Most leaders have the best of intentions at the start of the recruiting process, thinking that when this person comes onboard, this time things will be different. You will teach him everything he needs to know so he can start meaningfully contributing right away. You will clear your schedule because you know, from painful experience, how quickly things can fall apart if you don’t. Unfortunately, the recruiting process can be time consuming and tiring. So time consuming, that by the time the new person’s first day rolls around, you’re ready to hand him the manual, set him up with IT for the day to learn “the system” and get back to your real work. After all, you hired him for his experience – he should be able to figure it out, right?
Effective onboarding may take a few days, but always remember that a great hire will be with you for years. Almost every leader I meet tells me the key to their success is their people. If this is the case for you too, then walk the talk. When fatigue sets in, remind yourself of the goal of hiring and retaining a great new manager, and bear down to get through these final phases of the recruitment process.
Onboarding Best Practices
Week 1: Welcome
The welcome starts with a meeting. On their first day, ask the new hire to reiterate what he is hoping to achieve with your company, and take good notes, because you will revisit these themes over the course of his tenure. This meeting is also an excellent opportunity to decide, together, how each of you will handle it if the other doesn’t seem to be meeting expectations. You want to be able to give feedback about the person’s performance in a way that protects his ego. Equally important is that the new manager feels comfortable giving you his comments on the company, to halt any misunderstandings before they blossom into discontent. Tell him that you want him to feel comfortable giving unvarnished feedback, and when he does, while you may not be able to prioritize his concerns immediately, you will listen. Ask the same courtesy of him. Then set a time when you will informally review his initial impressions, and yours, to maintain optimal communication.
Help the new manager learn the office politics. Your company is a social environment and he will need to negotiate through it. You want him to know about the key players in the company: name, background, position, strengths, and weaknesses. Once he understands who he will be working with, put faces to those names with an office tour, which includes showing him his workspace. At that point, leave him to get settled, but make sure you’ve set up a lunch with at least one of those key people every day during the first week so he can get a deeper understanding of his new office family. The last thing you want is a new recruit’s budding enthusiasm squashed because no one had time to show him the ropes.
This week should also include a formal presentation of the organizational structure, his job description, and the performance evaluation process. Set clear expectations of what success will look like from the company’s point of view and be open to changes if he has some great ideas of his own.
Finally, make sure he has a meaningful project to work on that week. People are full of energy and enthusiasm when they take on a new role and you want to harness that. Give him a chance to demonstrate what a great choice you made.
Weeks 2 – 5: Getting to Know You
Speaking of that meaningful project, consider having the new manager draft a departmental business plan as a way to provide an outstanding framework to supplement the job description. It allows the new manager to communicate his intentions with you and solicit feedback in a structured way. The plan also provides a written means of communicating expectations to his staff.
Your new manager should also be involved in the management daily huddle and should start leading a departmental daily huddle immediately. Huddles are expeditious overviews of company and departmental activities, and the new manager can follow up with appropriate individuals after the huddle for a deeper understanding of relevant issues. As for their interaction with you, you should begin your one-on-one meetings right away, at a frequency of at least once a week. If you are struggling to fill the time, refer back to the departmental business plan, reviewing his ideas and providing ongoing feedback.
Week 6: The Expectations
The standard three-month evaluation is too late to begin assessing performance. In week six, forego the usual one-on-one meeting in favour of a formal performance evaluation. In this meeting, you and the manager can evaluate how he is performing against the job description and you can even share some end results metrics. Yes, three months is the standard time frame, but admit it – usually you know after a few days. Be ruthless and go with your gut on this – particularly if it’s been consistently right in the past.
Stickiness – The Lessons Learned
- Standardize Your Intake Process: Set up a standard on-boarding checklist of activities that you can customize for any new hire. Pull it out and update it each time you hire so you are always working from your company’s best practices.
- Upfront Contracts: Set expectations and decide what you will do if things go off track, before they actually do.
- 6-week Performance Review: Why wait 3 months? You’ll know in six weeks if it’s working.
Bellrock is a management consulting and change management firm where remarkable is expected. If you found this article valuable, don’t be stingy. Share!