Onboarding – Manager of First Impressions

This is the first in a blog series about onboarding; to read along and get updates, follow us on twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. To join our quarterly newsletter fill out the form in the right margin of this page ->

In this blog series we are going to focus on practical advice for one of the most complex, yet most common business processes.

Onboarding starts a new relationship. This is usually done in reference to a person or a business. And just like any relationship, this first experience accomplishes a lot. It sets expectations, communicates value and helps move the relationship along during the first critical moments.

The same can be said for business-to-business (B2B) companies. You will need to onboard new clients, customers and partners regularly. The trust and collaboration will be based on these preliminary transactions.

Being able to onboard well is a symptom of high performing organizations.

First impressions last forever! The onboarding process sets the expectations of the new employee, client or company. If it goes smoothly, they think things will go smoothly in the future.

Having the discipline, resources, foresight and leadership to make onboarding go smoothly is no simple feat. Oftentimes the complexity of a person or company destroys our ability to build something that works for every situation.

Nonetheless, through trial, error and sheer perseverance your teams can achieve an acceptable and delightful experience.

So how do we start?

Most designers agree that a map is a decent place to start talking about processes. Mapping out the workflow will help people understand what is being discussed along with the upstream and downstream impact. For example, if an HR role enters in a new hire name into a form; don’t make anyone type it again.

This might seem obvious, but if you’re drowning in paper forms you might not be able to see the forest through the trees.

Onboarding is a living and breathing process. It is always changing.

What happens prior to the on boarding process starting? Literally. What is the trigger to start onboarding? Did they accept an offer? Did they sign a contract? That’s a great place to start!

When they signed the contract, is that the last thing you need to get started? If not – work upstream to that contract or agreement so that you can gather the necessary information required to take on a new client/customer or teammate.

Next, how much lead time do you need?

If someone just signed a contract, how long until they have products in their hands? How long do you have to set up a new employee and prepare for their arrival? How long until they are trained?

When the first order of business is to do “all those things we didn’t do last time”, it looks like you are disorganized, your teams are disorganized and you can’t be bothered to make things better.

The stream of tasks and workflow to onboard a new employee should go as fast (or faster) than you expect the employee to also produce and contribute to the teams’ success.

And this is the most basic of all requirements for an onboarding process. You see the process should right-fit your culture and organization. Go as fast as needed for success. Not faster, nor slower. Both will cost you more than is necessary.

So hopefully mapping out the processes and seeing what needs to happen and when will start to make you look more organized. Like you care about this new relationship!

So how much of the experience of a new employee should we consider “onboarding”?

This is one of my favorite questions and it’s one of only two places left to innovate most onboarding programs. Many organizations already get the process of intake of personnel along with assignment of security and tools. Companies and teams looking to take onboarding to the next level, add security training to match their access and tool training as well. Then start career path activities and mentorship programs.

Putting these talent management basics in place at the onset of a relationship will help in very valuable ways. Things like attrition avoidance and risk mitigation. This isn’t just an investment in security, efficiency and recruiting; it’s also an investment in protecting intellectual property and talent retention.

The management of any relationship is, in entirety, onboarding.

From the moment a new relationship is formed, to the time professional ties change or sever, onboarding is happening.

If an organization has excellent ownership of internal and external processes, specifically in learning and development, there will be a continuous effort to grow and nurture relationships with and between staff.

This is also why it’s so hard to make improvements to onboarding as a process. You have employees, partners and clients participating in the process at all times.

The only time onboarding ends is when you complete offboarding. Lest we forget; if it’s important to give people access and tools, it’s probably just as important to remove their access and collect their tools.

This brings us to the next biggest innovation gap of most organization’s onboarding process.

Knowing what access, tools and skills each employee, customer or partner company has is an extremely valuable set of data. This value extends to multiple departments, processes and systems. It also keeps the information up to date for audit and reference within other processes and applications.

The easiest way to manage your most valuable assets (your people) is to capture their context when they start. Then manage the lifecycle to continue to keep this information up to date.

