I did it over and over, every single day for over a decade. Present on the board and teach exactly how to do it. Walking through step by step and explaining along the way my thought processes, tricks to remember and the big why behind it. Then, I many times would pass out a worksheet and we’d start working through the concepts together. Over the next weeks, we’d continually work through those concepts, slowly developing mastery. Along the way, I’d help them as needed, answer questions and provide more guidance and feedback as they improved more and more. After confidence was built and it could be done independently, I would let them loose to do it on their own. However, I would regularly return to what was taught to check for continual understanding, application and retention.
If you hadn’t guessed yet, I was a public school teacher. And I loved working with those middle schoolers in that super awkward age! As a teacher, I used to teach the most basic concepts, all the way up to complex principles and methods, whether it was in math, science or on a football field.
Teaching and coaching is only a small piece of what I now do with teams we work with at The Greenhouse. In working with leaders, one of the most common challenges we see is effective onboarding principles and processes.
When done well, onboarding of new employees not only effectively trains employees to excel in their role, but also generates higher long-term retention, greater productivity and a rock-solid culture. When the process is shortened, neglected or there is a lack of prioritization toward it, however, it can be a company’s worst nightmare. Employees leave after only a few days or weeks because they lack clarity on their role and responsibilities or because they’re unsure of your expectations. They end up feeling like they’re on an island and incapable of doing the job because they weren’t thoroughly trained on the processes and procedures. And they fail to see the big picture of how their role plays into everything in the company because it got skipped over. This leads to an inability to buy in and commit to the cause.
So, where do you begin to tighten up your onboarding process in order to develop a high-performing organization and employees, as well as a culture that others will greatly desire to work within? It really starts and ends with 6 simple words.
This is known as Gradual Release Technique, and it’s a skill we take all our leadership teams at The Greenhouse through to ensure they’re onboarding at a high level.
This is usually the easiest part of onboarding, but one that is severely rushed many times. Much too often, HR departments or supervisors speed through processes, covering them at a high level and failing to explain the why behind it all. Or, you may make the mistake of assuming that a new hire has the skillset and knowledge already required to be successful. It’s crucial to take the time to explain responsibilities and processes with enough depth so that employees can first see the entire picture, slowly working down into the details. This allows them to connect their pieces to how they play into the overall high-level processes.
This is where you now start to have your employee begin to do some of the work. This is often the skipped step in onboarding, or we cruise over it so fast that the newbie is left wondering how to really perform the task, creating confusion and lack of clarity. Many times this results in a resignation or a supervisor left wondering if the new hire was the right person for the job. In reality, it’s a major mistake by YOU as the supervisor, NOT the employee.
When managing others, this can be the hardest step because you feel you don’t have the time to teach things. But, if you really look at it, if you don’t take the time to teach it correctly and thoroughly up front, you’re going to be taking more time, money and resources to rehire and train again. Work with your employee, having them do more and more of the tasks, being sure you walk them through not just what to do, but how to think about it and approach it. Require them to take notes and document as they go. FYI – The BEST time to document processes in your organization is here, when you’re teaching them to somebody new because you’ll keep it simple and basic right away.
As your new employee builds more confidence and does more and more of the tasks, this is where you slowly start to pull yourself as a supervisor out of the process and move more into an observation role.
This is the final stage of Gradual Release Technique. Your employee now feels confident because he/she has a thorough understanding of the processes, sees how it fits into the big picture and also has clear and effective documentation to fall back on in case it is needed.
As a supervisor, this isn’t where you check out and trust them forever. This is where you now build out a process and system to be regularly checking in on the employee for accountability. Continue to measure their level of success with defined metrics and clear expectations. Also, be sure you have a system for how often you will come back to your employee and train and develop them further around their processes.
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