6 Coaching Principles for Inspirational Employee Induction
I often work with clients who are transitioning into a new organisation. When I ask about their induction, for many it’s a blur – even if it was only a few days before: lots to take in, very little time to think, and widely varying quality of presentations. They usually remember only the really bad presenters and maybe 1 really good one.
What a shame. A great deal of effort usually goes into induction events and they play a key role in giving someone the best possible start. It’s an excellent opportunity for both the newcomer and the employer to create a positive impression and build the foundations of a good psychological contract. And it’s often the first formal learning event that new recruits attend. Yet in my experience, induction programmes aren’t always reflective of how other learning and development activities are delivered in the organisation. With so much focus on information-giving it can be hard to balance it with generating learning – and the “doing” and “reflecting“ parts of the normal learning cycle get bypassed. And those involved with delivering it sometimes dread the event rather than feel excited about it.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, please read on!
I think it can be different – if you adopt a coaching approach. Just think for a moment what induction could be like if:
- it helps people to not just hear about but to absorb the organisation’s strategy
- newcomers share responsibility for their own learning and are enabled to be resourceful, to think for themselves and make their own discoveries
- people are stretched and supported, and their learning styles valued
- it clearly demonstrates the organisation’s values and culture
- all the presenters are positive role models
- building relationships is as important as learning about processes
- people come away from the session with commitment to an action plan ….
would it be different from what happens now?
I believe that even with limited time available, if you apply these 6 coaching principles you can transform induction into a positive experience that generates energy and inspires people right at the start.
Principle 1: Get clear on the purpose and agree a contract.
Discuss your objectives with the new recruits and pair them up to agree theirs at the start of the day. This helps to engender a shared sense of ownership for their learning, increases safety in participate, and reduces the tendency for people to sit around passively waiting for information. Check regularly with them during the day – “are you on track to meeting your objectives / getting what you want from today?”
Principle 2: Make it strategically relevant.
Like coaching, induction must be clearly linked to the strategy on several levels.
Firstly, senior people will be more likely to support induction if they know it’s of strategic relevance than if they think (usually erroneously) it’s just about employee administration. Make sure they know – at least a top line – about what’s being done on the day.
Secondly, the newcomers need to see, early on, the role they have to play in the organisation’s strategy. Share highlights of the strategy and get them into small discussion groups to encourage them to make sense of it for themselves.
Thirdly, ensure that each induction presenter is briefed to make explicit links about their department, function, product, market or service with the overall strategy, e.g “Why we focus on X markets rather than Y markets” or “the growth potential we see in X products”.
Principle 3: Choose the right people to facilitate the learning.
Unprepared, untrained, boring or nervous presenters will impact on the credibility of the whole event, and can send out signals that you don’t really develop people. I know it’s difficult to get good speakers and even those who commit to presenting can get pulled off at the last moment due to a pressing work issue. So develop a wide list of good people you can call on at short notice if someone drops out. Include employees who were newcomers at previous induction events and who clearly shone then. It’s better to only have 1 or 2 good presenters and lots of interactive exercises than 10 presenters who’re as dull as dishwater.
Principle 4: Challenge people to think and learn for themselves.
As most adults learn best by doing, inspirational induction means providing fewer presentations and offering more opportunities for interactivity, in and around the business wherever possible. Researching a key customer; interviewing a manager about their budgeting process; tracking the sales or service cycle; translating frequently used company acronyms – the possibilities are endless. Get people into pairs or small teams, give them some guidelines and be on hand for support where needed. And don’t assume that people lower down the ladder can’t do some of the more challenging tasks – on one induction event the new 18 year old receptionist volunteered to interview the CEO when no-one else would!
If you want to offer time for reflection on their learning or achievement of tasks, consider splitting the induction into shorter sessions spaced over several days.
Principle 5: Encourage them to build relationships.
Induction events often cater for a wide variety of levels, experiences and skills. Breaking down barriers and building trust is key to people contributing, so get them talking with each other in as many ways as possible – pairs, triads, small groups, rounds. The networking theme should be strong throughout the induction and you can encourage them to meet up with each other in one month to reflect on their learning. However, we all know that like meeting people on holiday that you promise to stay in touch with, you never do. So include this in the action planning session at the end. It’s also worth considering a short induction refresher for the group a few months down the line, as people tend to get sucked into the sub culture of their department.
Principle 6: Agree an Action Plan.
The discoveries made in induction need to be translated into results. However all too often induction days end without a commitment to action, so build in an action planning session where they can set some SMART future learning goals that lead on from today to take back for discussion with their manager.
If you treat the induction like any other developmental and coaching event you’ll be demonstrating and modelling the culture and not just giving hard facts and data. When you engage a range of senses you cater for all learning styles, personality preferences and levels of experience, and you’ll inspire people to engage right at the start. And by changing the focus from information-giving to information-seeking, you’ll be setting a really positive tone for the future.
What would you like your new recruits to remember about their induction if you asked them a year down the line?
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