Ten Steps to Providing a “Safe haven” for Outside Talent

By Linda Sharkey, Founding Member, The Marshall Goldsmith Group

Ideally, you would take cultural factors into consideration in the hiring process by exploring cultural norms and conditions when assessing the prospective candidate. While few companies do this well, where it is done well it exponentially increases the success rate of the new hire  (Sharkey & Eccher, 2010). In the absence of doing this step during the hiring process, cultural understanding should be step one of the on-boarding and integration process.

1. Ideally, you have a clear picture of what your company’s current culture is. Do this in a systematic way using researched, valid and reliable instruments. I recommend using the Organization Culture Inventory (OCI) to determine the current actual operating culture. Many people think they know the culture and describe it in anecdotal terms, often not correct or rosier then the true culture. Having the indisputable facts is essential. Using a valid and reliableinstrument measures the culture in a concrete way. The OCI culture profile can then be used as part of the discussion with the new hires.

2. Review the current culture in light of your values and highlight the “disconnects”. Most organizations are striving to achieve their values, so it is common that there will be disconnects between what is espoused and what is reality. Be clear on this point if there are “disconnects”. A disconnect is not bad, it is just reality. A gap, if you will, that the organization is trying to close. Make this explicit to the new hire, so that there is not a sense of disappointment when they don’t see the value in action.

3. Assign a coach who will have a dialogue with the new hire on how to navigate the culture. Discuss the culture that the new employee likes and elements that may be difficult.

4. Use this discussion as the basis for personal action plans for each new hire. These plans will guide the employee throughout the on-boarding and integration phase.

5. Ensure the new hire selects several organization stakeholders that they can check in with periodically to measure how they are doing. These stakeholders can be other peers, subordinates and their boss. Stakeholders are essential partners in supporting success and also in measuring impact of the new hire integration process. Stakeholders should be included in the action plan and actively enrolled for support.

6. Enlist the hiring manager so that they can support the assimilation and be aware of any challenges. Involve the manager as a stakeholder in the personal develop plan. Hiring managers can provide a great deal of “air cover” if they are aware of the plans. They can be a principle source of advice in navigating the cultural landmines.

7. Form coaching circles of new employees for discussion and support. Circles should be no more than 4 to 5 individuals to share their development plans,experiences and strategies. Circles should meet at least every 2 weeks for no more than 1 hour to not waste time and go for duration of 4 to 6 months. Discussions should focus on the personal action plans, progress made in assimilation, observations, challenges and strategies for success.

8. Assign a master coach to the circles. The coach helps facilitate the dialogue so that the group does not get bogged down. Each coach should use a process to keep the discussion moving and provide suggestions and insights into actions to be successful. Master coaches can be either internal or external or a combination until internal staff is ready to take the task on independently.Master coaches help to drive accountability to the process and show organization commitment and support.

9. Measure progress periodically and formally at the end of the 4 to 6 month period. Look at the performance of the new hires who participated in this process against those that did not. What are their performance ratings at tend of the year? What is the retention rate over the next 12 to 18 months? Collect data from the hiring manager, the new hire and of course stakeholders.

10. Communicate success and review the process to fine tune it for the next round of new hires. Use former members of this process as stakeholders to the next wave of new hires. Also consider them for master coaching roles. I have seen this work with great success!

Following these steps will guarantee strong loyalty and retention of the talent that you bring in from the outside. They will more quickly feel part of your organization. A process such as this is much less expensive than having a new hire “flame out”. Once someone “flames out” you have to go back to the drawing board, spend more money on search and risk the demoralizing of existing staff. Worst yet, they may poach some of you existing talent when they leave. It is worth spending time creating a world-class on-boarding and integration process that ultimately saves you time and money. Plus your company will be branded as a great place to join!

Written by Linda Sharkey, Founding Member, The Marshall Goldsmith Group.

This article an excerpt from an Insights pack where she shares some of her knowledge based on her experience as Global Chief Talent Officer at HP and at GE for over 10 years.

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