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Teaching + Mentoring: Engagement Series

In the typical employee lifecycle, there are many assumptions made by leaders. We assume that our new team members smoothly onboard to the organization, quickly learn their basic technical skills, and efficiently begin contributing to our team’s success. In reality, this is usually far from the truth. In many cases, the onboarding is clunky and disorganized, the initial training is disjointed and unclear, and they begin in a state of cloudy confusion without any real direction or established expectations. And that’s just the start. Often, minimal or weak teaching or coaching efforts are tossed in to grow those initial skills but are done so in a sea of unvalidated confusion.

This sad state of affairs in many large and small organizations causes lackluster experiences for these new team members and results in low engagement and commitment. But this can all change quickly with some basic behaviors by winning leaders. With some strategic steps, a new team member can be brought on board with smooth, organized efficiency in a setting of high energy, excitement, and displayed drive to create a highly successful, contributing team member.

Firstly, we must design the onboarding experience to be world-class from the communication that happens once the team member has formally accepted the role. What do they need before showing up on day one? What do they need when they walk in the door for their first week or two? Who will handle all of the initial training? Clearly define these things and execute them at a high level here to show them that you are a top-notch organization.

From there, the real work begins. This is where your teaching and mentoring strategy can create real, lasting engagement. Define specifically how you will provide additional teaching, instruction, and mentorship once they finish their initial onboarding training. Oftentimes, this is haphazardly executed, at best. Clearly defined and prepared individuals who will be assigned the teaching or mentoring roles are key here, and setting them up with the necessary tools and methods with a certification process will be instrumental in creating lasting engagement, execution, and performance.

Using the Habit Ladder from Gapology is a great way to look at how you will structure things to ensure high levels of engagement.

  • Communication. What information, expectations, methods, etc., must be communicated post-onboarding to the team member? What best methods should be employed to do so most effectively?

  • Understanding. What validation methods can be layered to ensure the team member fully comprehends what is being shared? How often should things be validated?

  • Agreement. What things can be executed to ensure the team member agrees to the things being taught? Having them share why steps are important is a great way to begin observing levels of engagement and commitment.

  • Practice. Repetition creates habits. But when done in a silo, this can also create bad habits. Coaching is the critical element to make practice time efficient and effective. Creating a team of certified mentors is a great tip and one I’ll discuss in more detail next.

  • Habit. This is the objective of training and teaching and, with the right amount of coaching and practice, will solidify your team of high performers.

I mentioned mentorship previously and would like to discuss it in more detail. Often organizations will have unofficial mentors told to help new hires when they begin their jobs. These top performers we trust and believe will teach things at a high level. The sad truth is that high performers are not always good teachers or mentors. They may be good at doing their job, but teaching is a completely different skill set, and it must be developed ahead of time so they can excel at it and provide a great growth experience for your new hires.

We recommend first developing your teachers and mentors. These may be your A-Players, but they may also be others with an aptitude for teaching. Look for those who are at the “Being Level” on our “Knowing-Doing-Being Ladder. They should really believe in what they will be teaching and live at a high level of performance. Develop a formal curriculum and vetting process for them and set them up for success before putting them in a position where they mentor others. Don’t take this for granted. Spend time doing this. Your efforts here will ensure consistent teaching, supportive mentorship, and highly engaged new team members.

So to wrap all of this up, it all starts with your planning and preparation. Creating a highly engaged new team member takes focus and effort to do so at a high level. Don’t cut corners or make assumptions. Ensure your support team of teachers and mentors are prepared and certified in the knowledge and skills they are coaching. Look for ways to validate and measure progress. And certainly, course-correct any hurdles and celebrate the wins along the way.


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