Is Your Onboarding Failing?

Is Your Onboarding Failing?

Have you ever hired someone only to have them resign within 6 months, or 3 months, weeks, or perhaps even 1 day?  When your new hire starts, their job search didn’t end. You likely don’t have an on-boarding plan, but but as you will see in this video, the new employee does and you may not like it..

In this first of two videos where I describe the importance of developing an on-boarding plan. Watch the second video here.


Kudos to Enable Education for their expertise in producing this on-boarding educational video. Enable Education makes the process very easy and expertly helped shape the narrative.

What is On-boarding?

What is On-boarding?

Most companies do not have on-boarding plans and push new employees into the deep end.

To compound a company’s on-boarding challenges, every year up to 25% of your staff are transitioning into other jobs and each one goes through their own, often hidden, on-boarding process.

Your company may not have an on-boarding plan, but the employee does. If this job does not work out, they will quit, forcing you back to square 1 of the recruiting process.

Transitioning people into new rolls is a relentless reality of business. Having a plan respects the people you have hired.

In this second of two videos where I describe what on-boarding is, why you have likely underestimated the number of staff impacted by it, and why your company should have an on-boarding plan. Missed the first video? Find it here.



Kudos to Enable Education for their expertise in producing this on-boarding educational video. Enable Education makes the process very easy and expertly helped shape the narrative.

Starting to Understand Culture during On-Boarding

Starting to Understand Culture during On-Boarding

During the interview process, virtually every candidate asks about the culture of the prospective new company, which is rarely known, and is thereby given little weight when deciding the merits of a new job. People wrongly believe they can adapt to virtually any culture, or can impact the culture to suit them (there is some truth to the later, if you’re joining a small company).

What is culture then? How do you determine culture? One method is by learning the symbols, norms and assumptions.

Symbols are the logos, dress code and décor.

Norms are shared social, often un-written, rules. What behaviour is tolerated, discouraged or encouraged? How do people interact with or treat each other or other departments? Are there shared values (e.g. trust) or routines (e.g. meeting minutes)?

Assumptions are undocumented rules or truths within an organization. “We always do X this way”.

Will your symbols, norms and assumptions align with your new company’s or create friction? You either have to adapt or alter your cultural norms or identify which are helping or hindering your performance.

In your on-boarding plan, ask your new colleagues why and why not they enjoy working there. The answer is often the answer to the culture question.

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Impacts of the Shadow Organization during On-Boarding

Impacts of the Shadow Organization during On-Boarding

How well you perform at your new role will largely be affected by how well you interface with new manager(s), colleagues, staff, stakeholders, decision makers, influencers, clients and certainly others.  If you don’t create good alliances with this group of people, projects you work on will be at risk, and resultingly so will your on-boarding.

For each project or exercise ask yourself which decision makers are essential to move forward.

Decision makers are in turn influenced by the opinion of their trusted network for advice and counsel. This network, and we all have them, is essentially a shadow organization.  Each of the individuals in trusted network brings influence due to either their expertise, control of information, connections to others, assess to resources (money and people), and/or loyalty.  Any of these people can positively impact your efforts or derail them. You need to identify who these individuals are.

Ask your new manager for list of key people outside your group whom she thinks you should connect with (by now you should have met with key people within your group). Using the strategy in an previous blog, strive to ask these people the same set of questions.

Detractors from your efforts or projects usually caused by to one or more of these reasons:

  • Desire to maintain the status quo.
  • Fear of looking incompetent. E.g. adopting new technology they don’t understand.
  • Threatens their power.  E.g. Removing their control, recognition, or usefulness to the business.
  • Negative consequence to their allies. E.g. Your changes may negatively impact people or business units they care about or feel responsible for.

The above may not be adversaries if you can just manage or mitigate any impact. Think hard about how to make it hard for them to say no. Avoid asking them to make a decision that will involve any of the above impacts.

Find alignment with key players where you projects/work can mesh or leverage each other.

Build alliances that will help you advance your work. You need Technical advisors, Cultural advisors and Political advisors, and a mix of internal and external advisors. You may have been hired to make changes that may regrettably, but unavoidably, impact others, however, for the good of the overall business.  If so, you will need your own network soon.

Remember that in today’s business climate, no senior-level manager (perhaps you) is hired to maintain the status-quo. They (you?) are hired to make impactful changes to the business.

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On-Boarding: Helping Your Boss Succeed

On-Boarding: Helping Your Boss Succeed

The purpose of this blog is to highlight some of the techniques to ensure your new manager remains on your side.

Your Manager’s Pain Points are Your Successes

Some early wins should be based solely on your manager’s priorities. If not stated during the interviews or offer letter, during your on-boarding you will undoubtedly learn what are your manager’s pain points.

Your new manager will have a greater impact on your performance than anyone else in the company. As such, you need to foster a good line of communication with him/her on a regular frequency. You need your manager’s support for your 90-day on-boarding plan to avoid becoming overrun by the new job.

