Onboarding doesn’t have to be just a checklist or a dull day of reading through company procedures.
In this episode, host Tim Reitsma and Jerome Deroy—story expert and CEO of Narativ—talk about the power of storytelling to design and deliver programs that create ownership, empower and engage employees. Listen to learn how the power of story will transform your onboarding experience.
- A great leader equals a great listener. And that’s what’s often missing these days in leadership. [6:30]
- Jerome mentions a book called Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. [7:21]
- There’s a relationship between listening and speaking, and it’s a reciprocal relationship. So the more you listen to me, the more I’m encouraged to speak. And the way that I’m speaking is shaping how you’re listening to me. [8:41]
- If we’re not aware of the things that get in the way and we don’t consciously, actively work to set them aside so that we can be present for someone else, then nothing is really going to change in our interactions. [10:22]
- Building a better world of work is all about listening and it’s all about being present and connected to the needs of the people around you, whether that’s your team or your customers. It’s where everyone’s voice counts. [14:03]
- It is a leader’s responsibility to make sure that everyone gets a chance to speak in those meetings. [16:26]
People learn much better with stories than they do with data.Jerome Deroy
- The other thing about onboarding is you get people that are excited. [21:42]
- We now have access to a variety of different platforms to deliver our messages. And we view onboarding, for some reason, as a little bit separate from all that. [26:57]
- When you are onboarding, don’t start with the compliance stuff. [29:49]
- It’s more costly to fire someone or have them resign than to create a robust onboarding process. [32:36]
The more you can excite people around that idea that you’re gonna be part of something, that’s what retains people at the end of the day.Jerome Deroy
- Start with yourself. Examine your own story. What was your best onboarding experience of your life? And what was missing that you would’ve liked to have experienced and seen? Start to create that as a story. [38:58]
When you do examine your story, try to apply that principle of saying what happened as opposed to your thoughts and feelings about what happened.Jerome Deroy
Meet Our Guest
Jerome joined Narativ in 2007 after the founders, Murray Nossel and Paul Browde, handed him a shoebox full of notes and said, “we think there’s a company in here.” Jerome had recently left a position at BNP Paribas, Hong Kong, and came to New York to pursue a career in filmmaking. He jumped at the challenge—and so began Jerome’s story with Narativ. “Through my storytelling work, I’ve come to understand the power stories have to share culture viscerally, in an engaging and lasting way.”
At Narativ, Jerome helps companies leverage the power of story-telling by teaching them how to end, craft and tell stories that resonate through a repeatable and scalable method. For over a decade, Jerome has worked closely with clients as diverse as CIGNA, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharma, and Warby Parker to craft business-relevant personal stories for sales, leadership, and team building. He regularly lectures at Parsons New School of Design in New York City on The Art of Storytelling.
A great leader equals a great listener.Jerome Deroy
- Join the People Managing People community forum
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Connect with Jerome on LinkedIn and Twitter
- Learn more about Narativ
- Check out Powered by Storytelling by Murray Nossel and Narativ’s Podcast
Related articles and podcasts:
- About the People Managing People podcast
- How To Listen Better, A Look At The Different Levels Of Listening?
- 7 Things To Work On To Be A Great Leader
- Building A Better World Of Work Requires Leaders To Listen
- How To Onboard The Right Way In A Remote Workplace?
Read the Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Jerome Deroy: Start with yourself. And what I mean by that is examine your own story. What was your best onboarding experience of your life? And what was missing that you would've liked to have experienced and seen? And start to create that as a story.
Tim Reitsma: Welcome to the People Managing People Podcast. We're on a mission to help you build a better world of work and to create happy, healthy, and productive workplaces. I'm your host, Tim Reitsma!
Let me ask you this: when was the last time you listened to or read a great story? What about the story captivated you?
Was it the way the scene was described or the plot twist that took place? When it comes to our employee experiences, specifically onboarding, are we telling great stories? Are we inviting employees and, well, new employees into the story?
In this episode, I sit down with Jerome Deroy, story expert and CEO at Narativ, a company helping you use the power of storytelling to design and deliver programs that create ownership, empower, and engage employees.
Onboarding doesn't have to be a checklist, even though, well, checklist are helpful or a dull day of reading procedures. It must be more than that. Stay tuned and learn how the power of story will transform your onboarding experience.
Jerome, welcome to the People Managing People Podcast. This topic of storytelling in business is something I am just fascinated with and passionate about. And I appreciate you, you taking the time today and spending some time with me and with our listeners. So welcome to the show.
