My guest today is Sharlyn Lauby, author of the absolutely essential blog HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc., a training and human resources consulting firm. I’ve known Sharlyn for well over a decade, and I can safely say that her body of work just keeps getting better and better. Not only is she an amazing author, speaker and consultant, but she’s also recently become a fellow podcast host.
Listen to our conversation about the ways that onboarding can be done more effectively, and how companies can offer better management support.
Also, be sure to check out my free offer to try LinkedIn Learning for 30 days to see my courses on “How to Proactively Manage Conflict as an Employee,” “Mastering Self-Leadership” or any of the great courses LinkedIn Learning has to offer!
Onboarding Done Right
Onboarding is really in right now, especially during the pandemic when we don’t get to see each other as often. For a new employee, the time spent between being hired and their first day is critical for coming to the conclusion that “this is the place for me” instead of “I’ve made a big mistake.”
What happens during this period of time is especially important for new managers, whether they are promoted internally or hired externally. According to Sharlyn, there’s a tendency for companies to assume that the person they’ve hired to fill a management role already knows everything by virtue of them being selected as a leader. “One of the things that I really want to see organizations start spending some more time with is the idea of giving managers their own onboarding program,” she says. Without giving new managers the tools they need to succeed, Sharlyn explains that all too often they only have the opportunity to learn on the job when they’ve made a mistake. And this isn’t an efficient use of anyone’s time.
The Path Forward for Managers
So what’s a good path for companies to follow when offering management support? Sharlyn talks about how some traditional management development programs are useful, but only to a certain point. For one, most of the topics that are covered in these programs are already useful for all employees to know and aren’t anything exclusive to the management side of things. “If you think about a typical management development program, they include concepts like problem-solving and decision-making,” she says. “If I went through that program and I never became a manager for whatever reason, I would be a better employee and the company would be better for having me.”
There are more pertinent topics to management covered in these programs, like creating budgets and conducting interviews, but it makes sense to wait to cover them at the point when someone is actually hired or promoted to become a manager. “Managers will go to interview skills training [and] they’ll learn how to interview before they ever become a manager,” Sharlyn explains. “It’s been nine months. They’ve never had to interview anybody except for the moment in time and training where you probably had to do a role play. … And they’re afraid to go to HR and ask for a refresher because they’re afraid HR is going to look at them and say, ‘Didn’t you pay attention during interview skills training?’” In order to avoid this vicious cycle, it’s useful to implement a great onboarding process that tells new managers what they need to know, when they need to know it.
Providing Continuous Resources
In addition to onboarding, giving managers the opportunity for continuous learning is also key to robust management support. HR plays an important role in making that happen. “It doesn’t have to be a big, fancy expensive program, but you could create a resource library for managers so that as they start to get exposure to things for the first time, they feel like HR is this resource place that they can go,” Sharlyn explains.
And sometimes, managers just need a place to vent. HR can absolutely be the go-to for that need as well. “[Managers] need to have the same opportunity to vent about resources and ask for all the things that they need, just like the employees are asking of them,” she says. “One place that could be helpful for managers to know that they can do that is with HR, where they know that they can go to somebody that sits in neutral land.” HR must remember that once someone becomes a manager, their need for support doesn’t end. It’s an ongoing process. Sharlyn recognized this when she started HR Bartender, and it’s time for this idea to become universal across HR departments as we evolve our approach to work.