Risk is the possibility of suffering a harmful event. Recently, we’ve all seen that managing risk is not the same as ignoring it or avoiding it, and that even managed risk still includes the possibility of harm. Think in terms of identifying risks, having contingency plans ready in case the risk comes to fruition, and implementing those plans as the new reality as appropriate.
There are seven general categories of risk in onboarding: organization, role, personal, learning, relationships, delivery, adjustment. Ideally the first three can be mitigated before anyone accepts a job; and learning and relationships can be jump-started in the fuzzy-front end between acceptance and start date. But none of these risks ever go away completely. Identify the specific risks for the situation you face and think through what things will look like as those risks become reality.
The critical step in contingency planning is to ask “What if?” before you have to. While you don’t need to go into the seven levels of why, it is useful to have some back-ups to your back-up plans. I’m sure BP is wishing they’d had a couple of more levels of back up plans to deal with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Lay out what you can do if your first (or second choice) plan fails – as they will sometimes.
One of the most important aspects of implementing a contingency plan is to commit to it as the new reality. If you keep hoping things will change back to the way you’d expected them to be, you won’t give your contingency plan the full focus it deserves and it won’t be long before that doesn’t work either.