3 minute read

How to make onboarding new hires extraordinary and impactful

More than 40% of hires fail within the first 18 months and 60% of new executive recruits say it took them over six months to feel effective. Onboarding needs an overhaul, says Chris Litherland

Onboarding employees

How can onboarding become 'impactful integration' of a hire? Well, it is important to understand the context of the role and landscape of the organisation: the cultural dynamics, shareholder/stakeholder expectations, the politics, how things get done, and how change happens. In many ways onboarding is a process of immersion to provide the person with the things and information they need to know to be their most effective within the new context.

These and other components might seem obvious to support the successful integration of a new employee, but still many organisations don’t plan much, if anything, beyond the first day’s administration and equipment tasks. No surprise then that over 40% of hires fail within the first 18 months and 60% of new executive hires say it took them over six months to feel effective. Maybe there’s a belief that the interview process provides most, if not all, of what’s needed or that any talented individual should be able to navigate their way in the organisation. This ‘sink or swim’ approach is risky and probably at odds with your organisation’s culture; or maybe it isn’t?

So having a comprehensive, individualised plan will help accelerate optimum performance and lead to higher success and retention rates. You’ve put a lot of investment into finding and hiring an employee, so it is important to secure and get a return on that investment as quickly as possible.

I recommend that before implementing any impactful integration plan there should be a candid discussion between the hire and their manager to set expectations, agree how to approach the introductions within the organisation and with any external stakeholders. First impressions count, so most new hires will welcome the opportunity to fine tune their approach. Connect – Connect – Connect! Help your hire to connect with people, connect with the organization and connect with their message. Build a plan around what these mean to you and the new employee.

I like it when hires have a list of questions and specific areas they see as important to understand in greater detail, plus have a mindset of ‘discovery’. It can be a super opportunity to collaborate and create a bespoke plan that builds on the hiring process

I like it when hires have a list of questions and specific areas they see as important to understand in greater detail, plus have a mindset of ‘discovery’. It can be a super opportunity to collaborate and create a bespoke plan that builds on the hiring process; it also makes for an interesting discussion on what is important to them and why. If possible, you can apply some aspects of design thinking here with a desire to create moments that matter, bringing value to the hire and the wider organisation; for example, changing an internal process or improving communications around a process. Maybe feedback on areas of your organisation’s policies eg inclusion & diversity.

The use of technology and virtual working can be of great value here too. Also, seek to identify quick wins for the hire and the organisation; this really is beneficial to both, building credibility and impact.

An impactful integration plan should have multiple elements and always commence before the new hire start date. It helps eliminate any disconnects and hand-offs issues between the different internal agents and functions. Optimum duration of an onboarding plan varies with each individual and situation, but for senior hire it should cover at least a full financial year. The longer term can cover reviewing aspirational and capability elements that were agreed, as well as other key milestones.

Impactful integration plans have another essential component that comes through people providing support and guidance. For example: having a ‘buddy’ identified and making contact prior to the start date, and greeting them on their arrival. The buddy is a peer level colleague who can help with some of the initial questions and important settling in details. Allocating a ‘mentor’ early in the onboarding can be especially impactful, as it provides additional access to a senior colleague who can guide them on how things work, strategy and career development. This should not conflict with the hiring manager or their manager’s responsibilities. Best in class organisation’s will also assign an external coach to support the hire in the transition process and integration phase by having confidential discussions on any topics of concern/priority. The external and confidential nature provides a much needed sounding board for the hire, irrespective of how well they are settling into their new role and organisation. Try to use a solutions-focused coach, as they’ll work with the hire holistically towards a positive outcome and only for as long as they are needed.

Think about how you ensure that the process of hiring, onboarding and impactful integration of hires, at any level, Is best achieved? How do you seamlessly coordinate the process across the different stakeholders and functions? And what works best in your organisation? Make it extraordinary with a journey full of positive moments.

Published 10 June 2020

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