The opportunity cost of capturing what tools, access and skills an employee has during onboarding is too great for any organization to overlook.

As your team diversifies the skillsets needed to design and deliver great onboarding efficiency, content and procedures; the onboarding process will continue to improve. And so will your employees.

Stick with this series as we continue to explore on boarding. We’ll cover a myriad of related subjects on this topic.

Training coming in September

It’s gorgeous in Minnesota. Come join us at one of the newest hotels near the Mall of America for a three day training event.

It’s difficult to plan training. Who will come? What do they need?

So we’ve setup a couple different tracks focused on Forms and Workflow development along with a day of time to apply what you’ve learned and work with our teams directly.

Sound like your kind of gig?

Register and read details here.

You Released a Catalog; Now What?

Adoption: Getting People to Use your Catalog

If people don’t use your portal, there is a risk of missing returns on your investment. This is important because an initiative like a self-service portal is usually sold to leadership as part of a cost-savings initiative.

catalog open

Marketing

How do you get your customers to think about your portal when they need something? To understand this, consider the lifecycle of technology adoption. Innovators and early adopters will be easy to convince since a new portal to make requests is a disruptive change. For the rest of your audiencemarketing is key to making people aware the catalog exists and what value it provides.

Some keys to marketing your catalog include simply talking to people about it, putting it on your hold music, send links to the portal and have service agents talk to callers about your catalog. Partner with your internal marketing teams and corporate messaging teams to share stories about the self-service catalog. Of course, linking to your catalog from intranet pages and emails is also important.

Informational sessions, brown bags, new hire orientation and all-hands meetings are some more great platforms to share the stories and value of your catalog.

Experience

Having a great experience is a non-negotiable requirement of any self-service portal. If the first interaction customers have with your catalog is not a good one, they may never come back. To achieve this, partner with your customers to capture and provide input to what they would like the experience to be like. Watching people order things is a great place to start.

Improvement: Making the Catalog a Part of Company Culture

Build analytics and measurement into your catalog to determine what services people are using, which ones they aren’t using and identify what your customers are looking for. Having access to what people are searching for can help you understand what services they are looking for that may not be available yet.

Surveys help you understand if people are happy with your portal, upset with your portal and gives people a voice and input into your systems. To increase survey response rates try rewarding respondents and adding incentive to users helping you build the portal. And when something changes on your portal, make sure you communicate and understand the impact on your customers.

Making frequent small improvements keeps change simple for your end users. Make sure your items have a similar look and feel, and make ordering easy. Focus on the customer experience, and never stop improving.

Expansion: growing the use of your catalog

There are lots of ways to expand. Adding departments, services or even a new portals are challenges you may need to overcome. Seeking out the power-users, information brokers and persuaders to discuss the design and functionality of your portal will be exponentially valuable.

There are a couple ways to scale your expansion. One way is to build items and technology features to be reused and leveraged by power-users. Building activities and functions that are repeatable and modifiable will make your catalog easier to use and therefore more likely to I used.

Another is to build your technology in such a way to distribute the details of your services. This might include being able to leverage a standard approval workflow, or giving business professionals the ability to customize their own forms. This may take some careful planning and maybe even re-work, but the investment is worth it when demand increases.

Support: How to Scale Innovation

Since most modern technology platforms can literally do anything, we need to break the habit of asking “Can it…” and start planning how to approach a solution.

Exploring what your platforms are capable of keeps you in the role of “early-adopter” which makes you a key resource to the people leveraging this technology. This role will often start automating solutions or fixing problems that people have been complaining about for years. This is an important step in the life of a self-service platform.

Expand who is using the platform, give them a framework to work within and cross-train. Having multiple people involved in a system like this removes the risk of having a single point of failure.

Nobody knows everything, so getting others involved will also help scale exploration. Continuously learn more about the technologies that are providing the value your team and company need.

Lastly, keeping your platforms up to date keeps you leveraging new functionality and feature sets as well as keeping you learning more about the enabling technology.

