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OnBoarding

October 15, 2013 Leave a comment

In the competitive world of higher education admissions, one of the key indicators universities research each year is student yield.  This is a comparison of the number of students who were admitted to the school versus the number of students that actually enrolled.  To promote higher yields, universities often work extensively with admitted students to turn them into enrolled students.   This work includes scheduling an orientation visit, promoting opportunities for admitted students to meet with other admitted students, offering attractive financial aid packages, and making it easy for students to navigate the complexities of transitioning to college life such as selecting a roommate, selecting a residence hall, selecting a major, selecting courses to take, etc.

This process of turning admitted students into enrolled students is also called “onboarding”.  For the university where I’m employed, one of the first “onboarding” tasks once a student is admitted is to create a university email account, which will give them access to a portal that houses many resources, forms, and information that will guide them through the “onboarding” process.

Last week, I attended a conference where a presenter from the University of Kansas spoke about the university’s efforts to adopt lessons and structures from their student onboarding process and apply these to a faculty and staff onboarding process.  As a hiring manager, I thought this was an incredible idea.  In my experience, the first 30 to 60 days after a new hire starts are often lost to typical “becoming familiar” tasks.  In contrast, a new college student doesn’t spend the first month of school becoming familiar.  Maybe the first day of classes, but by the second class meeting, a student has reading assignments and knows project and paper deadlines.  Granted most colleges and universities have summer orientation events and a week of scheduled events prior to the first day of classes for students to become acclimated to university.  But for new hires, often the several weeks are filled with simply trying to collect the appropriate approvals, access, equipment, and contacts for them to do their jobs.

The idea of establishing an onboarding process to assist in streamlining the amount of time and energy necessary to accomplish the tasks necessary to begin working on tasks and goals referenced in their job description seems to be a “no brainer”.  Sure there are limitations, but there are many things provided to students during their onboarding process, that could be leveraged for faculty and staff.  Technology resource allocations, parking permits, benefit signups, direct deposit forms, getting business cards … all of these tasks could easily be gathered into an onboarding portal where new hires to access between accepting their job and starting their first day.

For students, the onboarding process begins with being admitted.  For new hires, the onboarding process would begin with the hiring manager executing the proper paperwork.  This may be the first battle to establishing an onboarding process.  Hiring managers would need to understand that before anything could happen, they’d need to process the paper work so the new hire can access the onboarding website.  This may need special attention and potentially a culture shift.   But if means a new hire can be productive earlier, I suspect hiring managers would be more willing to commit to getting the process started.

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Don’t Deviate from the Script

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Earlier this morning I was on the phone with a customer support individual from a consumer electronics company.  For the last several days I’ve had some issues installing a piece of consumer electronics gear that connects to the data network.  In the past I’ve had two other products from this particular company and have not encountered as much frustration as I’ve had setting up the latest product.  I’ve engaged several of my network administrators and have combed through access logs to diagnosis what the problem could be.

Finally I called the company’s customer support line and after several option trees was routed to a customer support individual.  The conversation took less than five minutes, and right off the bat I could tell that the customer service representative wasn’t listening to me.  I attempted to clarify that my installation wasn’t the “norm” because I was attaching this device to a corporate network as oppose to a home network.  As soon as I mentioned the word “corporate network”, the support representative simply stated that the device wouldn’t work on a corporate network.

Now I’ve been working in the area of networking for corporate IT for over ten years, and so I’m pretty confident that this blanket statement by the support representative was inaccurate.  It just reinforces my bias that too often the support representative doesn’t know how to deviate from their script.  While the script may address the most common and large majority of the calls the support folks receive, the inability to listen and think beyond the script results in poor service for a segment of the population.

As an IT professional, I often encounter nuances and situations that aren’t readily scripted.  To this end I have to do more testing, apply some deductive reasoning, and evaluate broader possibilities.  Even if a solution isn’t obvious, going through some extra steps and spending a couple more minutes with a customer as you consider the problem, communicates that you value the customer.  My experience with this support representative communicated that I wasn’t valued by this consumer electronics company.  The lesson I’m applying from this experience, is  that it’s okay to deviate from the script.  I need to take the opportunity to listen carefully to the customer, and take some extra time to consider additional options that may result in resolving the problem the customer faces.  Regardless if I’m able to resolve the problem, listening to the customer and spending more time addressing the situation is better than simply dismissing the customer because their issues doesn’t match your script.