Jerome Deroy: Thank you so much. It's great to be here.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. Before we hit record, we always, you know, have a little conversation about yourself and your business and sometimes I just wish I could just hit record on that because it's so much insight and hate to make you repeat yourself.
But why don't you take just a minute and tell us a little bit about yourself and what's top of mind for you these days?
Jerome Deroy: Yeah. Well, who I am, first of all I I grew up in France and I, my mother's American, so I had two, two sides. But I grew up in France, spent all my summers in the US and very much from a kind of business background.
My father was a, was a business leader with, you know, lots of experience and so I kind of grew up in that environment and I went to business school myself. And then I started a career in finance, which took me from Paris to Hong Kong by the time I was 25 years old. And the only thing was that, you know, on paper it's like one of those resumes where you kind of see things going up, up and up, and it's fantastic. But what was really going on internally is that is not what I wanted to do.
So what you would've seen then is someone who's performing at work and who's doing all their work. And looking back, I might have been what we now are calling "quiet quitters" for a while in the company that I was working for. Because for about five years, I would say that after year one I was one of those disengaged employees and so much so that I ended up quitting that job.
And I came to New York to look for work in film. My idea was that I would take all of this business experience, you know, five years plus a business school and deliver that to filmmakers who were having trouble putting their great work out there. And I met a filmmaker, I met a documentary filmmaker in 2003 and he and I had a great conversation and I became his intern.
And then I became his production manager after a couple months, started to see a little bit of money coming in, and then he told me about this company that he had founded a little bit on the side back in the mid 1990s, early 2000s. And it had been created as a response to a public health crisis at the time.
This was back in 1994, kind of the peak of this public health crisis, which was the HIV and AIDS crisis where we didn't have the treatments that exist today. So people were dying. And it was quite a bit of a mystery. And, you know, there were lots of protests and things like that. And he had developed a methodology to help people tell their stories around the virus so that they could kind of be seen as human again and not just labeled as someone who's other.
And it was very successful. And in fact, it was one of the most successful social movements of our time. People advocated for better rights, better care, better treatments, and it led to the treatments that exist today. And so on the heels of that success, he had always wondered, you know, is there something else I could be doing with this storytelling thing?
And when I appeared in his life with my business background, he said, Well, maybe we could do something in business. And that really rang a bell for me because, or light bulb went off, I should say. Because I was one of those disengaged people, and I thought that with this methodology of storytelling, we could really help engage people at work in a much more effective way.
So that's how I came to do what I'm doing today. And what's top of mind is still that idea of engagement at work. Because still today, I think as you well know, more people feel disengaged at work than not. And so, so really this is a huge issue. And we see it time and time again. And, you know, we see the headlines, great resignations, quiet quitting, all these things.
And so that's what we're responding to with this. And that's always top of mind for me.
Tim Reitsma: I think it's so important for anyone who's listening, whether you're a leader, HR professional, manager, individual contributor, it's the power of stories is, well, it's powerful, it's important. And skip that in our communication, if we just jump to the conclusion, the wrap up of the story, how often do we just fill in the blanks?
How often do employees are left feeling like, Okay, well, I've been told what to do, but I don't know why we're doing this, and then we start filling in that narrative. We're gonna talk specifically about onboarding, but I think what we're gonna be talking about today is something that will resonate across all opportunities or all areas of, well, if you look at business, you know, the employee life cycle, but you know, we're focusing on that onboarding and being able to tell that story.
But before we get into that, I always ask a couple questions and, right off the bat. One question is, what does it mean to be a leader? When you hear that word leader, what comes to mind?
Jerome Deroy: What comes to my mind you know, that leader, a great leader equals a great listener. And I think that is what's missing a lot these days in leadership.
There is, especially in times of change and crisis, there is a, an impulse to come up with solutions because you're the leader and it's your role to do that. And you know, you're the face of your organization, your company, your country, and so you gotta come up with those solutions and deliver on those solutions.
But the problem with that is that you know, you're gonna hit or miss, right? And you haven't really listened to what's actually going on. And I think what's going on in organizations quite a bit is that there isn't enough listening happening that actually tries to hear from all different kinds of voices and then start to make a decision from there.
Right? There's a great book by Simon Sinek called, you know, Leaders Eat Last. And it's the idea that, you know, you put everyone else in front and you come last, right? And the idea behind that is that you are truly listening to what people have to say. You're observing. It's almost like you're a, an anthropologist, you know, in your own organization and really seeing what's happening.
And you're kind of, you're not talking in that moment. You're just listening. And so I think if leaders start there with listening, it really creates much better results.