Get Started

Ready to get started implementing a catalog that can grow? Start learning more today at http://kineticdata.com.

Kinetic Data creates business process software that delights its customers, making them heroes by transforming both the organization and the people who work there. Since 1998 Kinetic Data has helped hundreds of Fortune 500 and government customers — including General Mills, Avon, Intel, 3M and the U.S. Department of Transportation — implement automated request management systems with a formula that is proven, repeatable and ready to implement. The company has earned numerous awards for its superior products and support. Kinetic Data serves customers from its headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., offices in Sydney, Australia, and through a valued network of reseller partners. For more information, visitwww.kineticdata.com, follow our blog, and connect with us on Twitter andLinkedIn.

KEG 2015 – Event Wrap-Up, Resources, and the Wally Awards

This year’s Kinetic Enthusiast Group (KEG) event was the largest to date. IT professionals from government agencies, business enterprises, school systems and service providers from across the U.S., Canada and Europe gathered for information-packed presentations, customer stories, networking and training.

Ben Christenson presents the 2015 Wally Awards at KEGKEG 2015 also featured the second annual Wally Awards—recognition given to customers who’ve done uniquely innovative things with Kinetic Data products and technologies. Among this year’s winners were:

Continue reading “KEG 2015 – Event Wrap-Up, Resources, and the Wally Awards”

Four Ways to Optimize the New Employee Onboarding Process

New employees are the lifeblood of every organization. Beyond natural turnover, at some point in any enterprise it’s impossible to grow without adding people.

Implementing an organized onboarding process makes life better for both the organization and the new employee, at what is often a very stressful time. Enterprises want to get new employees settled in, up to speed, and contributing productively as quickly as possible. Employees want to get started on their jobs with minimal wait time and chaos.

And yet, “at many companies, provisioning new hires is a haphazard affair, often amounting to little more than handing out a laptop and a building pass,” according to the Wall Street Journal in How (and How Not) to Train New Staff on IT. While the WSJ article focuses on information technology issue, its recommendations can easily be expanded to encompass the entire employee onboarding process.

Have Everything Ready

According the WSJ article, “Many of the mistakes companies make come from starting too late and not having a clear ‘onboarding’ process.” While IT clearly plays a pivotal role in bringing new employees into the company (provisioning computer hardware, mobile device management, email and application access, phones, printer access and more), several other departments also need to be involved.

Employee Onboarding Process Task TreeHuman resources (HR) needs to get the employee set up with payroll, benefits, emergency contact information, training, etc. Facilities needs up to set and provision furnishings for the employee’s workspace. Accounting needs to coordinate pay- and expense-based setup tasks with HR. And so on.

What’s needed is for managers in each department to map out their onboarding tasks, approvals and deliverables, and coordinate these tasks with other departments. Then look for opportunities to automate as many of the tasks as possible to reduce labor, costs, and the potential for errors due to redundant manual data entry.

While onboarding processes will be different across departments and levels (e.g., the process for a call center operator will differ from a departmental VP), many of the same tasks still apply. So, a basic onboarding task workflow can be created, then modified as needed for various roles.

Simplify Systems Access

“One of the dumb ways of getting new employees set up is to have a complex process of approval for access to systems. New staff members can end up waiting days or weeks for managers in different departments to give them access to what they need,” according to the WSJ story.

Provisioning role-based system and application access should be part of the onboarding process flow as described above. For situations where the employee is in a new role for which systems access isn’t completely defined, or in which it’s determined after the employee starts that he or she needs access to an application that wasn’t specified in the onboarding process, incorporation of an enterprise request management (ERM) strategy (sort of an “Amazon.com” for any type of internal company service and equipment requests) can enable that access gap to be quickly filled.

Control the Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD) Chaos

As noted here previously, a properly implemented BYOD approach can both keep employees happy and reduce costs for the organization. The Journal article is spot-on that there do need to be guiderails around on the program, with both limitations and requirements clearly communicated up front, but “banning all personal devices is increasingly unrealistic.”

