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The Four 'Landmines' Bosses Should Avoid in On-boarding a New Hire

September 23, 2011
Related Topics: Strategy and Management

As promised, I will follow up last week’s post on “Five ‘Landmines’ New Hires Should Try to Avoid” with its all important converse — the four mistakes bosses make during the on-boarding period.

(We’ll stick with the four “landmines” — because it’s Friday, and the prospect of an explosion is more exciting.)

George Bradt, founder and managing director of PrimeGenesis, an executive on-boarding firm (and the author of a few books on the subject), was kind enough to join me again in this crusade. Let us begin.

Many might think that when a new hire’s on-boarding period is unsuccessful — resulting in his/her dismissal, voluntary or not — it is the new hire's fault. This isn’t always the case.

All too often, unsuccessful on-boarding is a result of the hiring manager’s missteps, Bradt said. In fact, the largest landmine is stepped on by hiring bosses or managers long before a new hire’s first day on the job. Actually, it happens before candidates are even considered and lined up for interviews.

Role Failure

“This failure happens before the hiring manager talks to anybody!” said Bradt. It’s when a new role — or position — in an organization is designed without considering how the new role will align with the rest of a division or department.

Imagine a scenario in which a new hire was brought on to be the new global head of marketing at a company. But, in doing so, the firm failed to let any of the company’s division presidents, who are responsible for handling their own marketing, know about this new position. Soon, this new role is unclear, and it’s all too likely that this new person’s days on the job are already numbered.

“The role failure is the most killer because people don’t see it coming — they get blindsided,” Bradt said.

Personal Failure — the Inability to Hire the Right Person

It sounds so simple, but the potential scenarios working against it abound. A manager is looking to fill a new role; he/she vets and lines up some potential candidates. These candidates come in, sell themselves extremely well, professing how not only are they sufficiently competent in the core skills required for the position, but they have a cape, can fight crime, and in their spare time enjoy building complex computer models that produce advanced baseball statistics and forecasts.

Point being, interviewees can oversell. Who would blame them? They want to get an offer! But managers need to be diligent.

First, really press hard during interviews. Make sure the candidate has clearly defined not what his team accomplished, but what he or she did to move that accomplishment along.

Second, do a complete reference check — call every boss the person has had since the beginning of time, not just the two or three provided, because they’re likely to give rousing reviews.

Third, if offering the position to a top choice, make them take a few days to think about it before they can accept. Open them up to current employees so the candidate can do his or her own due diligence before accepting the role.

As we discussed last week, the elation of receiving a job offer can often prevent that person from actually considering if they are capable of fitting in and doing well. If the candidate takes time to think it over, do some more research, and says yes, then great. If he or she gives it more time, decides it’s not a great fit, and says no, then no harm, no foul — you move on to your second choice.

“Letting the person do their own due diligence [before accepting the job] is one way to help mitigate risk,” Bradt said.

Relationship Failure

Like last week’s post said, not cultivating the right relationships when on-boarding can doom a new hire. The same goes for the boss, who is responsible for creating perhaps the most important relationship in any employment situation.

“What people screw up is the boss doesn’t partner with the new employee and doesn’t help the new employee get a head start in those early days,” Bradt said. “Too many people show up to work their first day and their boss isn’t there — he/she is on vacation, taking a long weekend or at a meeting somewhere else.”

He added, “If you’re going to be out of the office on Monday, have the person start on Tuesday. It’s really not that hard.”

Why? Because most of the time, according to Bradt (and I would have to agree), people don’t quit because they don’t like working at the company. They quit because they don’t get along with their boss.

Engagement Failure

Lastly, make sure a new hire is able to build and cultivate relationships across the board during the on-boarding period. “The best bosses help their new employee make the right connections and form the right relationships across and down,” Bradt said.

The ones that don’t do this, he added, end with up engagement failures — where their new hires, three or four months in, still don’t understand where they fit in, don’t have friends at work and end up quitting.

Putting new hires on the right teams, in the right projects and in situations where they can find their niche is essential to successful on-boarding.

In all, “It’s about aligning [role], acquiring [hire the right person], accommodating [relationship], assimilating and accelerating [engagement],” Bradt said.

Got it? Good.


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