Archive for February, 2014

The Process, Part 4: Developing Inclusion by Finding Your Hidden High-Potentials

Posted on February 10, 2014 by Leave a comment


Now that you have effectively recruited the best and the brightest talent, used an inclusive hiring process to assure that your impressive recruits became employees, and welcomed them on board in an informed and culturally conscious way, how will you develop them so that they stay long enough for you to realize a healthy return on your investment?

Timing Matters
When does employee development begin?  Employee development begins on the day your offer of employment is accepted. Development needs to be intentional and effective because development is happening – whether you plan for it or not. A great on-boarding process includes a strategic employee development plan that aligns with and supports your organization’s mission from day one.
How long do you want to retain this new employee?  If employee retention is considered and discussed from the first day as part of the strategy for development, you can plot your development plan on a timeline. For example, if the goal is to retain the new employee for ten years, then you can begin with year ten and work your way backwards chronologically. What is your vision for what that employee is contributing to your organization in ten years? What is their vision? Many job interviews include the question:  “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Few employers however, ask new hires this and other career-related questions once they are hired. It is true, that a critical part of the hiring and on-boarding process is providing the new employee with a tremendous amount of information to assure that they can function successfully in the organization, but as I wrote in the previous blog post, this is a great time to learn more about your new employee. This is also the perfect time to map your relationship so that you have an idea of where you want it to go. A critical element of successful plans is the ability to make changes along the way as new information is made available. Remember, this is a development plan, not a contract! 
ROI
In the world of Diversity and Inclusion we have many discussions on ROI (return on investment). This question is fundamental to the amount an employer is willing to invest in an employee and what they expect to get in return for that investment. This usually includes the cost of training, the cost of recruiting, the cost of development, and related initiatives.
Employers will sometimes wait for an employee to prove their loyalty before investing in their development. This is a risky decision to make because ambitious employees can become frustrated if they have to wait too long to engage in career development. On the other end of the spectrum those who are considered to be the most loyal may turn out to be great self-promoters with little regard for the well-being of the organization and may leave sooner than expected to join the organization’s strongest competitor.
Finding Your Hidden High-Potentials
Individuals who are not members of the dominant cultural group in an organization may have difficulty promoting themselves and are often over-looked as high-potentials. These are known as ‘hidden high-potentials’. There are ways to find them and develop them into valuable leaders who become loyal, long tenured members of your organization.
How do you develop new hires without investing more than you think you want to risk or can risk? New employees can be mentored as a group by a ‘proven’ employee.  Proven employees are those who have been with the organization for at least two years and are considered to be high-potentials.  High-potentials are those employees who have been identified as having a high potential for becoming future leaders in your organization. A great way to develop leaders is to have them mentor others, especially new employees. This reinforces everything that you want them to know about the organization, especially about its culture.
Every organization has a unique culture. Every division within every organization has its unique sub-culture, as does every department within every division. Having new hires mentored as a group does not require a large investment. This mentoring experience creates the opportunity to establish relationships early in an employees’ tenure with your organization which will increase the likelihood that they will stay with your organization for a longer period and be more productive while they are there. Another benefit of these mentoring relationships is that they span your organization’s departments and divisions, developing a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, your mission and vision by participants. My favorite benefit of developing relationships between new employees and seasoned employees is the potential for increasing their cultural competency.  For example, if a new employee is a wheelchair user, others in the mentoring group can ask – yes, ASK them – what they prefer in terms of having doors opened or people touching their chairs, etc.  This is a NO-COST employee development opportunity!
Other examples of development strategies for new hires are to have them join a ‘development plan support group’ or a ‘distance traveled forum’. These two initiatives help new employees to actively participate in their career development and self-assessment from their first day on the job. They also encourage appreciation for how employees’ diverse experiences, experiences outside of the workplace and school contribute to an organization’s success. Developing your new hires using these three strategies are excellent ways to find your hidden high-potentials.  Employees who are mentored and part of co-development initiatives are much more likely to speak up, offer input and volunteer for projects.  They will come out of hiding because they have been invited to do so and included in your organization’s efforts to innovate and succeed. 

How does your new hire fit into your succession plan? Many organizations are lacking viable succession plans and those that have them are not necessarily implementing them consistently. New hires give you a great opportunity to jump-start or revive your succession plan. If you cannot imagine a new employee moving up through the ranks of your organization into a leadership role isn’t this a great time to do so?

