Reassess your onboarding program for a virtual environment
Now is the time to take the traditional onboarding process to a new level with an intentional look at how HR teams can successfully integrate leaders in this new landscape. Whether your organization is integrating new leaders virtually or in-person, understanding the needs of new leaders and ensuring they know how to succeed in your organizational culture remain vital to a successful integration and overall organizational wellbeing.
If your current onboarding program consists of a tactical snapshot of what your company is and does, but doesn’t cover how to be successful in this new environment, then you are putting your company and new leader at risk of failing from the start.
Most companies commit significant resources to fill a leadership role, whether that person represents an external hire or internal promotion. Yet authors Mark Byford, Michael D. Watkins and Lena Triantogiannis wrote in their May-June 2017 article, “Onboarding Isn’t Enough,” appearing in the Harvard Business Review, that 61% of executives are not prepared for their new leadership role, and 50-60% of executives fail within the first 18 months on the job. As Marshall Goldsmith notes in his leadership book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, the success strategies that worked in one organizational environment will not necessarily translate into success in a new one.
Senior leaders expect newly hired and promoted executives to contribute immediately in these unprecedented times. Yet, without a road map, a new leader’s chances of finding the shortest and fastest route to success can feel like a scavenger hunt. This guessing game takes time and resources away from meeting the critical priorities of the new role.
Here are a few ideas to successfully onboard your new leader virtually:
- Create an intentional plan. Your virtual onboarding plan won’t happen on its own. Take the initiative to put a plan in place before the first day rolls around. Create a roadmap with roles and responsibilities well defined for each current associate. Who does what in the process and how: What will HR provide? What will the hiring Manager and others on the team provide? What will the overall onboarding success look like?
- Facilitate building a new network to promote connection and belonging. These foundational human needs may not occur naturally in a virtual world. Set up virtual meetings with team members, peers, and leadership. HR and the hiring manager must partner in planning and initiating these meetings to build an internal network from week one. Get creative with virtual coffee meetings, lunches, and other opportunities.
- Help your leader focus on information critical for success. Information is moving faster now, and with access to online media, there is a lot of detail for a new leader to synthesize. Together with the new leader, map out a 90-day critical priority plan and discuss success strategies tailored to your specific organization and overall strategic initiatives. Address any virtual implications to the plan. How will the new leader build relationships and logistically specific industry education if travel to various work sites/locations is not an option?
- Take time to review the job specifications. Ask your new leader to highlight strengths as well as growth areas. Talk through the leader’s previous experience and gauge competency, seeking to understand how the team can better support the new leader’s development in your organization. Is the leader new in your industry? What past experience or strengths can the leader leverage? What resources, information, and direction can you provide to help in the identified gaps?
- Set a regular communication cadence. In a virtual world you won’t be seeing each other in the hallways or break areas. Place follow-up meetings on the calendar from day one. This is imperative as your new leader learns how to function in a new environment successfully while working virtually. Check in on how network developing is going. What roadblocks have emerged? Share any critical feedback around early successes and potential derailing behaviors. Catch the “derailers” early and coach for realignment.
In the new virtual environment, the senior leader and/or HR professional must do everything to protect the new leader as a human capital investment. Virtual leadership integration does just that. It is a strategic and intentional process that positions new leaders for accelerated integration by equipping them with an intentional plan for success. Gallagher can help your organization customize an integration plan for your next leadership hire to avoid costly organizational impact and help your company and your new leader face the future with confidence.
Ginger Duncan, Senior Leadership Advisor and Executive Coach, specializes in the development of leaders and teams to gain a competitive advantage and deliver sustainable business results. With over 20 years’ experience in leadership development, coaching, facilitation, and training, plus 11 years leading the talent development function in a corporate setting, Ginger has extensive experience partnering throughout organizations to guide strategic business alignment.