Tag Archives: onboarding

6 sand traps that cause onboarding fails

“Start as you mean to go on” is one of those timeless great quotes and one that resonates over and over again. Working with executives in transition, I have pulled together a list of 6 major sand traps causing onboarding fails. They are the main stumbling blocks which new hires or newly promoted or transferred individuals regularly fall into. These situations are not irredeemable, but a poor start doesn’t support a successful transition and can plague the person for months or even years. Effective ramp-up time is significantly reduced when these sand taps are avoided.

Often times it’s about the company’s failure to follow through which leads to onboarding fails. But some times it can be about you.

Read: Why onboarding is vital 

6 personal sand traps that cause onboarding fails

  1. Lack of humility

Arrogance is consistently identified as the number one self-sabotaging transitioning traps that  a high number of new hires fall into when joining a new organizations. Many onboarding fails are rooted in arrogance. You don’t have all the answers and if you think you do, it means you have neglected the listening and collaborative part of the process, which is vital to onboarding success. Listening and observing is critical in the early days.

  1. Failure to understand the new culture

Your new organisation is not your old one. Referencing “this is what we did in x” with the implication it was better, will not win you friends and help you build those strategic alliances.

onboarding success

Bull in a china shop

Not paying attention to what is different about your new environment will lead to poor understanding, which impacts business decisions and relationship building.

If you come into a new organisation like a bull in a china shop and try to fix everything that you think is broken, that attitude will only serve to alienate those around you.

The phrase “my old company” should leave your vocabulary. This is one of the major onboarding fails.

  1. Lack of authenticity

It’s very unusual for a new hire not to feel overwhelmed. Most organizations bombard the new recruit with information on people, processes, systems and protocols. But if there is any feeling that you are not who you say you are, then that is the sand trap that is the most difficult dig yourself out of,  because it is based on trust. It is likely to dog you throughout. A certain amount of “fake it until you make it”  will work, but if there is a real lack of confidence, ask for a mentor or look for a coach.

  1. Lack of openness

Very often executives who want to make a great first impression throw themselves into their work, shut themselves off from outside input. This means they are cut off from shared insights and opportunities that will contribute to their success. Being open to conversations, ideas and communication is essential in the early days.

  1. Failure to make decisions

This is the onboarding fail counter point to the arrogant new hire who rides rough shod over everyone. It is the new recruit who fails to launch. They might be so concerned with making a mistake, of getting Executive-Presence-Rulessomething wrong, or feeling a need to collaborate and consult the whole world, they prevaricate and fail to take any decisions at all. This damages confidence and trust. That’s why it’s a good idea to go for the low-level, low-risk early fixes. How do you know what they are? By listening to the people around you.

  1. Not looking after yourself

Many new hires immerse themselves in their new roles so deeply that they forget to take care of themselves.  Striving to make that great first impression, they adopt work practises that exclude exercise and poor eating habits.  Perhaps they start becoming available 24/7. This sets a precedent which is difficult to back-track on and sets a poor example for reports. It can lead to the creation of a damaging and resentful work culture.

woman and clockIt also means that other relationships are being neglected. A common sand trap for an onboarding fail is not seeing that family members are also going through their own transition, especially if the process involves relocation. This can mean a change of school for kids and new schedules for partners too. Don’t make the mistake of leaving them out of the equation.

If you take work home it means that you are “absent while present” which has a negative impact on your whole life.  Stress in one area of life almost always impacts another.  At this point you should make sure you have re-evaluated your personal and professional goals.

Also Read:  10 steps to Onboarding success

If you need any support making the first 90 days a success for your new hires – contact me!

 

 

10 Steps to Onboarding Success

New hires perform best when they feel integrated into a company and are relaxed, stimulated and having fun.  Onboarding success occurs when new arrivals are in a supportive but structured background. All research indicates that employees who are successfully onboarded are likely to be more highly engaged and stay with an organization for longer periods. Effective onboarding saves companies as much as 3 x the annual employee salary as well as hiring costs.

Read “Why onboarding is vital”

The first 90 days are critical to your success in a new role. Here are some exercise to complete to help you or your employees succeed.

1. Attentive listening

The number one tip from any HR professional or coach for the first 90 days is to listen and observe and ask the right questions.

2. Create solid relationships

Building new relationships is also key to success in a new organization. While there are various relationships that are important to build, the priority focus should be on:

  • Bosses
  • PeersAttentive listening
  • Direct Reports
  • Colleagues

These relationships are critical to anchoring the foundations for success especially for anyone joining a new organisation in a leadership role.  It is particularly important to establish the preferred communication style of the people around you in today’s working environment of complex and multiple communication channels. Do they like F2F, text, intranet, IM, phone, weekly report?

3.Learn about the existing culture 

You might have been hired as a disruptor but before you can make any changes you have to understand the existing culture. Showing respect for existing systems will be important to getting everyone on side. Talk to people to see what they think works and what they would tweak and what they would throw away all together. Lose the words “in my old company….” from your vocabulary. Use the traffic light exercise to structure your questions. traffic lights

4. Be open and approachable

It’s important to be open and accessible from the outset. In the early days introductions communicate how excited you are to be joining the company and suggest meeting people for coffee. If you inherit a team you will want to meet them individually as well as together as a group. Prepare your introduction in advance so you keep it short and to the point.

5. Manage expectations

From the beginning it’s important to set and receive clear ideas, both for your team and your boss. See the previous questions so you know what questions to ask.

  • What is your day-to-day role?
  • What are your objectives short, medium and long-term.
  • How will they measure success? Who will do that and when?signpost

This is especially important if it is linked to your compensation.

