Sam’s performance was disappointing and, honestly, he was teetering into trouble. His boss was puzzled. The recruiting process had been smooth and Sam seemed so promising in his interviews.
Now, three months into his new job, Sam’s boss felt Sam didn’t have a clear focus on his role or what was expected of him. He hadn’t connected with many of the key people whose support he needed, and worst of all, this company had certain ways of doing things and Sam “just didn’t get it.”
How did this happen?
Sam got the same orientation that all employees got.
That was a big part of the problem.
Like so many people facing new situations, especially when the outcome really matters, Sam had difficulty navigating his new circumstances. He would have benefitted from a structured process to help him integrate into the firm.
The company’s orientation process handled the mandatory paperwork, basic company policies and included a few introductions to random colleagues. This company’s orientation process was like that at many firms: very short in duration, available to all employees, with low engagement potential and low-to-no strategic value.
Of leaders who join companies from the outside, an alarming 40% fail in their first 18 months, according to Fortune magazine. What’s more, a full third of external hires are no longer with an organization after two years, say Stein & Christiansen in their book, Successful Onboarding. They say further that less than a third of executives are positive about their onboarding experience. So, Sam’s experience was not so unusual.
So, what is onboarding?
It is a program a company designs to reduce the time it takes for a new employee to get up to speed and become productive and to align with the firm’s culture and objectives.
Plus, a well-thought-out program can help a new employee:
- Assimilate into a firm’s culture
- Create and develop relationships key to their effectiveness,
- Offer clarity on roles and expectations
- Provide guidance on how work gets done
Onboarding often starts early. A 2011 SHRM study reported that 60% of companies said they began their onboarding efforts before the employee’s first day, some during the recruiting process. Another 32% started on the first day.
While some companies have programs lasting up to a year or more, they are a tiny minority. The SHRM research showed 66% completed at 60 days and 91% at 90 days.
A good program is strategic and intentional. This kind of help translates into employees getting further faster and results in higher productivity, retention, profitability and employee engagement.
We believe that the development of the onboarding initiative is best as a multi-departmental effort representing the commitment of top management, the soft skills of HR and talent management, and the perspective of recent hires.
It is usually up to the employee’s manager to oversee the program for their direct report. To encourage compliance, some companies include the manager’s onboarding supervision as part of the annual review.
Separate from the employee’s manager, mentors (or buddies) can answer the many normal questions that can feel embarrassing and vulnerable to ask. This is especially true with cultural assimilation, the most frequent cause of new employees’ derailment. Mentors can demystify social norms that seem invisible until they are stepped on.
The mentoring relationship is most effective when it is somewhat informal. Good candidates for mentoring are employees who are not too much more senior in rank (conducive for candid discussion), have good people skills, are actively engaged and who are willing to be available.
Other elements of a good onboarding program include lots of two-way communication, check points at designated intervals to ensure accountability, clear direction, clarity on expectations, coaching, peer group discussions and metrics to measure progress.
Ultimately, a good onboarding program can deliver a win-win.
First, there is the solid ROI as measured in productivity, retention and engagement. Second, there is a notable competitive advantage to your firm as most companies do not expend an effort robust and sustained enough for real impact.
Recent blog posts.
- Showing Up to Connect
- A Path to Better Relationships
- Is Your Career Path Right For You
- 4 Steps to Letting Go
From the Water Cooler . . .
I can control only two things: my attitude and my actions. For everything else, I have to let go.
Success for you