(Please note that I will provide this case study over a series of parts over time. The project took me 3 months and it had a lot of “moving parts” and stakeholders. This is the first part which covers the background, the business problem and the analysis).
A few months before I left my previous organisation, I was placed as the designer and developer of an onboarding project for the Retail operations.
A National Audit Committee had developed a series of efficiency measures and Induction & Onboarding was an item where considerable cost savings and efficiency could be made by streamlining these processes across the states and regions.
The organisation had just come out of major transformational change that saw restructures and downsizing across all departments. Our Capability (Learning and Development) team was the last in the wave that saw capability functions centralised from all business units into one team situated at head office.
Many of our internal clients (such as the Retail operations), had lost their business unit learning and development teams and resources in the restructure. This resulted in mistrust and anxiety that the new centralised team in front of them would not be able to deliver the personal service they were previously accustomed to. We simply didn’t know their business.
Needless to say, initial stakeholder meetings were terse. However, we had to engender trust that we were capable on delivering on the Audit Committee’s recommendations and short time frames. We had to create some ‘quick wins’ which ensured to our new business clients that Capability could deliver an Induction and Onboarding Program that solved their business issues.
(Exact figures and data has not been provided).
- Business induction and onboarding was not mandatory as a result there were no records of who had undergone induction & onboarding in their own region
- The Retail business recruited a certain number branch managers every year based on staff movements, resignations and transfers. However, for all new branch managers recruited, there was a 30% turnover within their first 3 months which was a hefty cost to the business in recruitment and training
- There was no lateral recruitment. That is, the Retail business wanted to encourage employees to consider becoming Branch Managers from internally as opposed to recruiting “off the street”
- Training of branch managers had a long lead time (over 3 months) and this impacted staff at the branches who had to make do without managers at branches.
- Branches were located across Australia in metropolitan and regional areas. Branches were grouped within local area markets that varied in size and population across short and long distances. One Regional Executive managed a group of local area markets and responsible for the people leadership of branch managers in their region.
- Newly recruited branch managers were not advised during the recruitment and selection process that they will be required to travel for the first 6 weeks of their role – nor what branch they were allocated to – this impacted their personal or family commitments
- Some Branch Managers did not know how to read, interpret and analyse key sales reports and then develop actions to address performance gaps in those reports
- Every state had its own Onboarding Consultant, a dedicated resource who was the ‘point-of-call’ for new branch managers to ensure their smooth transition to their role and branch. Onboarding consultants ran state based facilitator-led onboarding workshops for new retail staff in their state however, every state conducted these differently. Over time, the onboarding consultants were also given additional roles and responsibilities for their region and their role became “muddy”.
- There was no consistent formal induction or onboarding program for the Retail operations
- Some parts of the Retail operation were seen as “competitors” with each other for sales targets such as bankers and customer contact centres
- There were no exit interviews conducted (or no record of exit interview data)
- There was no budget and I had to reuse or rebadge what was previously done
Before the Restructures:
The Retail Operation had a small dedicated team of retail subject matter experts (not skilled in learning and development) who had been exploring a solution in-house for the last two years. However with constant change and staff movement meant their project was interrupted. They did however provide me with some background research which was:
- A paper on their recent research trip to the US to explore best practice in onboarding with various organisations
- Partnership arrangement with an IT vendor to develop a Branch Manager Induction Portal which was in “development” stage
- A small pack proposals from a couple of eLearning vendors to create asynchronous e-learning, simulations and assessment modules around branch operations
The Business Outcomes To Be Achieved:
- Decrease the turnover rate within the first 3 months
- Reduce costs in the recruitment and onboarding process
- Streamline the induction & onboarding process
- Minimise travel costs and time
- Reduce the training lead time for branch managers to focus only on these key themes:
- People Leadership
- Service Excellence
- Business was adamant they wanted an “online test” to test for theory learned in the onboarding program. Upon further questioning and needs explorations, what they needed was a formal record on their Learning Management System that induction and onboarding has been satisfactorily completed.
The Needs Analysis
My first undertaking was to gather all the data I had already based on what the previous team had given us and to contact the key players to get a snapshot of the “current situation”.
- Induction Not Mandatory: There were various reasons provided as to why this was the case but the outcome was that they did not have an accurate snapshot of people who had completed induction or onboarding.
- My recommendation: Make induction & onboarding mandatory and record it in the Learning Management System
- Ownership: Due to the restructure, it took a while for someone in the Retail business to ‘own’ this project. Even though it was part of the Audit Committee, a stakeholder had to be identified to ensure that the process would continue, changes implemented and become BAU. While the business decided would own the BAU (business-as-usual) program, I continued with my analysis as my manager was involved in these discussions
- Recruitment: Information about the conditions of employment were not being relayed to the internal recruitment team so that potential applicants could be advised. Even though I was not directly involved in this liaison between the business and recruitment, my recommendation to my manager was to ensure that there were open lines of communication between these stakeholders especially as we were changing the induction and onboarding training that the recruitment team had to be advised.
- IT Vendor: I spoke with the vendor and made an assessment of the Branch Manager Portal they created. This vendor was not specialised in learning or learning management systems and had not had contact with the previous team for over 6 months. Much of the content in the portal was also out of date and the links were dead. The vendor admitted that they had been paid for their work to date but this was not their core business and preferred not to undertake any new work in this project.
