Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On-boarding new employees.

OK, you’ve hired the candidates and they’ve reported for work. What next? Very often, companies act like they’re no longer really interested in them. They’re shown where their desks are, where the toilets are, and given a copy of the employee handbook together with an explanation of the company’s benefits. Then they’re left to fend for themselves. Leaving new employees to their own devices at this stage risks inefficiency and eventually turnover.

I’ve found many successful companies instead provide each new employee with a coach or mentor on day one, someone who’s senior to them in the company to go to for answers, information and assistance. They meet with this mentor once a week for the first six-weeks to see how they’re doing and to find out how they view the company’s operations. They have a formal performance review after 90-days and again after 180-days to be sure their contributions are on track and to share feedback about goals and resources. By then, they should be well integrated into the new business.

However, sometimes new employees don’t appear to be working out. When this happens, you (their manager or supervisor) should meet with them and provide assertive criticism as follows:

• Name the issue. Be specific and direct – don’t beat around the bush. Identify the issue specifically and succinctly. This opening statement should take no more than sixty-seconds.

• Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior or situation you want to change. Use the brief, CNN version – drop most of the rest of the story around the example.

• Describe your emotions around this issue. Describe the emotions rather than being the emotions or expressing these emotions in this conversation. Deliver the message without the load.

• Clarify why this is important – what’s at stake to gain or lose for you, for others, for the unit, or for the company.

• Identify your contribution(s), if any, to this issue.

• Indicate your wish to resolve the issue.

• Invite the other party to respond.

Then be quiet! Insight occurs in the space between words. Let silence do the heavy lifting.

• Inquire into the other party’s views. Use paraphrasing and perception checking. Dig for full understanding; don’t be satisfied with just scratching the surface. Make sure the other party knows that you fully understand and acknowledge his/her position and interests.

• What was learned? Where are we now? What’s needed for resolution? What was left unsaid that needs saying? Are we ready to move on? What’s our new understanding? How will we move forward from here, given this new understanding?

• Make a new agreement and create a way to hold each other accountable for it. Clear agreements without effective follow up just won't work.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss what to do if the issue continues to be unresolved.


Sue Edwards - Development By Design said...

Great overview. You may want to join our Onboarding Best Practices Group on LinkedIn where leading organizations are sharing their approaches.

One point to add re: assigning internal mentors or coaches. Many organizations are now running so lean that there simply isn't time for more senior people to do a full and quality job of onboarding coaching. Also, there are many subtleties or struggles that can be difficult (even appropriate) for the new hire to share with someone internal. Thus, organizations that I work with retain me to provide professional onboarding coaching-- working with the new leader over their initial 3 to 6 months to ensure a successful ramp-up.

There's a free research report on the Top 10 Success Factors and 7 Deadly Sins for Leaders Joining a New Organization available on our website.

Sue Edwards

john cotter said...

Thank you Sue. Very helpful.