#SHRM19 Interview with Brent Shetler of Mindspace


This is an interview with Brent Shetler, Owner & Executive Creative Director at Mindspace. Mindspace will be exhibiting at the 2019 Annual SHRM Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas. Read on to learn more about employee onboarding, training, and the magic of Mindspace.

Who is Mindspace!? Tell us everything, just as you would someone approaching your booth and asking you this question at #SHRM 19 in Las Vegas.

We are Mindspace, the creative learning agency. We turn boring content into interactive learning experiences that engage, inspire and motivate chronically distracted audiences. By bringing together technology, brand design, modern learning methods, and advanced gamification, we can help increase retention and create the behavior change you want so you can get the very best from employees and customers.

I know you have quite a few services, but I want to focus on employee onboarding and training. Where do companies even start when they are looking to develop a formal employee onboarding process? Can you walk us through all the steps you’d recommend for a HR leader to cover when implementing an employee onboarding process? 

It’s all-too-common for HR leaders to be too close to the action, so to speak. When you’re in the weeds of the day-to-day, it’s really challenging to understand the greater needs of your onboarding audience. Remember, new hires know virtually nothing about their new environment. They likely possess lots of desirable skills (you wouldn’t have hired them otherwise), but I think HR leaders often forget to consider how the onboarding environment - the experience - sets the tone for that new hire’s perception of how stable the proverbial ship really is. Onboarding isn’t just a checklist of to-do’s. It’s a first impression. Talk to newly onboarded employees. Hold a focus group. Find out what works and what doesn’t from their perspective. Allow them to inform iterations to your onboarding experience for the next generation of new hires. Iterative and great onboarding should create a little FOMO for those previous generations of new hires.

I love the case study on your site about Starbucks. What are some other companies who have an amazing onboarding experience that can inspire SHRM members?

While I can’t speak to all of the internal workings of our clients’ onboarding, I can tell you that we really enjoyed helping FedEx on an initiative where the importance of living out their brand promise across a global organization was an integral piece of their onboarding. Finding a way to digitally connect new hires with FedEx’s different hubs around the world - allowing them to virtually explore the hub cities and simulate interactions with customers around the world to practice their soft skills was a really unique way of connecting a distributed workforce.

Let us in on the magic. What’s the employee onboarding process like at Mindspace? How do you utilize your own tech and process to retain the best talent?

Mindspace is a different animal. We don’t hire people by extracting data from the pages of a resume, no matter how impressive it is. We look for intangibles that can only be forged through fire. A lot of our team have had some really challenging life or work experiences that have given them a thick skin, and I think we bring that spirit to our onboarding process. It’s hard. Yes, we have tools and processes to help people do their jobs. That’s a given. What we encourage during onboarding is curiosity, self-determination, problem solving, and a sense of wonder. We don’t hold your hand or baby you, and I think it’s important to develop those skills to be not only a better employee, but a better human being.

What do you wish more HR professionals and recruiters knew about employee onboarding?

I wish more HR leaders would be curious about the “what if’s.” There’s a tendency to do what’s been done or just take the easy/safe route when it comes to onboarding. It’s that checklist mentality, and that doesn’t necessarily do your audience any favors. Being more curious about the needs of your customer (the new hire) and asking for the fresh perspective of agencies like ours is a great way to entertain the “what if” question and push onboarding innovation forward.

Your site clearly lists a lot of smart brands. What are the biggest challenges companies face when training employees? How do they overcome those challenges?

Internal buy-in seems to be a tough hurdle to overcome. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been approached by a forward-thinking mid-level manager who has fantastic ideas and vision only to be shot down by someone else within the organization. I don’t know if it’s all politics or someone at a higher level feeling threatened, but the companies that embrace ideation from all levels of the organization tend to be the best. It goes back to what I said about getting input from your new hires. It doesn’t matter what their role is. Their feedback and ideas have value. I’d say listen to them and stop shutting down new ideas because you’re afraid of change.

In the same line of questioning above, I run a marketing company with 10 employees. I consistently hear from our team that we need more training. I’m not sure where to even start. We’ve developed processes for self-learning, with recommended resources. We’ve done lunch n’ learns. External conferences. Where do I start, because I feel like I’m part of the majority of small businesses that just don’t know where to start when implementing a solution for training and onboarding.

This is such a common story and one that is in desperate need of an answer. Let’s face it. It’s expensive to have someone come in and overhaul your onboarding experience. It’s a mixed bag of consulting, creative, design, and implementation and all of those are expensive for a small business. What I’d do first is get all of the existing resources and put them into a simple system or platform that can help you organize a “flow” for onboarding. There are some cost-effective LMS options out there. When you have everything in one place, you can start to ask what’s missing, what’s worth keeping, what needs to change, etc. Building that learning path is huge and it’s repeatable once you get it right. At first, the training materials you build and put into the system may not be very robust or visually amazing, but that’s okay. At least you’ll have a defined path within the system. As you scale, then you can bring on an agency to improve your materials and the experience itself.

For anyone who won’t be able to make it to the Mindspace booth in Las Vegas, what do you want them to know?

First, I’m bummed that we couldn’t connect. Maybe next year? But to answer the question, I think it’s important for anyone in the HR space to know that creative partners like us exist. I think some HR leaders feel like their industry is at the back of the line in terms of innovation, but that’s simply false. Sure, marketing teams often have bigger budgets, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the most of yours. Not every innovation to your onboarding experience has to cost millions of dollars.

Brett Farmiloe is a member of the #SHRM19 Blogger Team, CEO of a digital marketing company, and likes conducting interviews.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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