- My recommendations were:
- Halt work on this Portal with this vendor as there will be ongoing costs to the business with future updates, content maintenance, additional functionality and site customisation by using an external solution
- Explore the use of Sharepoint and Yammer (tools that the organisation already had in use internally) to deliver the same Portal Experience at no cost
- My recommendations were:
- Induction & Onboarding Experience: As I had no exit interview data to review, I posted a question about people’s experience of induction and onboarding in Yammer (our Enterprise Social Networking Platform). Within 2 days I had approx 20 responses. One person had undertook a search on my behalf as he recalled that a similar question was asked by Simon Terry (@simongterry) two years prior. He sent me the thread which resulted in over 47 personal experiences (or qualitative data) across all businesses. I filtered through the responses that came from the Retail operations to capture those who came from branch managers, took a note of their names and phone numbers and then called them up to chat to them personally about their experience. All mentioned that they enjoyed their facilitator-led induction workshop (those who did go on one) but they felt isolated and unsupported once they were at the local branch.
- My recommendation was to explore methods in which new managers can feel supported and networked into their new roles through an online community in Yammer (I used the above example to explain to my senior managers of how branch managers can use a similar approach in Yammer to create a community that supports them).
- Onboarding Consultants: with one onboarding consultant in each state, these were enthusiastic and motivated people who enjoyed their role and valued in supporting new retail staff to transition into their new roles however, they felt that they needed a consistent approach. They were the people ‘on the ground’ who had direct access to branch managers, retail staff and regional executives and who understood their state based differences and local challenges. They were also subject matter experts in the retail space and highly connected and networked across their business however only two were active on Yammer.
- My recommendations were:
- Onboarding Consultants critical to success of the program as the ‘linchpins’. I recommended that they undertake a proactive role in supporting me to develop the modules in People Leadership; Sales; Risk and Service Excellence and who could put me into direct contact with SMEs to assess/test/evaluate the 70-20-10 activities within these modules for accuracy, relevancy and practical application in a branch environment
- Provide training in Yammer and Sharepoint as I saw the need that these Onboarding Consultants would need to be site owners of the Sharepoint Portal as well as encourage co-operation and collaboration between Branch Managers (so they needed to know and role model the use of the tools themselves).
- My recommendations were:
- Compliance Training: I reviewed all the mandatory compliance training that new branch managers undertook within their first three months and jokingly, I thought they were being “overboarded” not “onboarded”. Much of the compliance e-learns they had to completed had to be undertaken in their first weeks with little reference or practical application to their workplace. I also noted that some e-learns branch managers had to complete within their first 3 months but the rest of the organisation had one year to complete so the standards varied.
- My recommendations were:
- Ensure a consistent organisational wide approach to mandatory compliance learning – why do Branch Managers need to complete their e-learns within the first week when the rest of the organisation can have 3 months up to 12 months to complete theirs?
- Only mandatory elearns to be completed within their first 3 months and undertaken where appropriate in line with the modules being learned. For example, all sales related e-learns to be completed within the Sales Module; all Risk related modules to be completed when the Risk module is being undertaken.
- My recommendations were:
- “Where do Branch Managers Hang Out?” This was a question I asked myself and other branch managers. They had weekly catch up teleconferences with their local area markets and regions but no social or peer learning opporunities on Yammer or Sharepoint. I searched on Yammer for any Branch Manager groups (there were none) but instead, found a small private Regional Executive group in New South Wales. I requested access to this group, posted a little about myself and the project and politely enquired if I could speak to new branch managers who had joined in their region. Through this group, I was provided with additional names of new branch managers and other regional executives who I interviewed over the phone to undertake a situation assessment and seek out people who would volunteer to act as SMEs to review content as well as act as Yammer champions in their region. I also dropped in at some of the local branches in my community to introduce myself to the branch managers and explain who I was, what I was doing and get their own personal story of their work and the challenges of their workplace. (I actually enjoyed these as I got to experience first hand the life of a branch manager in suburbia – and it got me out of the office).
- My recommendation:
- Create a Branch Manager Group in Yammer that is open and public so that the organisation could see and experience the life of a Branch Manager and consider it as a viable career opportunity
- Develop a Yammer webinar training sessions to upskill Branch Managers to use Yammer for networking with current and new branch managers
- Learning Vendor Proposals: After reading the vendor proposals of e-learning assessments and simulations of branch operations to be developed, I noted that the solutions would not achieve the business outcomes they wanted. Much of the proposed solutions tested knowledge theory that was already covered in mandatory and compliance learning so it was repetitive. Also the solutions did not allow for workplace activities, coaching or practice with little or no opportunity for social or peer-to-peer learning. The solutions were also costly and required an additional $100K budget to be approved.
- My recommendations:
- Halt the eLearning solutions and vendor work and explore an in-house solution based on design and development of modularised content under key themes with 10-20-70 workplace activities to be undertaken within selected “Host Stores” (Stores who were leading in Sales; People Leadership; Risk; Service Excellence) under guidance, observation and coaching of current Branch Managers in these stores
- Assessment to be changed from an e-learning simulation to an on-the-job assignment that was to be submitted, assessed by their Regional Executive through one-on-one feedback and discussion within their first 3 months in the role:
- Develop a 30,60,90 day Store Plan (aka a “Business Plan” with key sales, people, risk and service excellence targets for your store)
- Develop an Operating Rhythm of Your Store (key daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly activities to be completed in branch)
- Given a range of typical branch scenarios and reports, analyse and interpret the reports and provide recommended actions to undertake.
Part 2 of the Case Study will involve how the plan was executed and how I developed the Modules, the Sharepoint Portal, worked with the Onboarding Consultants and SMEs across the business and used Yammer as the social learning platform.