Tim Reitsma: Oh, we're so aligned on this, Jerome. It's not rehearsed. I didn't know what you were gonna say, but literally, earlier on today, I had a conversation with somebody who was asking me what does it mean to be, you know, or what is something, what's a skill around new management?
And it's that art of listening. It's not coming in and saying, Here's my agenda, now you have to follow me. It's that absorption and we need to listen. And I interviewed somebody recently who was also completely aligned. And he also said, sometimes we do need to interject because, you know, we need to listen, but we also need to be at that forefront.
But then also listen, continuously listen. If we just sat here with your plugs on and just spoke and didn't listen, that would be, that's the visualization I have when you're saying about a good leader, but also what makes not a good leader.
Jerome Deroy: Yeah. And you know, it's a, there's a relationship between those two things, between listening and speaking, right?
Listening and telling. And it's a reciprocal relationship. So the more you listen to me, the more I'm encouraged to speak. And the way that I'm speaking is shaping how you're listening to me, you know. And so it, it's sort of whatever I say, so, you know, the person you were interviewing saying, you know, sometimes you have to interject.
That's because someone said something that allows you to interject, right? So you listen to that person and you found a moment where you need to interject. Then that person listens to your interjection and that shapes what you're gonna say next. You know, it's so, it's this constant loop, and the problem is that you know where things break down is that there's many obstacles that get in the way of our ability to listen to other people and to ourselves.
And a lot of those obstacles are completely invisible and imperceptible because they happen in our heads, right? And kind of in our bodies as well. And so we feel something, we've got emotions, we've got judgments, we've got interpretations about something and it prevents us from really listening to the other person, which in turn turns into something that's more like, I'm not actually present, right?
My mind is somewhere else. So the more we can tune into what those obstacles are and develop strategies to, you know, not get rid of the obstacles, but set them aside so that you can be more and more present for someone else, that's when the magic happens. That's when suddenly there's something that's gonna come out of your mouth, Tim, that you didn't even anticipate.
Right? Like kinda like what just happened, right? You know, we didn't rehearse this and I said something and you said, Oh wow, we're really aligned on this. Right? And I think that's when we're, if we're not aware of these kinds of things that get in the way and we don't consciously, actively work to sort of set them aside so that we can be present for someone else, then nothing is really gonna change in our interactions.
Right? There isn't gonna be that moment of spark or innovation.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. I think we could go on that whole conversation and take a left turn on this. And I sort of want to, but I think we'll continue down the path of onboarding, but I think just from that sense of leadership and it does blend into even the onboarding and storytelling.
But I think where we're going to and where we will go to is even right before we hit record was storytelling is not just about telling a story, it's about listening and it's about that practice of listening. If I was sitting here on my phone as you're speaking to me and we're looking at each other through, through our cameras. What is that gonna say? But also if we're telling our managers or training our new managers to say, Hey, you need to be ready, need to have the loudest voice.
You need to have an opinion. If you're talking, I'm already then starting to make up answers and I'm then I'm not fully present. So I think there's something that we can, we should be unpacking in there. Maybe that's a lead into the next question. When you hear that phrase, build a better world of work, that's our publication's whole purpose.
What comes to mind when you hear that?
Jerome Deroy: Well, a, an example comes to my mind, an experience, you know, when you talk about building a better world of work because, and it's linked totally to what we've been talking about. So you're right, there is a connection there. We worked with a company that was, you know, had gone from startup to then experiencing a high level of growth.
And, you know, high pressure environment as well, because you always have to perform against the expectations of your investors. And this company was, you know, very much in the news and have just gone through restructuring. And the person who was leading that company, you know, we were doing, we had been doing some trainings with them around storytelling, around their messaging basically, and how to tell a better story.
And she wanted to sort of impart these skills internally as well as externally. And so, so we were working with some of her employees and one day, you know, she came to us and she said, you know, I just don't understand because it seems like when we have meetings, people just aren't really present.
They're not really listening. And so we said, Well, could we participate in one of those meetings and just observe what's going on? And the first thing we noticed is that everyone had a device, you know, that was open and, you know, and it was completely normal. It was just the standard multiple things, you know, a tablet, a phone, a laptop, and everybody's kind of looking at that.
And then the leader comes in and they sort of, are quiet for a moment. And what the leader did is that they took out their devices, right? And she started to respond to a text after her intro, and then she responded to something else. And after the meeting we told her, Well that's, you know, your issue is actually quite simple.
You're modeling something and you're expecting a different outcome and something that's you're expecting your employees to act in a different way than you are . And essentially, you're the one who's modeling this behavior of constantly being responsive to something. And now that was granted, that was one of their values, right?
