Connecting for better onboarding

The labour shortage and low retention rate require that specialists re-evaluate traditional intake practices, moving them closer to assimilation than onboarding. New onboarding practices are being proposed. These practices offer genuine support to people who take on new roles. They are designed to:
  • Recognize the strengths and talents they bring to their new environment and the impact of them joining the team.
  • Support the development of a network of professional relationships through which their expertise can be shared.
  • Support their supervisor in establishing a partnership with them.
“The social network takes precedence over the organizational chart” Traditionally, organizations have considered it up to employees to adapt to their job, boss and corporate culture. The digital economy has created a new model for organizing work where relationships are at the source of production capacity: the social network takes precedence over the organizational chart. This model involves people establishing relationships with those who will inform them, be their allies, support them and recognize them.

Respect the need for recognition 

In an onboarding process, it is better to identify, promote and share the strengths, talents and experience of the person newly in a position than to extol the organization’s mission and values. Recognition will be the point of departure for interactions: Would you accept the influence of someone you don’t trust? Would you trust someone who hasn’t shown an interest in you? Recognition is effective when it comes to retention and performance; the benefits are clear. Gallup studies show that when supervisors focus on employee strengths, individual performance increases by 20%, while the probability of a departure drops by 32% (MIT).

Onboarding: A relationship 

Human beings have always designed organizations as they understand them. For over a century, we have been breaking down tasks – separating planning from execution – based on the belief that tasks must follow one another in a linear fashion. Lots of traditional organizations operate according to this model. “The basic unit of organizing work is the team” Science and technology now offer us a new understanding of the world and allow us to design organizations where:
  • there is shared purpose
  • trust gives rise to cooperation
  • interdependence makes grasping complexity possible
In the new digital economy, the base unit of the organization of work is no longer the individual contributor; it’s the team. This new paradigm requires a transformation in how relationships are established. This transformation may call into question the foundations of professional identity. In a complex organization, the myth of the hero leader has to make way for collective leadership. In traditional organizations, expertise takes precedence over relationships. In new organizations, expertise is directly proportional to the ability to generate collaboration among colleagues. The best precursor of successful or failed onboarding is the ability to develop harmonious, effective relationships with key people in the organization.

Partnership rather than subordination 

Studies by the Center for Creative Leadership have shown that fewer than one third of new hires receive support in their onboarding and that fewer than one quarter receive it from their supervisor. During the first few weeks, supervisors often stand back to avoid creating the impression they don’t trust their new employee. New employees, in turn, want to prove that their supervisor was right in giving them the job by demonstrating their value and skill. They will tend to avoid asking for advice. Yet this is the period when supervisors can best help their protégés and point them in the right direction. “The myth of the hero leader has to make way for collective leadership” The involvement of supervisors with their employee guarantees successful onboarding. It makes it possible to avoid what INSEAD researchers have called “set-up-to-fail syndrome.” This involvement requires that everyone:
  • agree to risk being vulnerable, and
  • commit to being fair to the person who is taking the risk and to trust them
To facilitate this involvement, it is a good idea to celebrate the positive and create a rising spiral of appreciation. That creates the proper context for learning, development and, ultimately, onboarding new employees. Here are three things supervisors can do to crystallize this involvement:
  1. Create a context conducive to discussion: devote one hour a week to new employees and let them set the agenda for the meeting.
  2. Suspend judgement to reflect together: resist judging the new protégé’s style too quickly.
  3. Give regular feedback: share perceptions and ask for the other person’s perspective. 

Better retention and performance 

In closing, to improve retention and increase performance you need to:
  • recognize that the person joining the organization is unique
  • enable the development of a network of interpersonal relations
  • adjust how work is organized to reflect a person’s strengths and talents

Let us know: What is your experience with successful onboarding?

    Useful resources for further reading: Ferrazzi, Keith. “Technology Can Save Onboarding from Itself,” Harvard Business Review, March 25, 2015 Cable, Daniel M.; Gino, Francesca; Staats, Bradley R. “Reinventing Employee Onboarding,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring 2013 Goler, Lori; Gale, Janelle; Harrington, Brynn; Grant, Adam. “Why People Really Quit Their Jobs,” Harvard Business Review, January 11, 2018

Do you want to go further? Contact us.

André Camiré CIRC, ACC
  • Partner | Coach

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

You might also like…

The HR function as a catalyst for transformation

We often hear how important it is for the HR function of becoming more agile, innovating and positioning itself at the locus of organizational transformation. However, an organizational transformation is…