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Pam Ross Effect

Culture. Experience. Results.

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Posted by on August 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


Engaging Orientation

When a new employee starts at your company, do they feel like you’ve rolled out the welcome mat or like they’re just another number?

A new employee’s first few days can be critical to their longterm success and engagement.  They are gauging whether they’ve made the right decision to come and work for you and probably feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information they’re taking in.  Here are some tips to help make your orientation program effective and engaging.

Paperwork, Policies and Purpose!

On your employee’s first day, of course you need to make sure they’ve completed all necessary paperwork and that you’ve covered critical policies and legislated information with your new employee, such as safety information and WHMIS training.  But Orientation should be about more than just policies and paperwork.

New employees should be introduced to the mission and purpose of the organization.  Do you have a culture video or a vision presentation that you can share with them?  Hopefully your organization’s values were shared in the interview process to help ensure a good fit, but review them again.  Discuss what the new employee’s role in helping the organization achieve its goals are.  Provide purpose for them.  Feeling as though you are making valuable contributions and that your work has purpose is a key driver of engagement.

The Grand Tour

An employee’s should get a tour of the location early on during their first day.  Again, there are some basic legislated things to cover including health and safety information, but make sure your tour also helps them to feel at home.  Cover things like where to put their coat/lunch/personal items, what door to come in, where to park,  where washrooms are.  Introduce them to key people outside your department, like mailroom personnel, the receptionist, IT support people.  This will help them to know who to speak to when they need help with something.

Buddy Up

It can be lonely joining a new company, where everyone already has their network of “work-friends”.  Invite your new team member for lunch, stop by their cubicle or office just to say hello, continue to introduce them to people outside their immediate work group.  A “Buddy” system is a great way to make sure new employees aren’t left out.  Appoint various friendly peers who live your company’s values to act as “buddies” for new employees.  Give them a budget for lunch out once in a while as a perquisite.  You’ll gain the money back tenfold in engagement and productivity levels as your new employees feel comfortable and confident more quickly.

Wow them

We tend to do a great job making people feel like appreciated when they tell us they’re leaving.  Have you ever been to a “send off” party for someone who has gotten another job, or have you been the recipient of one of those parties?  I know how it feels to be blown away by the kind words and gifts from bosses and coworkers when I was leaving to go to another job.  I have always thought how much more effective those gestures would have been while I was working there, or when I joined the company.  Do what you can to wow your new employee.  The basics are to make sure their business cards are ready and their nameplate printed and hanging.  If there are other things you can do, like take them to lunch with the team in their first week, or present them with a company coffee mug or piece of swag to welcome them, they will be wowed.  Don’t save these things for the next time someone leaves!

How do you make new employees feel welcomed and appreciated?  Share your best practices in the comments.

Pic via Flickr user Joelk75.


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Great Leaders know how to Receive Feedback as well as give it.

As leaders, we’re often giving our teams feedback that will help them grow and develop. But what happens when someone on your team gives you developmental feedback? How do you take it? I’ve seen several responses ranging from sarcasm to defensiveness to agreeing immediately and then using that feedback against the person later.

Most recently, though, I experienced the most positive response I’ve seen in a leader. Let’s call her Alison. I explained to Alison that a certain behavior she often demonstrated was stalling my development. Alison listened, then proved that she had by adding to what I had said, and empathizing with me. She told me she fully agreed and asked for my help in stopping her the next time she behaved this way. Then the next day, Alison came to me first thing and thanked me for the feedback. She said she had thought about it further and realized that she was doing the same thing to others on our team, and I had helped her to realize it. Wow!

The funny thing was that I knew Alison was a great leader when I went to her with the feedback. In fact, I found it extremely difficult to give her feedback because of this. I mean, how could I be going to such a great mentor and coach and asking her to change her behavior? But, after hours of fretting about what to say and how to approach this, I knew that I would want to be told if it were me.  Alison demonstrated her great leadership once again by showing her desire to continue to improve and her understanding of how she was affecting the team.

When you receive feedback from others, do you think about the courage it took them to come to you?  Do you consider how important it must be to them?  And do you think about the fact that if this is bothering them, it might be bothering others too?  How do you react to feedback?


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More on Twitter’s fluid leadership and global impact

Recently, I posted some quick info about the history and concept of Twitter, as well as a link to a Biz Stone interview.  Click here to read it.  One of the things I find fascinating about Twitter is the fluid, team effort that goes into running the company.  Biz talked about how the three co-founders, himself, Jack Dorsey, and Evan Williams, sort of swap in and out of the role depending on the needs at the time.  Ego just doesn’t seem to factor into the equation.

Dorsey, Williams, and Stone have also turned down substantial offers for Twitter, knowing that there’s more for them to accomplish with it.  Biz talked about the global impact and the positive change that can come from the info-sharing site.

Check out this article from Fast Company (click here) – an interview with Jack Dorsey – some of the same themes come up.  These three are very innovative – I can’t wait to see how Dorsey’s new mobile credit card idea, Square, works out!


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Building culture – more than a poster on the wall

I truly believe a strong focus on building a positive culture will drive your business forward.  I’ve seen some great ways of building culture and some not-so-great ways… so I thought it was worth sharing a few things I’ve learned about how culture works.

1.  Culture happens whether you define it or not.  As you go about day to day work, how things are done will build a certain culture.  Take a look at the language people use with colleagues and clients.  What is accepted or corrected?  How about decisions – how are they made, and by whom?  What stories are shared by team members, about history or situations in the past?  What kinds of behaviour are recognized or rewarded in your organization?  A simple thank you goes a long way towards encouraging certain behaviours and building them into the culture.  What types of people get promoted?  This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it provides a basis for consideration.

2.  A bad manager can kill  great culture.  Conversely, a great leader builds fantastic culture.  Culture is especially influenced by the leaders in an organization.  The way they interact with each other and the entire workforce speaks volumes.  If you say your culture if one of fun and openness, but the executives interact only with each other, and are seen as extremely serious, the fun and openness will not exist.

3.  It’s not about a poster on the wall.  Many companies go through exhaustive exercises to determine what their organizational values and principles should be, then create eye-catching posters with these culture statements on them in order to communicate them clearly.  If the day to day behaviours of the leaders in the organization do not reflect these statements, these posters can create far more harm than good.  It’s the unspoken behaviours that create culture, not the poster on the wall.

The key to building strong culture is in being consistent both in the definitions that you communicate and the behaviours you model and recognize.  Great organizations do both of these consistently.

What companies do you know that have great cultures?


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