Five Essential Conversations

There are five important conversations to have with your new manager. These items can be individual conversations or blended. There is however a logical sequence to the conversations (these also make excellent interview questions!):

  1. State of the nation: A conversation on how s/he views the organization with a goal of arriving at a situational agreement. Reaching a shared understanding of the situation(s), its challenges and opportunities is essential. This will become the foundation for everything you will do. Regularly confirm and clarify the situation and objectives and don’t let key issues remain ambiguous or misunderstood.
  2. Expectations: You need to manage expectations. Learn what is required from you in the short and medium term and the associated success criteria.
  3. Lines of Communication: Determine how you and your manager will engage going-forward and the frequency. What decisions can you make and what kinds require his/her consultation or approval.
  4. Resources: Determine what resources (funding and personnel) are available to you. Do you have what you need to be successful?
  5. It’s all about me: How will your term in this role enhance your personal development and what areas will need improvement? What professional development will help you in your new role?

Have these same five conversations with your new direct reports, but after your on-boarding is well underway.

Help Me to Help You

The list below contains the different ways your manager can positively impact your impact to the company, depending on the STARS role your company exists

Start-up Approving needed resources quickly
Establish clear measurable goals
Provide guidance for strategic decisions
Help staying focused
Turnaround Same as Start-up plus:
Provide support for making and implementing tough personnel calls
Help cutting deeply enough and early enough
Provide support for changing or correcting the external image of the company and its people
Accelerated Growth Same as Start-up plus:
Support for the required new systems and structures
Support for funding of the new systems, structures and staff.
Realignment Same as Start-up plus:
Help making the case for change
Sustaining Success Constant reality testing
Support for playing good defense and avoiding mistakes that damage the business
Help finding ways to take the business to a new level

For all of the above, ask priorities for the next 30 days.

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Early Wins during On-Boarding

Early Wins during On-Boarding

The 90 day point at your new job is a milestone. You’re at the “end of the beginning” of your new job. At this point the expectations of your manager, your new colleagues and staff (if applicable) will be heightened. Are you progressing or failing? How do you know?

A good question to ask during your interview is After 90 days, how will you know I’m doing a good job? While you will revisit their answer during your first 90 days, that answer forms the 90 day milestone where you will assess your success to-date.

In addition to the 90 day question, an Early Win, often not found in their 90-day answer, can go a long way in building your credibility, good relationships and momentum to carry you beyond the 90 day milestone.

Early Win

One technique is to identify potential early wins. You may uncover these during your learning phase. When a potential early win is discovered, ensure your new manager, and to an extent, your peers and staff are on the same page. Your first win needs predetermined measurable success criteria and short-term milestone successes.

Each early-win-project contains the following phases:

  • Learning
  • Designing the Change
  • Rallying support
  • Implementation
  • Learning from change

The Best Early Win

The best wins are tangible improvements saving money, time or resources. Ambitious (e.g.) fundamental changes in strategy, structure, processes or skill sets, should be avoided as there is potential for the company’s self-defense mechanisms kicking-in as discussed in the On-boarding Risks. It goes without saying to avoid early losses. It is exceedingly difficult to recover from an early loss.

The priorities for an early win should balance the learned needs of the company and your career goals, which you found were in alignment during the interview phase.

Sometimes an early win identifies itself as a ticking time bomb. As you represent a fresh set of eyes, you are often the best suited to identify these. Your learning plan is comparable to being a detective, something unique to the company. Different parts of the company may have different components of the puzzle and you may be the only person equipped to assemble the pieces. Simply by identifying a time bomb may equate to an early win.

Where to find Early Wins

Likely source Internal politics, departments not communicating effectively creating opportune conditions for problems. Fortunately for you, you have no political baggage and therefore are unbiased.
Probable source Internal capabilities or lack thereof. For example, problems or gaps with skill sets, processes or product quality issues or dissatisfied customers.
Potential source Changing market conditions, new competitors or a failing strategy. Regarding competition, is your product overpriced, inferior, or a new competitive product.
Unlikely source New government regulations, economic conditions, health and safety aspects of your product.

When / if you identify a problem, you must take action:

  • Generate awareness and conversation of the problem.
  • Figure it out. Tactically what should the business do to avoid the problem?
  • Big picture. Strategically what should the business do to avoid this problem in the future?
  • Plan. Have a plan to address the problem
  • Support. Ensure others are on-board to address the problem.

A Word about People Behavioral Changes

During your on-boarding you’re identifying behavioral traits of the people. If you’re in a management position, you need to decide if these behaviors are beneficial to creating or sustaining a high-performance team or not. Look for these positive characteristics in people:

Focus Do they have priorities or too many priorities? Having too many priorities is demoralizing as they know they can’t all be achieved.
Discipline Do they attain a consistent level of performance?
Innovation Are improvements consistently sought after? Are we pushing the envelope?
Teamwork Is the team playing nice together? Are people hording knowledge? Are individuals more apt to recognize group achievements over self?
Sense of Urgency Are customer needs being ignored in favor maintaining the safe status quo?

During your first win project, you should begin to instill new methods of behaviours in the business (if warranted).


From your first day you’re being accessed and impressions are being formulated. If you’re not making positive progress, opinions will be negative.

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