They needed to act fast, was one of the values of this organization. And so she felt like that's what she needed to model, is that every time there's something that comes in, you respond to it right away and you act quickly and you get better results that way. But the problem was that there's a time for different, for that to happen.
And maybe this wasn't the time, clearly it wasn't, because no one was really paying attention and no one was really present and these meetings didn't go anywhere. And so I say that as a way of answering your question around building a, you know, a better world of work. Because to me, that's the epitome of it.
It's all about listening and it's all about being present and connected to the needs of the people around you, whether that's your team or your customers. Right? And we tend to put the customer at the very top there and say, "That's really the only person worth, you know, responding to and listening to."
But actually you have to sort of trickle that down everywhere else. And to me that's building a better world of work where everyone's voice counts. You know, even the people that you don't hear much from, the introverts and all of that. Make sure that you are actually creating structures where they can speak, where their ideas can come out, and where they're involved and engaged.
And that's the responsibility of the leader to that. So, you know, coming back to what makes a good leader.
Tim Reitsma: I love that you've kind of brought that full circle, which is, you know, I love that, being present, listening. Just that story of walking into a meeting room.
Everyone's got their devices. I've been in those meetings. I'm sure there's a number of people who are listening that can relate to that, which is going like, Okay, well I don't know why I'm at this meeting, so I'm just gonna work. And somebody asks a question and you look up cuz you thought you heard your name, and then you kind of panic a little bit and go, Could you repeat that?
Because you're not present, you're not listening.
Jerome Deroy: Yeah, and you don't think that it matters in the moment. That's where the problems arise really, is that you don't think that just because you're quiet and it's not your meeting and you're working on your laptop and you know, from time to time you look at the speaker and you look around and you nod.
You think, Okay, I'm having my act of presence here. But actually it's impacting how others are speaking. That's the relationship between listening and speaking, right? If I see that around the room and I'm trying to convey a message, I don't feel full permission to do that. I don't feel full permission to come out and say what I need to say, and I'm even impeded by that, even if I'm not aware of it.
And I think, you know, just us creating that awareness for them, then it's a simple, procedural, you know, structural system that you do. You just say, at the top of the meeting we put our phones and devices away, right? And then after that, we check in with each other and then we go on with the agenda, right?
And at this time we will be done and we make sure that everyone gets a chance to speak. That's also the responsibility of the leader, you know, in those meetings. So there, I mean, I love talking about meetings because I think it's such a great, sort of natural way to bring in some of these principles of communication and experiment with them, right?
Because nobody likes meetings, nobody likes going into meetings, and yet we have them all the time. So why not try to make them as effective as possible so that people can start enjoying them again.
Tim Reitsma: And I think it just, even in the context of onboarding someone and that employee experience. I just think of this, just this image of, you know, somebody who's eager, excited to join your organization, who's coming in first meeting, maybe they still have their, you know, pen and notebook.
That's me. I like to take my notes and, you know, the kinda the old fashioned. Sits down and looks around and everyone is buried into their phone or their laptop. And you can see screens that are not relevant to the meeting. You know, that just sets a tone. Is it setting the right tone?
Jerome Deroy: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just, you know, I know we're alluding to onboarding, but I have to tell you this story about my own experience of onboarding, which to a certain extent has influenced much of my career up to now. That job that I was talking about in finance, you know, my first week there, actually my first day when I got there, I got to the, you know, I was 25 years old, fresh out of business school.
I came out of the 15th floor, at the 15th floor from the elevator, this huge glass building looking over the Hong Kong harbor, you know, with mainland China in the background. It's so really exotic for me. I'd never even been to Asia before and here I was, you know, and I was excited. My heart was beating fast and I was about to go through those double doors towards my desk, which was this big open desk with Florida ceiling windows overlooking that harbor.
And this HR person came over to me, the director of HR, and said, Welcome, you know, very warm. And then she said, No, we're not going there. We've gotta go the other way. And so I followed her down this hallway. And it was very, you know, there was lots of natural light at the beginning, and the more we were walking, the less of that there was.
And it became darker and darker until we got to this little room. And then she pointed me towards a conference room that had room enough for one table and two chairs, and there were two large binders on the table. And she said, Well, the first thing you're gonna do is go through these binders, you know, the employee handbook and the compliance handbook.
And that's what I did for the next 48 hours. I just went home to eat and sleep. And then I came back and it wasn't, I think it took another week I watched training videos, you know, on VHS tapes, even though this was 1999, but they still have VHS tapes. And you know, the old thing, kind of like in those television series.
