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Chris Coffin on Successful Onboarding

Chris Coffin
of CC Consulting LLC offers some great ideas of how to prepare for and execute a successful onboarding process:

•    Think about what activities should occur pre-hire, Day One, Week One, Month One and during the first year.  Make a list of suggested activities for the employee but let them assume control of their assimilation.
•    Connect periodically between offer acceptance and start date to check-in and begin to build a rapport.  Extend a welcoming call the week prior to the employee’s start date.  Provide an opportunity for the new hire to ask any early questions that may be on their mind.  Have a peer mentor extend a call as well.
•    At one firm, we used to send a welcoming box of chocolates with a nice note from the CEO the week prior to start date.  It’s a nice touch.
•    Make sure to be “office ready.”  Have an office fully ready to go with working computer, working email/voicemail, supplies, business cards, org chart, phone list, etc.  Sounds basic but it’s amazing how many firms drop this ball.
•    Circulate the new hire’s resume or bio to all key colleagues along with a reminder about start date and an encouragement to extend a welcoming hand.  It’s nice to be greeted by name from complete strangers.
•    Institute a peer mentor program.  Assign a peer to take responsibility to show a new hire the ropes and to be available along the way for counsel and advice.  Someone to comfortably turn to with the “stupid” questions we all have day one. (Where is the rest room anyway?  What is the dress code? How do you work this photocopier?).
•    Have the first day fully scripted.  Someone should be there to welcome the new hire first thing and get him/her settled.  Schedule several get to know you meetings with key contacts (manager, key colleagues, senior leaders, peer mentor, etc.).  Have someone or a few people ready to take the new hire to lunch.
•    At one small firm, we had an informal lunch with the CEO, other senior leaders and all new hires during their first month.  A nice get-to-know you session and an opportunity for the CEO to reinforce some cultural norms and performance expectations.
•    Provide a list of key people to meet during month one but leave it to the employee to schedule; this is a first step towards letting them own their own professional development.
•    Provide a realistic preview.  Be candid and honest about the organization sharing not only the positives but also the challenges the employee may face.  No one likes surprises.
•    Provide another copy of the employee’s job description (assuming this was already done as part of the hiring process), as well as key competencies for their role and schedule a time to discuss early performance objectives.  Focus on objectives for the first three months with a goal of setting year one objectives at the end of that three-month period.  Role clarity is fundamental.
•    Create a cultural cheat sheet.  At one firm we created a list of cultural norms, mostly the unwritten rules for how to succeed and influence within the company’s culture as well as common pitfalls to avoid.  Once you start writing, you’ll be amazed at how many organizational norms you will easily identify.
•    Meet weekly for the first couple months and then establish regular meetings to check on progress.  Plan an informal “how’s it going” assessment at 90 and 180 days.  Both ways.  Employee’s feedback and manager’s feedback mutually shared.
•    Consider assimilation coaching.  For senior hires, I have often used an external coach and an assessment tool (e.g. the DISC behavioral assessment) to provide a forum to discuss the individual’s style and how it fits with the culture they are joining.
•    Provide any relevant training materials and schedule any relevant new hire training.  One example at one firm was a Survival Guide for Analysts that provided everything they needed to know to be a successful Analyst, or at least suggestions on where to turn for subject matter expertise and guidance.
•    Survey all new hires after 90 days to assess how effectively they felt welcomed and equipped for early success at the firm.  Solicit ideas to improve the welcoming process.  Rinse and repeat.

For more information and to inquire about Chris’s services, he may be reached at chrisjcoffin@verizon.net.