How to Use Onboarding to Create Brand Champions

In today’s talent market, employees are consumers of the workplace — they are attracted, recruited and wooed into making employment decisions, similar to how companies market products and services to shoppers.

It’s an emotional journey for both sides, filled with ups, downs and a variety of influences. Once the acceptance letter is signed, both candidates and hiring managers feel a sense of victory and breathe a sigh of relief.

It takes a great deal of time, effort, money and resources to attract great talent, so it would make sense that companies then spend equal energy and resources to onboard new hires. But the fact that only 12% of employees strongly agree their company does a good job of onboarding new employees reveals there’s a major let down after the recruitment phase is over.

If only 12% of consumers felt a brand they selected delivered on what it promised, you can bet they wouldn’t stay with that brand very long — if at all.

Onboarding is where brand loyalty starts, and onboarding often begins long before Day One on the job. To be clear, employees don’t stop evaluating a company when they sign the acceptance letter; they formulate and share conclusions about their decision during their first several weeks, months and even years of employment.

For this reason, companies should proactively provide onboarding experiences that align with and support the brand promises they made, just as consumer products do in order to maintain favor with loyal consumers who provide future growth.

As with customers, experiences are everything to modern workers, and companies need to provide onboarding experiences — not just information — that mirror the identity of their organization.

3 Questions Every Company Must Answer to Improve the Onboarding Experience

Employees yearn to feel connected to their roles, colleagues, managers and companies. The higher the emotional connection, the higher the likelihood they will remain loyal to the brand. By creating better experiences in the onboarding phase, companies can build these emotional connections early in the employee journey.

Here are just a few things to consider about your onboarding program – things our research indicates you are probably missing:

1. Do new employees know what makes you unique?

Gallup finds that less than half of employees strongly agree that their organization has a “unique way of doing things.” Few onboarding programs share with workers why a company’s mission, products and services are distinct and valuable.

This has major implications from both a customer standpoint (when employees fail to represent the brand in the marketplace) and from an employment perspective (when current employees are not able to advocate for the organization as a place to work).

2. Do new employees know exactly how their job helps fulfill your company’s mission?

Companies need to connect the employee to the organization’s mission or purpose anddemonstrate how that employee personally impacts the brand or customer experience. Only four in 10 employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important.

Feeling like your job matters is an underrated aspect of performance. It not only influences brand advocacy, it also reduces absenteeism and improves safety and quality of work.

3. Do new employees experience your brand, mission and values during onboarding?

Undoubtedly, some facets of onboarding will vary from company to company, but regardless of a new hire’s role or team, three elements should be central: the company’s purpose, brand and culture.

Leaders should ensure that every single employee — at all times, at all levels of the company — can clearly define the reason why the organization exists, how the organization wishes to be known and how employees are expected to accomplish their work each day.

Companies can provide more memorable, brand-bolstering employee experiences by assigning professionals or hiring outside consultants in this area to optimize new workers’ touchpoints with the company. In partnership with HR, this role strategically crafts communications and action items to manage employees’ experiences — often developing experience maps to better organize and execute their plans.

Turn Your Employees Into Brand Champions

Providing a better onboarding experience is not just a useful strategy to engage new hires. Developing employees into brand champions is one of the most effective employer branding strategies a company can use, because 71% of job seekers say they use referrals from current employees to find a job.

To succeed in creating legitimate brand advocates, organizations need to view the employment process the same way they view the customer acquisition and service process — with intentionality and an intense focus on the experiences and emotions of new hires.

A company’s best brand advocates profoundly trust their company, know what it stands for, and amplify their positive feelings outward to friends, family members and potential candidates who welcome recommendations with open arms.

For any company, this trust is a byproduct of consistent employee experiences shaped by your company’s purpose, brand and culture.


The End of the Traditional Manager

By nearly every measure, the workplace is rapidly evolving. Compared to decades past, today’s workplace is defined by:

  • More flexible workspaces: 74% of employees have the ability to move to different areas to do their work
  • More flexible work time: 52% of employees say they have some choice over when they work
  • More remote working: 43% of employees work away from their team at least some of the time.
  • More matrixed teams: 84% of employees are matrixed to some extent.

But this new fluid workplace isn’t just about the work environment. Workplaces are increasingly project-based, and employees today are attracted to interesting problems and meaningful work — not just a job title.