And nothing related to my job really, or to what I wanted to do in that organization and the reason that I was excited about it. And that lasted for about a week. And at the end of that week, I finally met people who were relevant to my position. But the result of that week, I've thought about a lot because I ended up quitting that job four or five years later.
But it's that first week that set that tone that you were talking about earlier. You know, it's when you walk into that room, it's when you welcome someone, it's what do you do with that person? That first hour, those first two hours, that first week, that first month, whatever your structure is for onboarding people.
Really look at that because it has a huge impact on people. And if it had been different for me, I guarantee that it would've had a different outcome even four or five years later because I, these, see this all the time now.
Tim Reitsma: Well, and you remember that and I think of it as it's that first experience. So, let's say Jerome, you hired me and I was coming in, maybe even virtually into your workplace for the first time.
And if it was, Hey Tim, just read these documents for the next three days and then we'll talk. I think I might go to LinkedIn and try to find another job and we would go, I think I made the wrong decision. But if it was an experience of, Hey Tim, you're in Vancouver, Canada, you're in New York. You know I'm in New York.
We're a world away, but we're gonna spend the next three days just getting to know each other. We're gonna talk about the business, talk about our work. We're gonna get you working on a few things. We're gonna set, you know, set you up for success. I'm gonna be excited and it's that first impression that first experience that means so much.
And how does this relate then to story and storytelling? How do we bring in story into that onboarding experience? Cause I just love the VHS story. I love, I can picture you sitting in this room, door closed, you got these two big binders. You're looking around going, Okay, well what did I get myself into?
How does story fit into this?
Jerome Deroy: Well, the story's really critical because you know that first impression you're talking about, that first experience. If I get to hear stories about what my job is like, what the culture of this company is like, and I hear them from the people that actually are involved with, or were involved with my job perhaps, and live the values of this company that I just stepped into.
Then I start to get a more embodied experience of the culture of this organization that I'm stepping into, of this job that I'm now taking on and that I'm excited about. Cuz that's the other thing about onboarding.
You get people that are excited, you know, I mean, you're, it's probably most excited you will be about a job until you get promoted and do something, you know. But as long as there's that sort of structural way of keeping people excited, but that first day you're ready and you're open.
Right? And so that's really critical to start to, for the leaders of that organization to really gather these stories and to tell them strategically to the people that they're onboarding. Because then what you're doing, you know, you're not doing that just to, sort of tell a story that's engaging for someone else, but it's also about activating that, what I call the kind of storytelling muscle in someone else's brain.
So in this case, the person who's getting onboarded, you're inviting them to tell their story. Once you've told all those stories and they've heard them, it's really important to build into that, to that onboarding process a time when that person gets to tell their story.
Based on what they heard, right? So if I tell you a story about one of the values of my organization, you know, one of the values of our organization at Narativ is listening, right? As you can imagine, and I've already told you quite a bit about it. But I could tell you that story about the leader, you know, who wasn't quite present and modeling some behavior.
And then I could ask you, what does listening mean to you as a value? When was a time in your life that you experienced true listening, either on your part or on the part of somebody else? So you're inviting them now to tell a story that's linked to the values of your organization. So they now feel a sense of belonging.
They feel a, like they have a voice in this organization from the very first day because you care about it and it's not like we said, our values are fixed. These are all the stories that we have about our values. Now go off and learn that. Right? It's no, it's about what are your stories? Where is your voice within this structure?
We want to hear about that. We're interested in that. And so you're setting that tone once again around you know, what is permissible, and what can I do in this organization? And then there's also a bunch of other things that you know you're doing strategically. People learn much better, and this is proven scientifically, with stories than they do with data.
We remember stories more than data and statistics. And so when you're talking to people about a new job, it's really important to try to gather those stories of people who've been in their shoes before. So that they can start to hear stories about what their job truly is like. Not a job description, not the bullet points that you responded to in your application, but a real human being that went through this.
And don't ask those human beings to tell stories about the bullet points. Tell them about the things that are not in the job description, right? The time when a real challenge occurred and it was not expected and you didn't know that this was something that it, that your job entailed, because you're also now giving people permission to think a little bit outside of that box of the job description.
It's like, oh, well if my predecessor or someone who was in my shoes, you know, responded in this way to a situation that wasn't scripted, that wasn't something that happened in the past, then that gives me a sense that maybe I can be like that way too. I can bring something of who I am to this role that's a little different.
You know, that's not kind of the beaten path. So it, so there's multiple ways to use storytelling, but I think using it right at the beginning is really important. And then you kind of, you don't sit back. You lean in and you listen to the stories that the people that are being onboarded have to tell. Because it'll be a circle. At the end you know, a year down the road, two years down the road, somebody else gets onboarded.
