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Inspirational Induction – Using Coaching Principles to Engage & Generate Learning Right at the Start

Posted on the 18 October 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

Inspirational Induction – Using Coaching Principles to Engage & Generate Learning Right at the Start

Do you remember your own induction, what you learned and what impressions you gained of the people and the organisation?

Did you come away excited and engaged, or drained and overwhelmed?

As a coach I often work with new managers during their transition into a new organisation.

When I ask about their induction, interestingly, for many it’s a blur.

Few can recall much of it at all, apart from a sense that there was a lot to take in, little time to think, and that the quality of the presentations varied widely.

This is a pity, because often a great deal of effort goes into running induction and it plays a key role in giving someone the best possible start.

It’s an excellent opportunity for both the newcomer and the employer to create a positive impression and build the foundations of a good psychological contract.

Importantly, it’s often the first formal learning event that new recruits attend.

And yet in my experience, induction programmes are rarely reflective of how other learning and development activities are delivered in the organisation.

This is possibly because in induction the primary focus is on giving information rather than generating learning – and the “doing” and “reflecting” parts of the normal learning cycle get bypassed.I think it can be different.

Just think for a moment what your organisation’s induction could be like if:

  • it helped people to not just hear about but to absorb the organisation’s strategy
  • newcomers shared responsibility for their own learning and were enabled to be resourceful, to think for themselves and make their own discoveries
  • people were stretched and supported, and their learning styles valued
  • it clearly demonstrated the organisation’s values and culture all the presenters were positive role models
  • building relationships was seen as being as important as learning about processes
  • people came away from the session with commitment to an action plan….

would it be different from what happens now in your induction programme?

If so, might newcomers truly engage on the day and recall the event?

And might all those involved in delivering and managing the event feel more than a sense of dread or duty that they had to do their bit on the induction?

Whether you work within the HR arena, are a manager recruiting and inducting your own team, or a senior manager and contributor to induction events, I believe that even with limited time available, if you apply some coaching principles you can transform induction into a positive experience that generates energy and inspires people right at the start.

Principle 1: Establish the purpose and the contract. Being clear about what everyone wants to get out of the induction will help to establish mutual expectations. Discuss your goals and get them to discuss theirs with a partner at the start of the day. This helps to engender a shared sense of ownership for their learning, and reduces the tendency for people to sit around passively waiting for information. Revisit their goals during the day to keep the focus on outcomes.Induction events often cater for a wide variety of levels, experiences and skills and breaking down barriers is key to people contributing, so get them talking with each other in as many ways as possible.

Principle 2: Make it strategically relevant. Like coaching, induction must be clearly linked to the strategy on several levels.Firstly if retaining new people is important to your strategy (it’s unlikely not to be if you’ve just spent time and money in recruiting them) senior people will be more likely to support induction than if they think it’s just about learning how to fill in holiday forms. So this needs to be communicated to get their buy in.Secondly, the newcomers need to see, early on, the role they have to play in the organisation’s strategy, and whilst many induction programmes do this well, sometimes it’s hard for new people to make a personal link. Set them a task to discuss aspects of the strategy in small groups to stretch and encourage them to make sense of it for themselves.Thirdly, ensure that each induction presenter tells them why their department, function, product or service is directly or indirectly important to the organisation’s strategy and the goals, reinforcing the links in people’s minds.

Principle 3: Choose the right people to faciliate the learning. A session that is presented badly by an unprepared, untrained, boring or nervous manager or employee can impact on the credibility of the whole event, and can send out signals that you don’t really develop people. If you make your induction events inspiring good people will be more likely to want to get involved.

Principle 4: Model the culture you have or want them to create. Much as a good coach needs to model desired behaviours, the whole induction event needs to model the culture as much as possible. So if your organisation is an exciting place to work, the day and the exercises need to be exciting. Recently recruited employees, buddies and mentors from the business all have a role to play in inducting others and sharing their learning about the culture, so consider drawing upon them during the day.

Principle 5: Challenge people to think and learn for themselves. As most adults learn best by doing, inspirational induction means providing fewer presentations and offering more opportunities for interactivity, in and around the business wherever possible. Researching a key customer; interviewing a manager about their budgeting process; tracking the sales or service cycle; translating frequently used company acronyms – the possibilities are endless. Get people into pairs or small teams, give them some guidelines and be on hand for support where needed. And don’t assume that people lower down the ladder can’t do some of the more challenging tasks – on one induction event the new 18 year old receptionist volunteered to interview the CEO when no-one else would!If you want to offer time for reflection on their learning or achievement of tasks, consider splitting the induction into shorter sessions spaced over several days.

Principle 6: Encourage them to build relationships. You’ll be doing this throughout the induction by encouraging plenty of shared discussions and exercises. Exercises get them talking, generating energy and networking. The networking theme should be strong throughout the induction and you can encourage them to meet up with each other in one month to reflect on their learning. However, we all know that like meeting people on holiday that you promise to stay in touch with, you never do. So include this in the action planning session at the end. It’s also worth considering a short induction refresher for the group a few months down the line, as people tend to get sucked into the sub culture of their department.

Principle 7: Agree an Action Plan. Like a good coaching session, the discoveries made in induction need to be translated into results. However all too often induction days end without a commitment to action, so build in an action planning session where they can set some SMART future learning goals that lead on from today to take back for discussion with their manager.

Conclusion If you treat the induction like any other developmental and coaching event you’ll be demonstrating and modelling the culture and not just giving hard facts and data. When you engage a range of senses you cater for all learning styles, personality preferences and levels of experience, and inspire people to engage right at the start.

And by changing the focus from information-giving to information-seeking, you’ll be setting a really positive tone for the future.

And then hopefully when you ask new recruits a year down the line if they remember their induction, they’ll give you a different answer than the one you might get now.

Author: Linda AspeyArticle


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