Category: Org design

‘You say goodbye, I say hello’ – why you should get induction and leaving right at your business

Why are good induction practices and leaving with respect crucial components to get right in the employee life cycle? Well…

What stories do you want your people to tell at a BBQ (or on social media?)

This is the lens through which you should view your induction and leaving processes. Word of mouth can be either the best or the worst marketing for your employer brand.

A great start

Induction should ideally be the honeymoon period for your new starters. You’re forming the bond between company and employee that can withstand the normal ups and downs of a role. Most employees know the importance of a good first impression during an interview, remember that equally it’s a two-way street.

Your new starters have already formed a view of your business through the application and interview process – do you think it’s a good one? Yes or no, the induction process is your chance to either turn a mediocre perception into a good one, or turn a good one into a great one!


“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.”

– Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group.

Induction can help you turn your employees into your biggest advocates. This will help you improve not just your company’s employee attraction and retention, but also your client attraction and retention as well!

How do you ensure a good induction?

Details, details, details. There are a lot of moving pieces to having someone join the organisation. Has all the appropriate paperwork been filled out? Have you ordered all the hardware and software they need, as well as setting up their desk? Having access to the network and emails is important, but so is having pens and paper to take notes during their early days. A nice touch? Have their business cards ready and waiting on their desk when your new starter walks in.

We’ve heard tales of people showing up to work with no desk or computer, no access to their company email and no one scheduled to show them around the building and highlight any important safety information.

Administrative tasks are important in induction, but so is ‘cultural induction’. Where do people go for lunch? Who can your new starter join for lunch on their first day, have you scheduled a team lunch or morning tea to properly welcome the new team member? Does your business have a more formal culture, or relaxed? Do you have casual Friday attire? It’s a bit awkward to show up on your first Friday in your best suit when everyone else is wearing jeans (or vice versa if someone assumes you have casual Friday and you don’t!)Employee, induction, culture, prank

Speaking of awkward (but funny) tales of induction, we had a new starter recently who requested two screens for her computer to help her do some website and content work. Our culture is one where we work hard, but we also know how to have fun, so a little prank was pulled.

We acquiesced to her request for the two screens, but as you can see, we just sourced monitors that were perhaps a little ‘vintage’. The best part was the second or two where you could see our new recruit wasn’t 100% sure of the joke. (Don’t worry, she’s now equipped with all the tools of the trade she needs – all brand new this year, no less!)

Take it up a level

Think about the things you would have liked to have on hand when you started in any of your roles over your career so far. Below is my wish list of things I would have liked to see, and they’re also the items that I try to embed in our business now:

  • Business strategy – there are several components to this. First is having a documented strategy (easier said than done, I know). Second is packaging it up in a way that’s easily understood by everyone in your organisation. And third, delivering the strategy and purpose straight from the horse’s mouth. Your CEO/Leadership Team should be the ones either sitting down with or presenting the strategy (depending on your business size). Imagine the impact having everyone in your business on the same page about where the business is going!
  • Mission, vision, values – Understanding the purpose of your business and bringing its values to life are the things that capture the hearts and minds of both your people and your clients. Helping new people understand the soul of your company and embrace your mission, vision and values involves more than just a page in an induction manual. Do you have values-based reward and recognition? Do you celebrate your mission and vision visually in the office where people see them regularly? Aligning your day to day business activities with the mission, vision and values in mind, in a very real and tangible way, takes some planning and determination but yields the best results for your people and your business.
  • Org chart – this one sounds really simple but I’m always shocked at how many businesses actually don’t have an up to date organisational chart that their people can access. For new people, this element can make life so much easier. Imagine walking into a place where the org chart is available on your intranet, along with photos of all your colleagues and their desk location. And at their desks, they all have name tags in case you’re drawing a blank and it’s already that awkward time after your first week when you should remember someone’s name but you’ve had to meet so many new names and faces that you just can’t quite think of it! Again, it’s sometimes these small, inexpensive and easy solutions that can lead to a great induction. And it’s not so bad for some of your teammates that have been wondering what that guy in Finance is really called because it would probably be inappropriate and unappreciated to call him ‘the creepy ninja’ because you didn’t catch his name three months ago and have therefore been referring to him (to your team only, you’re not a total monster) by the manner in which he appears silently next to your desk. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE, UM, BUDDY?
  • Health, safety, policies and procedures – this is as much to protect your business as it is your people. Don’t let your new people start without knowing what to do in case of an emergency or an issue, whether it’s knowing where the exits are in case of a fire or threat, who they should go to if something inappropriate happens and also a very clear view of what is considered appropriate behaviour at your workplace. This topic, while perhaps seemingly monotonous, is one of the firsts and most important things we address with clients. In fact, I think I’ll expand on this in a later blog, so stay tuned.

Now on the flip side of the coin… Leaving with respect and dignity

People leave businesses all the time, for a variety of reasons. Some leave on their terms, some leave on yours. One thing they should all have in common is a sense of leaving on the best terms possible.