It's the story of that person that was onboarded two years ago that you're gonna use for them. And that again, creates a new sense of belonging and incentivizes people. It's like, Oh, I'm gonna be the one telling stories in a couple years. Right?
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. I wanna play devil's advocate just a little bit in this and because often I have heard, internally in organizations or friends who've, who are in charge of the onboarding experiences, we just don't have time. You know, we've got a checklist of things. We gotta make sure their emails are set up, their passwords are set up. We have to introduce them to all these, you know, these four or five or six, seven people.
We've got a very packed schedule. We've got a presentation to highlight the most important things in our employee manual, our policies are, and then intro to their leader and intro with the CEO, and away they go. And so often that's what I've heard, and I've actually been part of that, where we're onboarding, you know, we're hiring people at one point, we're onboarding, you know, three or four people a day for a month straight.
So creating that narrative, it just, it's hard. So where would we go from there? What would you be telling people?
Jerome Deroy: Yeah. Well, first of all, it's totally a valid point because we get that all the time too. And, you know, it's one of those in the sales process for us it's one of those objections, you know, that you have to be able to respond to.
And it's really valid. I totally get it, because it does take, you know, an investment of time and money. The thing that's really important to remember though is that we now have access to a variety of different platforms to, you know, to deliver our messages.
And we sort of view onboarding for some reason as a little bit separate from all that. So if you think about, you know, I can watch my favorite television series whenever I want. I don't have to wait for a certain time, et cetera. Well, it's the same thing in organizations. You know, we have access to all these apps that help us do a better job more quickly, and it's all more automated.
You can do that with onboarding too. And what I mean by that is that you have to sort of look at what is the culture in your organization? If it is fast paced and you don't have a lot of time for things, what's the best medium to tell these stories in? So, I'll give you an example. We worked with an organization where, you know, it was decided pretty early on that people wanted something more of a non-demand experience, even at the onboarding stage.
So that what we did is that we interviewed a couple of people, not many. Introduce two stakeholders for specific jobs and who, you know, we decided to start with the values and the culture of the organization and then go into, into some of the more job related, you know, specifics. And then we interviewed those people and we created a podcast that was internal to the organization.
It's not something you could look at that wasn't open to the public, but it was specifically for all the people that were being onboarded. And, you know, we had a host and we had someone who was interviewing much like what you're doing here with me, except that we built that into a learning management system. So that you would go through as a person onboarded and it would just take you an hour to do so.
You would listen to these four episodes and each episode has a, had a story and a value that was attached to it, and then you had a quiz and you had some assignments. All in your own time, so people could listen to this at the gym, they could listen to this wherever they had to listen, however, in their first three weeks of that job, Right?
And again, because you're being onboarded and it's a new job, you're excited, you want to do it, and so on the part of the people who are organizing this didn't take a lot of time. We just asked them to go into a booth and work with us for a couple hours to be interviewed and tell stories, and then we put it all into their learning management system that was already existent, something that they already had.
So it doesn't, I wanna sort of dispel this myth that, you know, it's kind of adding a whole bunch of work, when actually it's not really, you know, because you have to, Yes, there is a little bit of time to put in. But as long as you can be really specific about what you're looking for and not too broad, and make sure that you're including all the compliance stuff that you have to include, then great.
But don't start with the compliance stuff, my God. You know, please God, don't start with the compliance stuff. I know it's gotta be in there. And we work it in there, even, you know, try to make it a little more, more playful and entertaining and try to make it more story based if possible. But you know, you can really start there and a lot of times, you know, it's starting with the founder, it's starting with the leader of that organization.
What's their story? Very often, organizations will have that already baked in. So start with what you've got. If you've got that, then break it down. Maybe it's the founder that you interview first. You know, maybe that's the first story you gotta hear and then you hear from a couple different employees and you know, you're pretty much set for the beginning at least.
Tim Reitsma: Again we're so aligned on this. I think what's coming to mind is if we skip that in the onboarding process, in that employee experience, and just jump into, here's what you need to do. Here's what you shouldn't do, here's your laptop, go get to work.
How is that setting up somebody for success? I think you're, you're setting up basically just a robot job, and I might offend some people who are listening. I don't know, but take the time. We've asked, we basically, when we break it down like this, we're hiring somebody. They've accepted an offer, they're leaving something else.
They're leaving a job, whether they like it or not, or love it or hate it, but you're inviting somebody to join your organization. They're coming into the organization. Do you want them, this person to sit at the dinner table, on the phone with friends or family or sitting down with their family. And what do you want them to say?
