Here is an excerpt from an article written by Michael D. Watkins for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.
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No one has a bigger impact on new employees’ success than the managers who hired them. Why? Because more than anyone else the hiring manager understands what his or her people need to accomplish and what it will take — skills, resources, connections — for them to become fully effective.
Managers also have the biggest stake in onboarding their new hires effectively. Research has shown that being systematic in onboarding brings new employees up to speed 50% faster, which means they’re more quickly and efficiently able to contribute to achieving desired goals. Effective onboarding also dramatically reduces failure rates and increases employee engagement and retention.
The earlier bosses start supporting their new hires, the better. The time between when someone accepts an offer and comes to work is a precious resource that can be used to jump-start the process. But even if new employees already are on the job, there are many ways to get them up to speed faster.
Of course, the starting point is to take care of the “onboarding basics” — such as documentation, compliance training, space, support, and technology. Fortunately, most companies do a reasonably good job with those elements.
It’s the deeper work of integrating new hires where the real work of bosses begins. Here are [three of] seven key ways to accomplish it:
Understand their challenges.
Onboarding is among the toughest types of job transitions. Why? Because new hires, even if they are experienced professionals, are unfamiliar with the business, don’t understand how things really work, lack established relationships, and have to adapt to a new culture. Research has shown that challenges in the latter two categories are the biggest reasons for quick turnover. New employees have to learn a lot and may be feeling quite vulnerable, even when they seem outwardly confident. That’s even more likely to be the case when people have relocated for their jobs, so also face change in their personal lives, or if they’re moving up a seniority level, so must adjust to a new managerial role.
Some might respond by playing it safe and sticking too much to what they already know; others may overcompensate, behaving like they have “the answer,” rather than asking questions and figuring out how to add value.
So it’s important for bosses to reassure recent hires that learning is more important than doing in the early days.
Accelerate their learning.
The faster a new hire learns about the organization and their role, the more they will be able to accomplish in the critical first months. To accelerate the learning process, managers must first focus on what focus on what they need to learn in three areas. Technical learning is insight into the fundamentals of the business, such as products, customers, technologies, and systems. Cultural learning is about the attitudes, behavioral norms, and values that contribute to the unique character of the organization. Political learning focuses on understanding how decisions are made, how power and influence work, and figuring out whose support they will need most.
Bosses should also think about how they can help new employees. This means not only personally providing, as early as possible, the best available information but also thinking about who else is best placed to impart those important lessons.
Make them part of the team.
While it’s possible that new hires will work independently, it’s more likely they will be part of a team (or teams). The sooner they build effective working relationships with their peers, the better, and there’s a lot a hiring manager can do to make this happen.
The starting point is to make sure the team understands why the person has been hired and what role(s) they will play. It’s also important that bosses formally introduce new employees — to everyone — as soon as possible after their arrival and make it clear that teams are expected to help their new colleagues acclimate and move up the learning curve. A small initial investment of time and effort in connecting the new hire with the team will pay long-term productivity and performance dividends.
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Here is a direct link to the complete article.