After reading through yesterday’s interview with Stein and Christiansen about Successful Onboarding, I asked George Bradt to Critique, Expand and Respond to the dialog. George is the pioneering voice in onboarding and focuses on very structured executive transitions.
Critique – There are some good things in this. Using new hire classes as a lever to drive organizational change is a good thing. At all times, organizations are either transforming in a good direction or atrophying and being transformed in a bad way. Every new hire changes the organization. Thus it makes sense to take a proactive approach to making sure those new hires and new hire classes are part of transformation for the good.
Running onboarding programs for at least a year is a good thing. Way too many organizations take way too narrow a view of onboarding. As you mentioned, our most recent book, Onboarding: How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time
pushes hiring managers to include all aspects of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new employees as part of onboarding and our first book, The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, explicitly pushes new leaders to get a jump-start before day one. I second Mark and Lilith’s urging not to stop onboarding efforts too soon.
Expand – Mark and Lilith suggest that “There are a lot of best practices out there, but it doesn’t mean they will all work equally well within your organization”. True. I tell people we’re helping with their onboarding that we have rock-solid, crystal-clear process…that we never follow. As Mark and Lilith point out, you must tailor the onboarding approach to the setting. To expand on that, you must tailor the onboarding approach to each individual new employee and to their manager. The most critical partnership is the one between the new employee and his or her manager. Success is largely dependent upon their ability to take existing processes and tools and adapt them for their specific situation.
Rebut/Complain – I’d like to lodge a formal complaint about the inclusion of “non-regrettable attrition” in the first sentence of the response to the first question about “Successful Onboarding”. Any hiring manager working for me in any organization any where, any time had better regret any attrition by any of their new employees. In my mind, the hiring manager is completely responsible for every aspect of onboarding his or her new employees from recruiting and hiring through orienting, assimilating and accelerating them. If a new employee leaves, something regrettably went wrong somewhere along the line. If the departure of an new employee does not create a “loss”, he or she never should have been hired in the first place. Shame on the manager.
All in all, Mark and Lilith make sense. The more organizations, their hiring managers, and their new employees take the full range of onboarding activities seriously, the more each and every one of them will move in a good direction. Onboarding is one of the acid tests of leadership. Hiring managers must step up and lead.