Do you want them to say, Man, I made the best decision. Or do you want that person to say, I made a horrible decision. Uh-oh. And you as somebody who's responsible for onboarding, whether you're the founder or HR or manager, you have that ability to either say to have somebody have that experience of, I made the right decision or I made the wrong decision.
That's a big responsibility. That's a huge responsibility.
Jerome Deroy: Yeah. It is a big responsibility and I think you're absolutely right and it pays dividends later. You know, that's the thing is that really have to become conscious of that, I think. And the way to sort of advocate for better onboarding is to come from that place that, you know, in the long run, not even that long, this is gonna pay off.
Right? Especially in the face of all the choices that people have. You know, I mean, I have had clients, you know, come to us telling us, Look, we have a problem with our onboarding clearly because we've hired a couple people. And they left during the onboarding process because they decided that, you know, this wasn't for them based on how they were being onboarded.
So clearly we need to change something, you know. And it's so costly to, you know, have to fire someone or have someone resign, having to replace them. It costs so much more money to do that than to create a robust onboarding process that may last a little longer than your typical, you know, one week and you're done like you were describing earlier.
You know, meet the couple of people that are important, have your laptop and go to work. You know, this may mean that your onboarding process should last a little bit longer. But again, it's, you know, maybe it'll be more costly at the outset. But it's, it's really worth its weight in gold because then you've got people that are engaged that wanna stay and that wanna be part of that next iteration of what the onboarding looks like.
You know, by the end of, you know, we've had clients work with these, you know, for more than five years for the, these systems that we create for them. And every year or two years we update the stories and it's so great to go back and you know, talk to the people that were onboarded a year or two before, and now they're part of that learning management system I was talking about earlier.
Right? Now it's their story that's featuring prominently in these new people, in the stories of the people that are being onboarded now. You know, that's part of their process. So, so it's exciting to be able to be part of that, I think. And the more you can excite people around that idea that, you know, you're gonna be part of something, that's what retains people at the end of the day.
Tim Reitsma: It invites people into that story. And I've coached and advised a number of individuals and a number of companies on just that is, people have come to me and said, Tim, like my people just aren't passionate about what they're doing.
Like, well, do they know how their work is helping your organization work towards achieving their vision? I mean, if people don't know what they're doing and how it's affecting the organization and how it will help grow that organization, how it will impact society or whatever you're doing, then how can you create a place that people are excited about. I love that simple, that internal podcast.
I love that. It doesn't have to be the CEO showing up, you know, every day to an onboarding session. I think, you know, there's still something to be said about having that personal interaction with the leader. I'm a huge advocate for it, but you can schedule that depending on how quickly you're onboarding, because people want to hear from the senior leaders and wanna hear what gets them excited about the organization and invite people.
And then invite people to share, Hey, welcome to, you know, Company X, Y, Z. Thanks for choosing us. What brought you here? What made you wanna apply for this job?
Jerome Deroy: Yeah. Yeah. It's like, you know, it's essentially a collection. What starts to emerge is a collection of founders stories.
You know, even though you're not the founder of the organization as the new person being onboarded, but that's what a founders story is. It's an origin story. It's, you know, how did you come up with this and you know, what brought you here? And it's the same with every single employee, because as human beings, that's what we crave.
You know, I'm always, when I'm at a, at the dinner table somebody new, you know, I'm always like, or if it's like a couple, you know, it's like, how did you meet? You know, we're interested in the origins of things. We wanna know where you started. And I think, you know, that's available to every single person on Earth no matter what your job is.
There is a place where you started and that brought you to exactly where you are. And you may or may not be conscious of how that happened, but when someone asks you the question, suddenly this whole world opens up to you and you're like, Oh yeah, right. These were all my, these were all my steps. This was my journey.
Right? I didn't just simply, I'm not a series of bullet points on a resume, you know? And this really helps to kind of humanize that process.
Tim Reitsma: I think you, you just brought it back full circle for me. And whether it's the onboarding experience or whether it's leadership or build a better world to work, it's asking good question. Being present, listening.
If it's, you know, if we were onboarding or if I was onboarding you, you're onboarding me. We're, you know, half a country away. We can still do this without distractions. Snooze your notifications. Let somebody know, Hey, I've paused everything.
I do have a, maybe you've got a call in 10 minutes that you're waiting for, you know, own it. Talk about it. But be present. Lean in, ask questions. How did you come about being here? What's your story? What's your journey? These are our values. Tell me about your values. What do you value? And be attentive, because guess what?
I bet at the, at that dinner table, if that was somebody's first experience, maybe they didn't even get into their job, but that's their first experience. I bet, somebody's gonna be sitting there going, I made the right decision.