Onward!
~ Wendy 
Let me know what you think.  wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

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The Process, Part 3: All Aboard! Now What?

Posted on February 5, 2014 by Leave a comment


People are usually thrilled when they start a new job. The ‘new job feeling’ is not unlike the ‘new date feeling’ or ‘the new car feeling’. It takes most of us a while to decide whether the date will become a mate and if the car is a keeper or a lemon. 
Most new jobs have a three month ‘honeymoon’ period, although many people begin to feel disenchanted much sooner than that. On-boarding is the experience that a new employee has when they first come ‘on board’ at an organization. There are many studies that have demonstrated how critical on-boarding is. Large organizations invest billions of dollars in the on-boarding process for orientation sessions, training, lunches, dinners, etc. The success of these investments varies wildly and can determine how long an employee will stay with an organization, how productive and engaged they will be while they are there, and why they will leave.
 
Three Exclusive On-boarding Experiences: 

1.  A woman from India was recruited for a managerial IT position by a Fortune 50 company located in a rural area of a Southern state in the U.S.. She was a Hindu and a vegetarian.  She expressed serious concern about becoming acclimated to her new culture as she had no idea where she might go to worship. The meals provided at the new hire orientation that she attended were inedible as every day only ham and egg on a biscuit was provided for breakfast.  It was difficult for her to even find a meatless salad for lunch.  She would eat at home early each morning and then not eat again until dinner each evening. Her cultural differences were never considered when she was hired and as a result she resigned within a month of her first day of employment. 

This company could have saved a great deal of money, frustration and negative feelings if they had learned about their new employee’s culture during the hiring process and had provided cultural competency and inclusion training to those responsible for the orientation sessions and her on-boarding. 

2.
During a new hire orientation presentation, a representative of an organization’s Diversity Department pulled up a chair and sat down with his legs spread, one foot straddling his other knee such that the bottom of his shoe was facing the audience of new employees. Then he stood and put one foot on the chair.  A few of the participants became visibly uncomfortable and were silent during the Q&A segment of the session. The presenter was at a loss as to the cause for the employees’ shift in engagement. 

Even diversity professionals can make cultural gaffs if they are not provided with effective cultural competency education. Showing someone the bottom of your shoe, the lowest and dirtiest part of your body, is considered an insulting message in many Arabic countries. Putting your foot on a chair is considered insulting in some Asian cultures. The presenter thought that he was creating a relaxed atmosphere by using these gestures, but the result had the exact opposite impact. Intent vs. impact is a familiar concept in the field of discrimination that is often overlooked in the ‘softer’ field of diversity, sometimes with serious results.
 

3.
A new manager orientation session included ‘partner’ interviews and introductions.  The participants were paired-up and instructed to interview each other, asking 5 key questions, including the name of their favorite sports team.  One interviewee told her partner that she was not interested in sports.  He asked her where she was from and she replied, “New York City.” When he introduced her as a ‘Yankee Fan’ several other participants booed.  She was highly embarrassed and complained to the facilitator at the end of the session who told her that she was overreacting and should not take the booing seriously. 

Awareness of regionalism, including the impact of sports rivalries, is an important competency for trainers, especially those trusted to facilitate new hire orientation sessions. A new employee’s relationships are established during their on-boarding and any reinforcement of negative stereotypes can impact their success long afterward by creating barriers in those relationships.

How likely are these valuable new hires to become loyal, long term employees at the organizations described above, based on their on-boarding experiences? People need to be invited or included to really feel that they belong as part of an organization and that invitation must go beyond a job offer. Behaving in an inclusive manner is not necessarily intuitive, as we see with the diversity professional described above. Employees, especially supervisors, managers, and trainers need to be developed to be inclusive leaders with high levels of cultural competency if they are expected to know how to effectively create inclusive on-boarding experiences for new employees.
 

Why Does This Matter?
 
As the economy recovers, those who have not felt truly invited to become a part of a successful, innovative team will begin to seek out employers who will make them feel welcomed. Those employers understand that a high level of organizational cultural competency is required if they are to succeed and earn profits. Job seekers, especially ‘millennials’, are doing in-depth research on employers before accepting job offers and those who have negative on-boarding experiences are posting those experiences online.  So, after investing a great deal of money in recruitment, hiring and on-boarding high potential employees, are you confident that they are being on-boarded inclusively? If not, isn’t it a good time to make that happen?

Onward!

~ Wendy
Let me know what you think.  

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