Helping Employees Out of the Nest

Four simple ideas that easily can be added to your employee development plans to keep the “wind” beneath their wings as they are pushed out of the nest and into the “big, bad workforce.”

I sometimes wish I were a bird. Think about it for a moment. Wouldn’t it be nice to live care-free among nature, soaring among the clouds, not having to worry about mortgages or someone being angry because you are home late for dinner? It would be a fairly stress-free life for the most part. I am not sure I would enjoy eating worms, but I am sure I could get use to it!

Birds can teach us some valuable lessons about life and career. We can always take a “bird’s eye” view of things, ensuring we soar high enough to look at all angles and possibilities. I think we could all do a little better at making our daily flights more efficient and taking it in turns to share the workload. Birds lead a simple life exploring their surroundings and seem to live harmoniously among nature. Surely this model can apply to our daily lives both at work and at play to work more coherently as a team and to get out and explore our own backyards to take the stress out the day. The list could go on, but there is one comparison that needs a little more guidance: when baby birds have to leave the nest and learn to fly. 

It sounds like a good lesson: Spread your wings and join the world! It could even be considered a bit inspiring, but let’s think about what is really happening when those little baby birds fly the coop. Parent birds will push their young out of the nest, plunging toward the ground to their impending death. YIKES! That is not a lesson I would like to experience. Sounds like one of those “tough love” tactics. In some miraculous feat, the young bird spread their wings and fly away into the sunset. Wait a minute here… I am not sure that this is the case for every young bird. Let’s face it, in real life, it is not always a success story. So maybe some of those young do not spread their wings and, well, they hit the ground! Tough love quickly becomes “tough break”! Maybe our feathered friends can learn a thing or two here, as well.

Your team members are similar to young birds when they start their employment at your business. Some of them can be pushed out of the nest and soar to success. Maybe many of them can, but that probably won’t apply to everyone. Training and development is a different journey for each team member. If you apply a broad-brush approach to how to “push” your newly trained team into the big, bad workforce, it won’t always work. Sometimes they might hit the ground and not get back up! A scary thought, but in reality this is what happens.

4 Simple Ideas

As managers, we can’t guarantee everyone will succeed at their job. To limit the risk of their free-fall, we must use all of the tools available to us and provide our team members with every resource. Here are four simple ideas that easily can be added to your employee development plans to keep the “wind” beneath their wings:

  1. Regular sit-downs. One of the most common complaints we get from our learners during a training session is that their manager or supervisors rarely sit down to ask how they are doing. When a new trainee goes from having a helping hand to being flung out of the nest, it can be a traumatic experience. It is important to take the temperature of your team members to gage how they are surviving in the workforce. We recommend scheduling regular meetings so they know you are there to support them. It is important for them to know ahead of time that you have made space in your busy day so they can connect with you.
  2. Role-play. Anyone who has been to an Oculus training session knows we love role-play. However, not everyone else does, and for this reason, it is neglected as a training tool. Role-play is a great way to review concepts and have some fun. Think about all of those unusual situations and those difficult customers who are bound to show up at some point. You probably won’t find them on your regular training checklist. Wouldn’t it be better to have practiced how to deal with them before they show up at your front door? Many new team members are forced to learn the hard way, through live scenarios, which can be intimidating and lead to a hard lesson. By adding role-play into your regular coaching routine, you can test flight the usual and unusual situations that happen in your business. You also will find that by creating this culture of learning, the act of role-play becomes much less daunting and surprisingly fun.
  3. Scorecards and annual reviews. When someone isn’t doing well, you don’t want it to come as a surprise during their annual review (if they get an annual review at all). Scorecards and other forms of progress reviews are important resources that allow your team members to see where they stand in their employment. Are they meeting expectations? Could they do better? Are you happy with their performance? These topics are covered in an annual review, but ongoing scorecards throughout the year will take any nasty surprises out of the picture, and allow progress to happen much quicker. If someone is new, how about providing them a scorecard after one month, three months, six months, nine months? If you did, don’t you think that by the time you got to their annual review, they would have a much clearer understanding of their role and be more receiving of feedback? We think so!
  4. Daily training opportunities with a partner. Many training opportunities are available throughout the day. Mistakes are made, experiences are presented to learn from, and so on. New team members may not want to constantly bother the manager to ask questions, and may not see all the same opportunities that those with an already trained eye will. Having a work “buddy” to show them the ropes is a great way to casually learn at every moment without it seeming overwhelming. A single point of contact, or “buddy,” can be a softer method of getting the message across and highlighting training opportunities. Many additional benefits will come from this. Not only will having a buddy provide an opportunity for teambuilding, he or she also can introduce your new team member into the culture of your organization. The buddies themselves also may get a confidence boost from this experience. Taking advantage of these daily training opportunities can provide positive and ongoing feedback without the formality and pressure of a “sit-down.” Ultimately, having a work buddy will make it easier for your new team members to express how they are feeling and get feedback from someone who has been in their shoes and works in a similar role.

All of these simple ideas are probably ones you have heard of and thought about before, but they often get left behind in the clouds. So take the risk out of their first flight, and make sure your team’s journey outside the nest is one they are ready to jump for!

Kevin James Saunders is a trainer and the Chief Company Culture Director for Oculus Training, a British Columbia-based corporate training and mystery shopping company offering sales management, reservations, sensitivity, and customer service training programs for a variety of service-based industries throughout Canada, the U.S., and the world. For more information, call 888.OCULUS4 or visit You also can connect with Oculus on Twitter @oculustraining, via e-mail at or visit it on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.