Think back to a time when you took an essay test. You attended class, you read materials, and you prepared for the test. Test day comes and you NAIL IT. You feel good about your answers—you think about the few little things you messed up in formatting—but who cares? It was about your knowledge of the topic—not mechanics, right?
Then you get your test back. You do not get the grade you expected. Turns out, mechanics did matter and even though you really did nail the content, the mechanics got you in the end. So, you ask to meet with the instructor and ask if the information about the mechanics was mentioned or located somewhere so you could review it.
The instructor says there is a rubric for success, but you can’t see it.
Now how do you feel?
Powerless? Unempowered? Adrift? Angry?
All valid. How are you supposed to pass the test if you don’t know how you are being graded?
Now move that to the workplace where your career, your livelihood, your kids’ braces bill, and other things are directly impacted by how you are assessed on performance at work.
You can’t pass the test if you don’t know what the rubric looks like.
Show them the light
Your new people (and anyone else, really) should never be left in the dark about expectations. This goes for everything from job performance to career advancement in your organization.
In an earlier installment, we talked about the importance of metrics for new employees, so we will only briefly talk about that here.
You should have performance metrics for new employees. And unless the job is super intuitive or easy, the metrics for new people should be different from established people. Not only should they exist, but they should be shared with the new person as early as possible. How complex that is is up to you and your organization. But build the grading rubric and share it with them.
Did you know that one of the most motivating experiences employees can have is making progress on a meaningful task? (APA, 2021)
I went to a 90-day review once and was told I was a stellar employee, but I was being marked down on my review because I got strep throat and had to use sick time during my “probationary period.” I did not know I was even in a “probationary period,” I had sick time to use, and I WAS CONTAGIOUS. Oh, and I also did not know it was “frowned upon” to use sick time at all, much less in the first 90 days.
There should not be any “unspoken” expectations that can be used as gotchas.
Role clarity before they are in the role
Performance expectations for role-specific tasks should be transparent and freely accessible to everyone in the role. They should also be as fluid as possible. Not everyone is the same. Some people catch on faster than others. If your policies are not flexible, that information should really be shared at the interview phase.
If you do have flexibility, tell applicants what that looks like and how it is handled. If it is only going to be flexible during a “probationary period,” they need to know that information up front.
We mentioned motivation above, but objectives and expectations are important for some other reasons as well when it comes to providing clarity to new hires:
Prioritizes tasks. Employees who know what right looks like will help them manage their time better. A lot of adult learners are self-starters. So, tell them what you expect and see what they do with it!
Encourages informal learning. New people will talk to their new co-workers to ask for tips. This also gives them a chance to work with their mentors to problem-solve and devise plans of attack.
Promotes decisiveness. Instead of guessing about what to do, they can just go do it. It will also help them identify knowledge gaps they can bring up with their mentor. This also gives them a chance to modify their learning journey.
Provides metrics. This is not just for you, but also for your newbie! It allows them to adjust and alerts you to possible training gaps. Pro tip: It is fine to let a new person try to self-correct but don’t let it get to a frustration point. When you see something, offer support and then back off a little to see what happens.
New employees not only want transparency about the role they have, they also want transparency into what types of career progressions are available to them.
Did you know that 76% of employees say they are more inclined to stay with a company if it offers continuous learning and development? (SHRM, 2022)
You are not just hiring someone to hire someone (hopefully!) You are hiring the newest member of your workforce team and you are about to spend some money to get them ramped up for their job. If they are looking for a new position in six months or a year, you want them to look internally first.
Remember your different onboarding audiences? Some are internal hires; some are external hires. The onboarding need for these two types of hires is very different. The external hire will need more information and training while the internal person is already immersed in the culture and has established relationships that can strengthen your whole organization.
Imagine how empowering and welcoming it would feel to talk about a career progression during onboarding? Your new hires are thinking: “Wow! They already have confidence in me.” Talk about engagement!
This is the term used when you onboard an internal employee who has changed positions. Do they need to be introduced to and trained on their new role? Absolutely. But that is not all. Employees who move to a new position should be welcomed just like people are brand new to the company when it comes to the hype, welcomes, swag, and all the fun stuff.
They should get a new journey map. It will look different from one you would have developed for an external hire. This one may not have all the company culture information, compliance items, and other things people new to the organization need. But hey! Maybe they need a refresher or reinforcement. This attention will reenergize their engagement.
Utilize your LMS
There is a very good chance your organization is not using its LMS to its full potential. Find out what kind of automation it features. Can you assign a learner’s playlist? Can you schedule reinforcement items and refreshers for automated delivery to individual learners?
Don’t know? Find out. It could come in very handy for providing onboarding clarity.
For example, if you as a manager could go in and assign modularized learning options for individual learners, you could enter a new person’s entire learning journey that shows them the upskilling path to a next-level position.
Or better yet, you are a learner who is empowered from the start to work on your learning journey at your own pace. Sure, you have to get the initial training items down and learn your new position first, but imagine seeing that journey laid out for you. And imagine the upskilling information is not locked down so you can access when you want to learn the information.
YOU are in control of your destiny! THAT is clarity.