Training Done by Humans

“Giving someone access to an intranet site with instructions to read it and watch a few videos isn’t as effective as one-to-one training,” as the WSJ points out, but there is an even smarter approach. Pardon the cliché, but this is an area where “thinking outside the box” can really make a difference.

Rather than just considering various methods of training, consider designing new interfaces—what Forrester Research calls “systems of engagement“—on top of vital, but often complex, core enterprise applications (systems of record).

For example, a call center operator may need to utilize information from multiple applications and screens in order to answer even a few common questions. Rather than spend hours on training (regardless of the method used), build a simple interface with perhaps just a handful of clearly-labeled fields that provides the operator with the essential capabilities and information needed to resolve the customer issue while hiding all of the underlying complexity and cross-system navigation.

This approach can reduce to training time required, at least for many common tasks, to virtually zero. A simple user interface that eliminates the need for training is often the best training approach of all.

The combination of mapping the entire onboarding process flow, automating as many tasks as feasible, and doing as much of this work as possible before the employee arrives for the first day on the job, will get each new employee off to a comfortable, chaos-free and productive start as rapidly as possible.

For more information on this topic, download the white paper Business Process Automation Anywhere and Everywhere.

Kinetic Data Training

By Derick Larson

You’ve purchased Kinetic Request or Kinetic Survey, you got it installed, you have some requirements scoped out—now what? Well, how about some training!

There are manuals to help and even web videos, but there is just no substitute for a knowledgeable person to come and help get you started. One of the best ways to do this is with a training class. Kinetic Data offers four different classes to help you get started (or restarted it it’s been awhile) with Kinetic Request, Kinetic Task and Kinetic Survey.

If you have purchased only Kinetic Survey, the choice is easy. We offer a two day Kinetic Survey Manager class and a one day Administrator class. During class you will learn all about developing survey templates including questions, text, images, formatting with cascading style sheets, events and integrations. This class is for people that will be creating and maintaining survey templates. During the Administrator class, we walk through performing an integration to a sample BMC Remedy form, and talk about installations, where and how data is stored, and using some custom javascript. The Administrator class is for BMC Remedy administrators, and is also useful for report writers.

If you purchased Kinetic Request (or better yet, both Kinetic Survey and Kinetic Request), there are more options for classes. First there is the four day Kinetic Request Manager class which includes everything from the Kinetic Survey Manager class (so you can take the Kinetic Request class and be covered for Kinetic Survey!) and adds on a day of talking about the Kinetic Task Engine. You’ll learn how to create your own task trees and all about our basic handlers and others available from the Kinetic Task Community (ktc.kineticdata.com). Like the Kinetic Survey class, this class is for people that create and maintain service items and service catalogs. And, the same Administrator class is offered as the fourth day of training.

With the addition of Kinetic Task, bundled with Kinetic Request, we have two additional classes. The first is aone day web based classthat is focused on building task trees for Kinetic Request. It is essentially day three of the Kinetic Request Manager class and is great for customers that are upgrading from older versions, or just want some insight into how Kinetic Task works.

The last class we offer is a three day course just on Kinetic Task Advanced Training. It includes all the material from the one day online class and adds two days of breaking down and creating the task handlers that are part of what makes the ne Kinetic Task engine so powerful.

The Kinetic Survey Manager, Kinetic Request Manager, Kinetic Administrator, and the Kinetic Task Advanced Training are all available both at a local St Paul, Minnesota training center (see our web site for specific schedules) or you can have a trainer come to your site. The one day Kinetic Task Builder class is offered as on on-line class only at this time.

One of the best reasons to have a trainer come to your site is customization. As much as possible, we will customize the training class to your needs and specific requirements. We will happily change or update our in-class examples to your specific needs. And, if there are specific items that you want included in training, we can make sure they are part of your curriculum.

Contact us at training@kineticdata.com to inquire about availability and cost. Let us help you get your Kinetic Data project off to a great start.