To be more agile in a project-based work environment, teams make more decisions without approval from above, which means non-managers must act more like leaders and think more “big picture” like executives.

But thinking and acting like a leader is what companies want in an employee. Organizations are looking for employees who can make independent decisions with confidence, problem solve with diverse peer groups, and manage their own time, projects, workload, relationships, and career path by themselves.

Implicitly or explicitly, companies often expect employees to “be their own boss” and do for themselves what used to be considered “management.”

This shift in the workplace alters what employees need from their manager. In short, a manager who is always visible, watching every minute and stopping by to ask if you got the memo is becoming obsolete.

Under New Management

What happens when people have more autonomy at work?

Empirical evidence shows a correlation to increased performance and engagement as well as more sensitivity to failure when people have more independence at work.

In other words, autonomy leads to increased employee performance and engagement, but employees still need manager support during difficult situations. Managers can’t offer autonomy and disappear.

As long as businesses employ people, they need leaders who can develop talented individuals. Even for flexible, temp, gig or alternative workers, the personal relationship they have with their supervisor is the most meaningful relationship they have with their organization.

But there are new rules for management, and traditional management practices often don’t work anymore.

For example, often managers assume that remote workers’ expectations are the same as in-office employees’, but there is one phenomenon that separates these two types of workers: isolation. Perceived workplace isolation can lead to as much as a 21% drop in performance.

The reality is that you can’t manage the modern workforce using traditional management methods.

Today’s manager needs to be a coach, holding employees accountable while encouraging development and growth.

With many of the details of management now being automated, what’s left is the most powerful tool a manager has — meaningful conversations.

Consider your favorite sports coach and how they communicate with their star players. They have a deep understanding of their players through hours of dialogue. They know what to say to motivate each player differently — who needs more feedback, who needs less. Over time, great coaches develop the trust and openness needed to have tough conversations under pressure.

Most managers, however, aren’t ready for this kind of personal approach to dialogue with their employees. Organizations can help by providing managers training on how to lead strengths-based, performance-focused conversations regularly with employees.

The Future of Management

Could management itself become decentralized?

Instead of having one “manager,” imagine your best employees interacting with a team of specialized managers — one a technical expert, another an interpersonal relationship guru, another a career coach, etc.

Different managers address specific roadblocks to performance, while also consulting with one another to make sure that they are seeing each employee holistically and objectively.

Of course, managers would still need to have tough conversations with employees when necessary, but they would stay in the background when their team is performing well.

The chance to be mentored by this management dream team dedicated to your long-term career development would be a powerful draw for talented job seekers.

Regardless of what the future holds, it’s worth considering unconventional ideas when it comes to management. Sometimes it is easy to miss how quickly business as we know it is changing.

The old rules no longer apply, and that means leaders need to reinvent management for a more autonomous workforce of the future.

Millennials Are Burning Out

Even with youth on their side, millennial workers are more likely than workers in older generations to say that they always or very often feel burned out at work.

In a recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time U.S. employees, 28% of millennials claimed feeling frequent or constant burnout at work, compared with 21% of workers in older generations. An additional 45% of millennial workers say they sometimes feel burned out at work, suggesting that about seven in 10 millennials are experiencing some level of burnout on the job.

Although job burnout is not inevitable and there are many things organizations can do to decrease the chances of it happening, the numbers suggest that there is a crisis in how workers are managed.

Burnout at work harms health and relationships. Employees who are very often or always burned out are 63% more likely to take a sick day, 23% more likely to visit the emergency room and more than twice as likely to strongly agree that the demands of their job interfere with their family life.

Not surprisingly, burned-out employees are nearly three times as likely to leave their current employer.

The bottom line: Today’s typical workplace is chronically grueling, especially for the millennial generation. The majority of full-time U.S. workers experience burnout sometimes, very often or always — and it’s having a negative effect on their health, families and career development.

If organizations want to win the war for talent and become millennial magnets, Gallup recommends taking these actions:

  • Turn your managers into coaches who care. Employees whose manager is always willing to listen to their work-related problems are 62% less likely to be burned out. Additionally, millennials say they want more feedback — but only 17% of them strongly agree they receive routine or meaningful feedback from their manager.
  • Constantly reinforce how your employees’ work changes the world. Employees are less likely to be burned out when they can connect their work to their company’s mission and purpose. And working for an organization with a mission and purpose is especially important to millennials.
  • Give your employees as much autonomy and flexibility as you can. Employees are 43% less likely to experience high levels of burnout when they have a choice in deciding what tasks to do, when to do them and how much time to spend on them.