Sure, there will be cases where a company or employee acts blatantly badly and perhaps it’s less possible to leave as friends, but I would still argue it’s important to depart at least with the perception of respect, and there’s a few reasons why.

‘But the employee lied, stole and bullied their colleagues’ you might say, ‘why shouldn’t we make an example of them or herald their departure with a snarky social media post?’

To be frank, partly because it happened on your watch. I have never seen a business gain anything by a nasty exit (not even satisfaction from calling out ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out’). Be the bigger person, and instead review what YOU could have done differently in your role or as a business to prevent such things in future.

Not all leaving is bad leaving however, and in fact, I’ve seen some boomerang employees who come back after seeing that ‘hey, the grass was, in fact, not greener’. Don’t count your regrettable turnover as a lost cause. Maybe they don’t all come back, but if you leave them with a good feeling about their contribution, that their time was valued, perhaps they’ll be referring you their high performing friends (or even clients!) in future.

What does a good departure look like?

You know what a good employee should do when they’re leaving so they do the right thing by you: give you proper notice (or more), complete a good handover, give real feedback as to the reason for their exit, unsubscribe to their fifty eNewsletters so you don’t have to…

But what should they expect from you in return?

Leaving with respect should be something you pay to every employee, even if they are leaving because their performance or behaviour didn’t meet your expectations. Allowing them to tell their own story for their departure (leaving to take some time off, chasing a different opportunity) is one of the most appreciated steps you can take. There’s nothing to be gained from sharing that they didn’t pass their probation period or you aren’t extending their contract.

Redundancies can be difficult and emotional, but one of the most admirable things I’ve heard a good HR Manager say is that she takes pride in going through the redundancy process with utmost respect, care and professionalism – the impacted individual may already be going through everything from fear and anger to happiness and relief. Regardless of their response, manage the process in a way that doesn’t make them feel like their work didn’t matter or they’re just a number. Apply the golden rule, it always helps to think about how you’d like to be treated during this kind of significant change.

I’ve heard horror stories of everything from businesses withholding pay to make sure the employee ‘shows up’ in their final week (this also might be a breach on the part of the employer by the way), to the manager of the employee not even showing up for their last day or sending any kind of farewell note or a phone call.

Don’t leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth – it takes little effort to give a polite farewell. If someone has been with the company for many years, a proper card, gift and perhaps a lunch is appropriate. If they’ve only been with you for a short while, a card, small gift or at least a genuine thank you is called for. I’m not of the opinion that every departure calls for ten rounds of drinks at the local pub – this is all too commonplace and I can tell you that more times than not it ends poorly (a few drinks in and you get tears, blame, anger, gossip, the opposite of leaving with dignity and respect!)

And don’t forget about the details you attended to when your employee joined, perhaps take that list and reverse it for your departures checklist – here’s a few things to consider:

  • Have they returned all your equipment, keys, pass?
  • Have you communicated their leaving so their key stakeholders know who to contact from now on?
  • Have you alerted your IT person so they can begin the procedure of ensuring they remove access and maintain your data security?
  • Do any external suppliers need to know of the change?
  • Do you have access to your outgoing employees emails and files so you can catch anything that’s slipped through the cracks in the handover process?
  • Have you spoken to your team and/or function to let them know what is happening with the role (is it being filled or not, are you recruiting, can they apply)?

And it doesn’t hurt to keep up with your leaving employee on LinkedIn and congratulate them if and when they have a new role. Even if someone leaves feeling disenfranchised or somewhat bitter, their attitude and advocacy of your business may improve with time.

If you’ve done as much as you can to be considerate of your people’s induction and leaving, you can rest assured that your improved employer brand and word of mouth will not only improve your overall business culture and employee engagement, it may even give you a competitive advantage.

You don’t build a house without a blueprint…

So why build an organisation without one!

Last week I talked to the problems businesses can experience when their org chart isn’t based on solid organisational design. This week I promised to explain a little bit more about my four step process to build a sensible and solid organisational structure.

Step 1 – Strategy
Sounds easy right? Maybe not! It’s often tempting to jump a few steps, to build a structure around pivotal people, but organisations that have transitioned from good to great (Netflix is a great recent example) have a consistent approach of building the strategy first, and being willing to exit great people (and they do it well with a great thank-you redundancy payment) if the business is moving in a different direction.

Ask yourself the following – where is the business going in the next 12 months? Three years? Where are you competing? Where are you reducing or changing your focus? What does this mean for your customers? Products? Culture? People?

Other considerations should include your operating model/business model. One way I like to think of an operating model is if you had a set of plans for a building a house you have different blueprints for different functions (e.g. the electrician has a specific one, the builders have another, the landscape gardener has another again etc.) but you always have an overall summary plan that brings all these together – in a business you have a blueprint for an organisational structure (step 2) but you will also have technology page, a location/site page, a customer segmentation page, etc.

