Sinking or Swimming

The onboarding process for new hires and employers can be daunting. Sometimes it can be downright treacherous, especially when it comes to new executive hires. A simple Google search reveals many onboarding methods and strategies, including sink or swim onboarding.

We’ve all heard of the child who learned to swim when a loved one threw them into the pool. Initially, arms flailed and legs kicked wildly in panic. But eventually instincts kicked in and the violent movements turned into doggie paddle strokes. While this approach may work in creating functional swimmers, the long term winners have a rigorous process and a dedicated coach guiding them to success.

Sink or Swim Onboarding

Likewise, sink or swim onboarding is exactly what it sounds like—an employer throws their new employee into the deep end. The employee will either swim and succeed or sink. Those that swim manage to navigate the choppy and, sometimes, shark-infested waters. If they sink, well, onto the next hire.

This is an outdated strategy, but is it still valuable today? In short, no. The sink or swim approach poses problems for an organization during the onboarding process. This is especially acute in respect to onboarding leaders, 40% of whom fail in their first 18 months.

Employing sink or swim onboarding may seem like a natural choice to some. It’s akin to survival of the fittest – the new hires most responsive to the changes in their first couple months will survive. But, do you really want your new executives to simply survive and work in their role? Or, do you want your new executive to thrive, assimilate quickly, galvanize the team, and deliver the results you expect?

Sink or swim onboarding can leave the best candidates signaling for a life raft. Just as the acquisition and interview process is thorough and comprehensive, so should be onboarding. The entire process from open requisition to filling the position can take months and includes several rounds: posting a carefully-crafted job description online, vetting and reviewing applicants, phone screenings, and multiple in-person interviews. It’s an investment of valuable time and resources to find the perfect fit for your team. Employing sink or swim onboarding sets up a very talented individual to potentially fail in their new role, proving costly to your organization.

Preparing For Success With An Onboarding Plan

In a world where 40% of executives fail within 18 months, bet that an effective and thoughtful onboarding program can make all the difference. Research shows that a new hire that completes a structured onboarding program is 58% more likely to be with the company in three years. That’s especially compelling when 33% of employees with a company for less than six months are already looking to jump ship.

New executive hires need to be nurtured through a comprehensive and strategic onboarding program just as an Olympic swimmer is coached and follows a specific process.  An effective onboarding program should begin prior to a leader’s first day. This allows the space to develop an 100 day plan, accelerate learning, build relationships and craft a compelling message.  The pivot point comes 30-45 days in when the leader and team co-create their shared strategic imperative. This approach allows the leader and the team to sustain momentum and deliver results, building confidence for the leader, team, and organization.

When you find the perfect fit for your team, it’s thrilling. An effective and thorough onboarding program ensures you are equipping your executive with the tools they need to succeed. So, leave sink or swim onboarding exactly where it belongs—at sea!

Onboarding Services From PrimeGenesis

PrimeGenesis specializes in critical transitions, including executive onboarding, team onboarding, and acceleration and restart. Our time tested process is designed to accelerate leaders and teams to deliver better results faster through critical transitions, leading to short term and lasting success for the leader and the organization. If you represent an organization approaching a key inflection point, contact us today if you’d like to learn more. And if you’re an executive preparing for his or her own transition, you can check out our free executive onboarding risk calculator to help you prepare.