If you wait until the first day your
newly hired employees come on board, you may already be too late to orient
them for success. More than likely, you've inadvertently set them up to fail.
With today's marketplace shortage of available and qualified personnel,
that's especially true. You want each new hire to make a productive entrance,
get some initial results, assimilate easily and contribute to both your
short-term and long-term success. But even before casting your net, this is
what you must do
Know your target before you start your hunt
Sounds pretty basic, doesn't it? However, one can often be tempted to make a
flawed assumption. Just dust off an existing job description, tweak it a
little, focus on needed technical skills - and start looking. That's a common
way to begin search efforts. Unfortunately, yielding to such a tempting
shortcut can result in an extremely costly turnover rate averaging more than
forty percent within 18 to 24 months.
Some of your new hires may eventually be enticed by a better offer. Some may
leave because of a change in direction by your organization. Rarely will the
turnover of your new hires result from a lack of technical skills. More often
they will fail because they simply don't fit into your organization. That
critical possibility is often overlooked in the initial steps taken to fill a
To be successful, one definitely needs technical capabilities - but that's
not enough. Your new hire must also possess a range of specific
interpersonal, team and strategic attitudes and aptitudes to successfully
meet your company's unique requirements. You've got to take the initiative to
clarify all the position-specific skills required. Searching before you have
specifically defined your target can be disastrous.
Provide a road map
A review of benefits, a few scattered introductions and a wish for good luck
- these typical components of many orientation programs fall short of hiring
for success. From CEO to first-line supervisor - whatever the level - new
hires need more information. Specifically, they need to know the nuances
of what it takes to get things done in your organization.
You may have used trial and error to learn your company's priorities, values,
how it makes decisions and where its real centers of influence are hidden.
None of these elements are revealed on an organizational chart, yet this is
knowledge critical to navigating the path toward success. It's also knowledge
frequently assumed and taken for granted. Remember, however, it's completely
alien to your new hires. Without a road map, they will not quickly capture
The path they travel possesses multiple opportunities for them to succeed or
fail so you need to explain the challenges and obstacles confronting them. If
you don't give them this road map, who will? Without such a guide, how long
will it take them to succeed?
Identify position customers
Getting started in any new position can be overwhelming. There's so much to
learn - so many things to do. With the best of intentions it's possible for
new hires to get caught up in activities and forget their real objective
is to provide a service or a product for one of their customers.
Each position has several customers - some obvious, some not. They include
the person to whom the position reports, peers, direct reports and selected
others within your organization as well as external customers. No new hires
can meet their own criteria for success unless supplied with information about
customers that they need.
Sure, they will quickly spot their obvious customers. But the dependency of
other customers on them may be so subtle it goes unnoticed. The more clearly
you can describe each individual customer associated with the position, the
more intentional the activities of your new hires can be.
Recognize that every customer will expect something different
Depending on the relationship to your new hires, each customer will have
different expectations. Some of their expectations will be mutually
exclusive. Some will be shaped by past experiences - good and bad - with the
person who formerly held the position. Most expectations will be poorly
Poorly defined or not, certain products and/or services are needed by each
customer to meet their critical success factors. Having those needs
met will be taken for granted. Failing to have them met will be a
cause of disgruntlement. But don't assume your new hires will know what's
needed or that their customers will automatically define needs for them.
At least make a significant attempt at clarification. Focus your new hires'
attention on the need to service their customers. Let them know what you have
identified as needed. Emphasize the importance of further clarification.
Encourage them to position themselves as a resource who takes great
satisfaction in possessing those aptitudes and attitudes that deliver great
It's never easy to live up to everyone's expectations. It's even more
difficult if one doesn't know what they are.
Benefit from the ROI of fresh eyes
When one has been working a certain way over a period of time, it's possible
to take things for granted. A rutted routine rarely gets questioned - it
simply exists and draws others into it.
New hires may have habits of their own but at least they are not limited by
your existing habits. They will challenge what you take for granted and
perhaps evoke defensive resistance. That's understandable. Challenge may
indicate a need to change and, because it might lead to losing a sense of
stability, it can also pose a perceived threat.
If you really want to maximize the orientation process, however, this
challenge needs to be accepted not as a threat but as an opportunity.
The perspective every new hire brings to your organization and how it works
can open all kinds of new doors.
That's particularly true throughout the first ninety days they work in your
company. Gradually, however, they become acclimated and stop asking key
questions from which they and you can benefit. So, from the very beginning,
it's important to provide a vehicle for listening and responding to the
issues they raise. Remember that fresh eyes can produce great insight. And
you can all benefit from what they see.
Attracting and retaining new hires is especially difficult in these days of
limited and often less-than-qualified supply. It necessitates stepping beyond
traditional practices. It will require you to avoid easily made assumptions.
It will cost you time and effort.
You'll be tempted to avoid the challenge required. Time is of the essence -
but so is doing it right. Focus on providing these essential ingredients,
each of which will contribute to the success of your organization:
transitional road map,
descriptions of customers and their unique expectations,
- openness to a new perspective brought
in by fresh eyes.
Either you make an initial
investment to establish a right relationship from the beginning or you'll
keep on magnifying your investment until you do. The choice is yours.