Step 2 – Structure
Now that you have greater clarity around your strategic focus, it is time to start thinking about the tasks, skillsets and deliverables that you are going to need. Organisation design 101 focuses on taking a holistic view of the tasks and skillsets required to deliver on an organisational strategy and translate these into structures and roles. On one side you have a sound operating model (see step 1) that helps guide the functions or divisions your business needs after which you combine these with the tasks and skillsets your business requires to build out a blueprint of the future structure, with position descriptions for the roles within the structure.

Step 3 – People
As hard as it can be, this is the first time you should start considering your people and individuals. Now that you have clarity around the functions you need and roles required this is when you go through two key steps – looking inward, which of your current people currently meet the requirements you have identified in step 2, and secondly, what roles do you not have suitable individuals currently within the business and thus you will need to recruit for.

I’ve seen this step go really badly when you don’t consider legislative implications of restructuring, redundancies, changing individual’s roles and communicating why you are doing this in the first place! Implementing a change or restructure affecting people’s roles, careers and livelihoods has implications not only for them but also for your people that stay – if you are ever going to get help from an expert, this is the step I recommend you don’t do without getting quality advice.

Step 4 – Process
Now that you have an org chart with clear roles, responsibilities and expectations, it’s time to start documenting the processes required to undertake the roles, and how all the roles connect together to deliver the outcomes you are looking for. Think of it like the instructions for building the furniture – the more senior the role, obviously the less specific the processes are, however this will enable you to de-risk the business from individuals and empower consistency amongst roles and allow you to lose an employee and be able to replace them with clear instructions for a new individual so that they can pick up the role quickly and continue without the business losing momentum.

Do you have questions or want to have a discussion around organisational structure? Don’t hesitate to give me a quick call or email! I’m passionate about helping your business get on a clear path to success.

Why an org chart isn’t just a pretty picture

Make sure yours is designed to set you up for success

An organisational chart (org chart / structure) isn’t everything, but without one you could be in trouble.

If you are currently employed by Google or Apple or are a Silicon Valley start up then this article may not apply to you.  However, if you do not work in this highly creative and entrepreneurial environment I caution you trying to replicate what works for these businesses by discounting conventional wisdom regarding organisational charts and the benefits of getting this right.

Let me first clarify – an organisational structure / org chart is the blueprint of an organisation outlining reporting lines, job titles, chain of command and who is performing what function in the organisation.  Organisational design however is the plan behind the blueprint, it looks at the strategy or goals of the business, the functions and tasks required to deliver this and then sets about organising these tasks and functions into groupings that form roles, divisions and finally individuals or position descriptions to perform the roles.

I am often asked about organisational design and are sometimes challenged by leaders that don’t recognise the benefits of sound organisational design to form the blueprint of an organisation.  Instead they will try to ‘out do’ conventional wisdom and recreate an organisation in a way that is backwards, relying on individuals rather than roles and design.  An org chart that is built on sound organisational design protects the business from being reliant on individuals and can withstand the departure of a valuable employee, or is more resilient to change.

Unfortunately I rarely hear a sensible justification for an org chart without a clear organisational design behind it, more often instead I hear the following:

  1. I know better…
  2. Other CEOs can only manage normal structures, but I am better than them
  3. I don’t want to upset my team by changing the current reporting lines
  4. I started the business, I wanted to know everything and it works for everyone this way
  5. It worked where I used to work so it will work here too

So what if you have an unconventional org chart, surely it is just a piece of paper right..?  Wrong! Whilst as the leader you may be clear about how you expect things to work you are setting your team and the greater business up for no end of trouble.

Common problems I see with org charts that don’t have sound organisational design include:

  1. The business activity and work effort is occurring in one part of the business which does not align to the strategy or needs of the business
  2. Decision bottle necks – if all decisions end at you then you are creating an environment of frustration for your people and limiting your business to flex and be nimble in times of need.
  3. Lack of clarity – without a clear and logical org chart individuals attempt to fill the gaps and this will inevitably create overlap or worse gaps – your people will be confused whose responsibility decisions are and will either revert everything to you or given point 2) may not even bother asking!
  4. Lack of succession – if a star talent was to leave or if you were unable to work for a certain period without a sound org chart you are leaving your business vulnerable to being a one trick pony and not being able to survive without you – not a good thing for sustainable growth.
  5. Lack of authority – people leave if they don’t feel trusted or empowered to make decisions, it is often a deal breaker.

Here are two simple rules to keep in mind when developing your organisational design:

  1. Strategy guides Structure, this comes before People and lastly comes Process (I will expand on this in my next article)
  2. Unless your strategy specifically requires it, the ideal average reports for each person is 6 – 8.  If for no other reason, your employees expect more than a paycheck now days, and coaching and mentoring isn’t possible if you have more reports than you keep count of!