Don't begin to recruit anyone until you understand how their role is going to help deliver results that move the organization forward in line with its purpose and priorities.

He had been a standout star in everything he’d done from high school through college through his early jobs.  Every single person HR and the hiring manager talked to during reference and background checks had nothing but positive things to say about his leadership skills.  They were all thrilled to have been able to convince him to join the firm.

Now what?

No one had fully expected him to say yes.

No one was exactly sure what his responsibilities should really be.

Now it was time to figure that out.

Now was way too late.

Start by stopping

Onboarding begins with your business objectives.  Start by stopping to figure out what you want to accomplish and how you expect your future new employee to deliver or contribute to target results.  Think business strategy.  You risk leaving a lot on the table if you treat hiring as a transactional event as opposed to a strategic opportunity

“Just fill the position.”  Hang on.  Will the position as defined deliver the results you need? If not, this is a great time to re-craft the job to further your business strategy.

Find me the best candidate.” The best at what, precisely? Do you need the best skill set, or will the individual’s inherent behaviors and motivators be more important to delivery of business results than skills and experience?  Complete your thinking before implementing anything, even a broad search initiative.

“I know what I need…”You may know what you need, but do you know what your stakeholders and the new employees’ stakeholders need?  Without stakeholder alignment you will never make the right hire, because your new employee (no matter how great he or she is) will be burdened with incompatible expectations.

Strong execution always begins with thorough preparation.  If your organization has a professional human resources function, you probably have a search, recruiting and hiring process.  You may even have some kind of onboarding program.  More likely than not, you don’t have a Total Onboarding Program (TOP) that maximizes delivery of business results. 

Onboarding is a strategic exercise in that it’s about building capabilities and capacity for the future.  Thus you can’t begin to recruit anyone until you understand how their role is going to help deliver results that move the organization forward in line with its purpose and priorities.

Start by clarifying purpose and priorities.

Begin with your organization’s general purpose and main priorities.  That’s the big picture destination. Next, drill down to the specific destination for this onboarding. When you onboard a new employee, you are implementing a strategy to achieve business objectives.  Treat your new employee onboarding as you would any other investment.  Define your business objective – are you hiring to replace? To change culture? To add capabilities? What is your expected return on investment? How will you measure your return?

Check your onboarding track record

Look back at your onboarding track record to make sure you keep the things that worked before and improve areas that can be improved.

  1. Note the things that went well
  2. Note the things that did not go well

Make sure everyone is clear and aligned on messaging

Lay out your messages so everyone understands purpose, priorities, responsibilities, required strengths and the most important organizational values.

Organizations and hiring managers communicate with candidates more than they realize during recruiting, interviewing and every subsequent step of onboarding.  Intentional and inadvertent actions and inactions leave candidates with strong impressions.  Equip yourself and others to execute consistently and on message with organizational realities at all times.


Note: This post was adapted from "Onboarding" (Bradt & Vonnegut – Wiley, 2009).  Click here to request an executive summary of the book.

 

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