Jerome Deroy: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. No, I think you've summed it up really well. That's basically it, you know, it's taking something, I think, you know, sometimes we sort of feel like work and life are so separate and we create all these structures to separate them even more.
And I'm advocating for, and it sounds like you are too, and I think that's how we build a better world of work. Is by actually doing a little bit less of that, you know, and taking what works in everyday life, those human interactions that we have, what facilitates those human interactions.
And let's use that at work in our communications with people, especially at the onboarding level, so that, you know, people who are just starting feel welcomed, they feel invited in. They feel like their story matters.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah, their story matters. I think that's a good way to, to sum up our conversation.
And I always like to end with one thing, which is, if somebody's listening today, maybe they're driving to the office, driving to work, maybe they're on lunch. Wherever you're listening, wherever somebody's listening, they're thinking about onboarding or they're thinking about story. What is one thing somebody can do today to maybe improve that onboarding experience?
And aside from saying, Well, it's HR's responsibility, so we'll just leave it to them. But how can I as a manager or leader, really own that onboarding experience? What can we do to improve?
Jerome Deroy: It's a great question I think, you know, I like to tell people that it starts with you because we often get bogged down by, Oh, I gotta go and ask a consultant. Or I gotta go ask my job, or I gotta go talk to HR about this.
Start with yourself. And what I mean by that is examine your own story. What was your best onboarding experience of your life? And what was missing that you would've liked to have experienced and seen? And start to create that as a story. You know when I told my story of what it was like to enter that company, and I was so excited.
And then I went into a corridor that got darker and darker. That was my, you know, kind of bad onboarding experience, but it influenced me and it had an impact. What were those experiences that impacted you when you were being onboarded negatively or positively? Start there. And I think that'll give you an indication of what it is that you would like to create.
You know, start there. And the only other piece of advice that I would say is when you're examining your own story, really look at the details of what happened, as opposed to what you thought about what happened or what you felt about what happened or what your judgements were about what happened.
So in other words, try to make it as concrete as possible. You know, like the story I told, I was in a room that had, you know, two chairs and one table and there were no windows, less and less sunlight. I watched training videos. Those details give you a lot of information. I could have just told you I had a terrible onboarding experience.
I really didn't like it and four years later I quit my job. That's not a story, right? That doesn't tell you anything about me, my experience and what was unique about it. So I really encourage people who are listening, when you do examine your story, try to apply just that principle of saying what happened as opposed to your thoughts and feelings about what happened.
Try to edit those out and just say what happened, use the five senses to do that cause that's helpful too.
Tim Reitsma: I think that's that's some great advice. What happened? Just separating yourself from your thoughts, your feelings, what are the concrete things, the details as I wrote down in my notes that, that happened.
Well, Jerome, I'm so grateful for you and thank you for reaching out and I'm so glad that we were able to get you on the podcast. I think this will help. It helps me, and I know it'll help our listeners, not just, and maybe in their onboarding experience, but thinking about story and how story should be just such a big component of our lives and how we lead and how we interweave this into the onboarding experience.
So for those who are interested to learn more about you, what would be the best way to, to track you down?
Jerome Deroy: Oh, great. Well, yeah, there's a couple of things. One is our website and that's www.narativ.com. It's spelled with one R and no E. And that's our website. And there's a bunch of different resources I think people can go to our blog.
And we have, you know, lots of articles about what's timely right now, that leadership, in particular is thinking about. And then two other things. One is that we have a book that's out that's called Powered by Storytelling. And each chapter is a step of our methodology. There's one chapter that's about this idea of saying what happened as opposed to your thoughts and feelings about what happened.
And many others, you know, there's one about listening and obstacles to listening. So you really get a sense of what this method is, and you can kind of create your own story by reading this book. And then the third thing is that we have a podcast called Story Talks, Narativ Story Talks. Narativ's spelt the way our company is.
And that's available on any podcast, you know, wherever you find your podcasts. So Narativ Story Talks and it's hosted by me and my colleague Julienne Ryan, who's a specialist in HR Questions such as the one we've been talking about today.
Tim Reitsma: That's perfect, and we'll make sure to include that in the show notes as well. So thanks again for coming on.
And for those who are listening, I'm always interested in your feedback or your thoughts. Please send me an email to Tim@peoplemanagingpeople.com or find me on LinkedIn. And as always, if you like this episode, please like and subscribe to the show.
And again, Jerome, thanks for coming on. And for those who are kind of getting their day started or wrapping up their day, thanks for spending some time with us.
Jerome Deroy: You're so welcome. Thank you!