Go deeper: See Gallup’s recent articles on the root causes of burnout, and what managersand organizational leaders can do to reverse it.

3 Powerful Ways to Reduce Restaurant Employee Turnover

From Gallup recent articles

The average annual turnover rate for fast-food restaurants in the U.S. is a sobering 150% — in other words, a restaurant’s entire workforce, plus half of new hires. According to TDn2K’s 2018 Recruiting and Turnover Report, the average cost of turnover per manager for restaurants is $13,867.

Sure, the transient nature of the restaurant workforce plays a part. But for many restaurants, a disengaged work culture is also to blame. Disengaged employees are more likely to leave and less likely to engage customers.

This is an ominous problem as the industry faces evolving consumer demands and disruption to the traditional service model. For restaurant leaders, optimizing customer experiences to boost customer loyalty is more critical than ever.

One of the most potent strategies for combating turnover and improving customer experiences is investing in manager engagement — that is, managers’ involvement in, commitment to and enthusiasm for their jobs. Gallup analytics show that manager engagement has a ripple effect on team engagement: Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers.

In turn, boosting team-level engagement can dramatically reduce turnover. For high-turnover organizations, highly engaged business units achieve 24% less turnover. Engaged teams also have higher customer ratings. This can promote restaurant outcomes: Gallup studies of casual dining and fast-food restaurants found that customers who are fully engaged make more visits per month to that restaurant — 56% more and 28% more, respectively — than actively disengaged customers.

By optimizing managers’ engagement, restaurant leaders can deepen team-level engagement, improve turnover (along with myriad key business outcomes) and create customer experiences that garner loyalty.

Discover three practical interventions to help restaurant leaders engage their managers:

1. Find and cultivate high-potential managers.

People can learn skills and gain experience, but they cannot acquire talent — it is an innatecapacity for excellence. When managers have the right talent for the role, they are more likely to thrive in their jobs and be energized by their work.

In fact, Gallup analytics show that 54% of managers with high talent are engaged at work — twice the percentage of managers with limited talent. High-talent managers are also more likely to be strong and effective brand ambassadors who understand and deliver brand promises — and more successfully engage customers.

Talent cannot be detected on a resume. To find star managers who are more likely to be engaged, organizations must use advanced analytics to identify candidates who possess core dimensions of manager talent.

2. Make learning and development a priority.

The desire to learn and grow is one of 12 basic employee needs. By helping managers advance their abilities, leaders can improve manager engagement and equip managers to coach employees to exceptional performance. Effective manager development hones managers’ innate talents — highlighting what matters most to a rapidly evolving workforce and how managers can meet employees’ basic needs.

Manager development should not be a one-time event. From mentoring to formal coaching to group classes, leaders should continually invest in learning and development opportunities for managers. Gallup finds that people who have consistent development opportunities are twice as likely as those on the other end of the scale to say they will spend their career with their company.

3. Emphasize managers’ strengths.

All workers — including managers — are at their best when they take a strengths-based approach to their work. A strengths-based approach to manager development helps increase the likelihood that managers will be engaged and internally motivated.

Leaders are responsible for providing managers with leading-edge tools and training to identify and develop their strengths. Leaders should also understand their direct reports’ strengths and how they can support managers in making the most of those strengths.

In turn, managers who understand their own strengths can better develop workers’ strengths and harmonize the strengths of their team members to cultivate exceptional performance.

The ultimate outcome of targeting manager engagement is something all leaders crave: near-perfect customer experiences that leave customers hungry for more. It’s a powerful effect that I’ve personally experienced — and I’ll keep coming back again and again.

Featured in Forbes Magazine

I was asked to comment on what it takes to have engaged employees. Here is one of the questions I gave around employee engagement

12. What Can I Do To Make Your Job Easier?

This question implies that the manager cares about the employee. If employees feel that management truly cares about them as people, they will walk through fire for the manager. If they believe the manager could care less, they will let him or her walk off a cliff. Caring gets to the heart of employee engagement. – Jan MakelaStrength Based Leadership