate the power of the manager in this asking those questions, and saying (it) not only during the onboarding process. I think this is a mistake I've made in the past is not being as prescriptive early in those conversations, and I really mean early in the first year -- of asking those questions around "What is interesting to you?" or "Why are you here?" or "What do you want to be working on?"

You can't meet those needs 100% of the time, but you can be asking those questions, and I think it's really important that we get to that point.

[14:40] MM: So here's a (data point) that is one of the most stark realities that came out of the (State of the American Workplace) report. Coaches, 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees. So think about the momentum factor -- I'm (as a new employee) excited, I come into this organization, and at some point, when asked about whether my organization does a great job of onboarding, only 12% are going to say "Yes" to that.

Jim Harter, what's the expanded context and pressure point there?

JH: They're almost identical, whether you ask leaders or employees in organizations, whether their organization does a great job of onboarding. So there's almost a universal perception in most organizations that just aren't getting that stage right, even though we know that in the first 6 months is your best chance for high engagement -- because people are getting more attention. But somehow, that experience, even though they might be getting some attention, isn't carrying over to a reflective self that says, "That was an optimum experience for me." So it's not setting them up right.

It may not be as difficult as we might think. There are 5 criteria we've found that are part of successful onboarding programs.

  1. Does the person come out of that onboarding process (and I'd argue that it ought to be expanded, a program for the whole first year) knowing what the organization believes in? Does it match what they heard before they were hired, and is it an authentic purpose they can connect to?
  2. What are my strengths? You are perfectly equipped to do this part. That's what you do. How do I know my strengths?
  3. How do my strengths fit into my role, what I'm being asked to do?
  4. Who are my partners? Do I know clearly who these people are -- people I can trust, who have my back, who are friends?
  5. What does my future here look like? Can I see where I'm headed?

So if you focus on those 5, organizations can substantially improve that onboarding process, and I can see how a strengths coach could have a tremendous impact on all of those.

[19:27] Jim Collison: Mike, we don't spend a lot of time talking about this, but Jim said something that reminded me of it. We don't spend enough time doing strengths-based role mapping. Think if I hire a software developer, so there are some specific roles -- project managers, QA, software developers, architects -- so there are these roles.

And we know that if we have them take CliftonStrengths, we know their Top 5 and all 34, and we have an awesome opportunity to take this 12% number and bring it up by sitting down with that individual development plan that's included as part of the kit they get when they train with us. And mapping, the middle section has a goal -- it says, "What is my role here? I'm joining this organization -- this goal is my role." And mapping that up through three or five, or whatever, and coming up with some really helpful outcomes that in their first week or two or three can set them up for success and knowing how they're going to point these individual talents -- these talent themes -- at their role.

I don't think we do it enough. I get to do this at college campuses, in a capstone setting, and it works out really well. And we spend a lot of time doing that here (at Gallup), it's the manager's job to get that done. A coach could do that, but think how smart a coach could be, coming into an organization and doing this on Day 1, or maybe it's Day 14. Early role mapping that's strengths-based. To take that 12% and move it up, I think we need to spend some time on the onboarding process of getting those roles mapped to their themes.

[21:49] MM: The (next data point from State of the American Workplace) is the 41% -- coaches, check this out -- just 41% of employees strongly agree that their job description aligns well with the work they are asked to do.

So just think about that "scope creep" or some of that erosion -- "I was given an offer, I said 'yes' to it. It looked wildly exciting, it fits me well." And then somewhere along the way, that story changed and doesn't feel as good now. Jim Harter, what do we know about that particular data point?

JH: There are a lot of things that could be going on underneath that, Mike. One is, as you alluded to, a disconnect between the job that was promised and what they're actually asked to do. So to be real authentic about what the job and job requirements are. Not that people are out there trying to pull a "fast one" on anybody, but I think a lot of times, realistic job previews are easier said than done. And organizations need to be authentic about that.

But I think the other thing, and it could be just as big, is the ability to be agile as roles change, as the organization changes, as work expectations change and as customer demands change. And the key to that "agility" part working right is those ongoing conversations we've talked about -- the best managers are having ongoing conversations -- not overly intrusive -- so they're in touch with people, in terms of what work they're doing, how it aligns with customer demands. Then, when changes happen, it's a much more fluid process.

So (it's important) to be in touch more frequently, and not just in a semiannual or annual review, and to help people know why the change is occurring. I think that can be another part of it -- not knowing why. An employee thinks -- "This just changed, and it doesn't match what I was asked to do" -- and we all blame it on corporate, instead of the manager helping (the employee) see this is actually good for the organization and for our customers -- it's the right move.

And the third thing I think about with that (41%) is how my role relates to other people's roles as those changes happen. Do I continuously know when I do "x" that somebody else will do "y"? That's a big part of clarity of expectations that I think is often overlooked -- how your role relates to everyone else's role. The more teams work together, the better that clarity is.

So we've seen in our data that the opportunity to do what you do best and clarity of expectations increase at different increments, depending on how long you've been with the company. Three years and 10 years -- nobody wants to wait three years or 10 years, so we have to be much better than just letting things fall out that way, and that's where those ongoing conversations come into play, and the shortcut of knowing someone's strengths. That's a shortcut because we know some information that it would take us years to figure out otherwise.

Jim Harter's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Achiever, Focus, Learner, Relator and Futuristic.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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