7. Be relaxed and yourself

Starting a new job is always stressful and you can be nervous. It’s always best to be your best confident self. If you don’t feel that and can’t fake it ‘til you make it (within reason) invest in a coach. There is a difference between feeling the fear and doing it anyway and coming over as false and inauthentic. Creating an atmosphere of trust is important and being true to yourself will play a key role.

8. Create alliances

Creating strategic alliances is key to any onboarding process. Finding your way around the sub text of any new organisational culture is important. Very often there are back door ways of doing things that as a newbie you won’t know. So whether it’s how to get a jump on office supplies,  IT issues solved quickly, or key decisions made, then forming alliances with others will be useful. This can be from knowing who the janitor is to accepting help and support from Businessman-introducing-t-007reports and colleagues.

Additionally cultivate a mentor either officially or unofficially, someone who can show you the ropes. Maybe invest in a coach which can be privately supported or by your company. This will depend on your seniority. Some new hires have strong support networks in their sector or general friendship groups or networks. Others rely on family members.

8. Go for small early wins

In the movies new hires come up with dramatic solutions early on.  My experience suggests that this rarely happens in the real world. When you are in onboarding mode the listening element is vital. If you can address some minor but highly visible niggles to give you some early wins, that would be a good place to start.  At this stage building trust is more important than dramatic show boating which may carry risk.

9. Build or strengthen your team

Building your team or strengthening it will be important. Here are some questions you can ask your reports to cement those relationships.

  • What does success look like to them?
  • What do they expect from a manager?
  • What do they expect from team members?
  • What do they want their colleagues to think about them? Name 3 qualities or characteristics.
  • What are their key 5 strengths with a story to illustrate and an object that show cases each team leaderone?
  • Who is their Chief Doubting Officer – the little voice in your head that holds them back? Who does he or she look like? When is he or she present?
  • What do they need to work on for their personal development?
  • What value do people get from working with them?
  • What are the top 5 experiences they feel when working with them?
  • What makes them special?
  • How do they prefer to handle conflict?

10. Create a mission statement

Many new hires they need to arrive at a company with a vision already in mind or compelled to make a big announcement quickly following their arrival. Generally new hires who indicate their first role will be to listen make the greatest progress. You can’t always promise to implement what the people around you want, but you can guarantee to give thoughtful consideration to their input. At that point you can make a collaborative mission statement in line with departmental objectives against which you will all be measured.

To produce a mission statement that truly motivates and excites all stakeholders take time to get full buy-in.

 

 

Post onboarding – when the honeymoon is over

There was a great post in the 3plus eGazine this week “How to disagree with your boss and not get fired” The guest author made a connection, which you don’t see very often in leadership posts. The writer linked the value of the interview and onboarding process to the presenting leadership issue. She (he?) referred to instances where these challenges can possibly be traced  to gaps in the onboarding and interview procedure.  A more thorough and strategic use of these processes could have avoided some of the outcomes or at least prepared all parties.

The interview and onboarding system can flag up a lot of tells regarding potential communication difficulties and cultural fit or misfit in an organisation. Oftentimes these are at the root of leadership stress and team conflict.

Hiring by numbers

Increasingly we are seeing hiring by numbers with recruitment processes taking longer than they used to.  It is becoming increasingly common to have a committee of decision makers which makes the hiring process protracted. Candidates complain that application, to offer, to start date can take six months. In many cases that would be considered speedy. During this time with everyone sticking to their agreed scripts and candidates overwhelmed by the volume of contact, very often key questions and observations are not made as a group.  Communication channels and observations can actually become blurred, not clearer.

Post hiring, during the first 90 days, every one is on their best behaviour. New hires are trying hard to fit in (usually.) Managers are open and being solicitous. But a bit like a marriage, after six months the honeymoon is over. Everyone relaxes and the reality is visible. Sometimes this comes with some surprises.

People start doing the professional equivalent of squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, leaving unwashed dishes in the sink and sending texts during meals. This is generally not deal breaking behaviour, but it can consume a disproportionate amount of time and energy working around or dealing with it, when it gets on everyone’s last nerve.

Ask the right questions

At this point, when those involved wonder if serious mistakes and oversights have been made, I ask the following questions of both sides:

  • How well did you cover or try to gain insight into any of these issues in the interview or onboarding process to manage expectations? In most cases when there is a problem, the answer is “not in-depth” or “not at all.”
  • Did you pursue references? Reference taking is a real skill, especially in litigious cultures where people are reluctant to say anything other than giving facts. The number of companies which send out pro forma questionnaires, instead of investing in a one hour interview with a professional reference seeker, is really high.
  • Did you do any research? In an era of social media it is completely possible to have some feel for the boss you could be working for, or the person you are about to hire. This might not give you the total picture, as many people are different from one situation or interaction to another. But it is possible to get some idea.

So going into any hiring situation there is no substitute for asking the right questions, whether as a candidate or hiring manager. This means really understanding your values and what is important to you.

Find the tells

Gillian was shocked to find out that although her company offered flex working, her boss discouraged it, seeing it as a “privilege not a right.” In a three-month hiring process she only posed the question to the H.R. department and not to her hiring manager, or even future colleagues. A very short coffee chit chat could have added some insight into the department culture. “How often do you work from home?”

Bruno is struggling to integrate Marc, in his early 40s, into a department of young engineers. He had asked him how he would feel about joining a young team in the interview. He naturally, and somewhat predictably, had said “Great!”  Bruno had not pursued the topic and later found that Marc had a very conservative mind-set,  which hadn’t been apparent to him during the interview. When pressed Bruno admitted that he hadn’t gone into any real depth. Even a basic check would have revealed that Marc had no online presence, except for a limited and incomplete LinkedIn profile.  That was a major tell.

All of this sounds easy, right? So then why do so many get it so wrong?

What questions would you have asked?