Onboarding Equation . . and 4 Ways to Influence it

I am reading a book called Emotional Equations by Chip Conley.  As a recovering engineer, I am still attracted to simple ways to understand a complex event – and for anyone who has spent time in a science class, that is what an equation represents.

So here is an equation:  Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

The fundamental event of hiring and effectively onboarding a new person is captured in this equation.  It is no wonder that 40% of leaders from outside organizations fail within 18 months (Watkins – The First 90 Days).  We all have stories of experiencing or observing the moment when the This is not what I signed up for panic hits.

A key part of managing talent coming into your organization or transitioning into a new role is managing this equation.  Here are two ways to better manage this equation for new people:

  1. Name it in orientation:  EVERYONE will feel this at some point, so openly talk about it and have a few people share when it happened for them AND how they worked through it.  (great reason to have a panel discussion of newer employees at some point)
  2. Make connections for them Day 1 so they do not feel alone:  Assign someone in the department or another department as a mentor and guide (someone who can empathize with this person).  It takes 6-12 months to become comfortable/productive in a new role, so this person should stick around (especially if the leader is not good at this).

For a person transitioning into a new role:

  1. Create a plan for success:  On day 1, use a development plan template to talk about why they got the role (their talents/successes), what success looks like, and what they need to be successful.  This provides the individual with a target, some encouragement, and a framework for revisiting the how is it going question and make adjustments as necessary.
  2. Assign a friend/mentor:  For individual contributors or managers give them a mentor (or the leader should do weekly one on ones for 6 months).  For an executive get them a coach.  The ROI for a coach is in avoiding the cost of a bad transition (team turnover, mismanaged budget, etc.).  It will pay for itself, and there is plenty of research to back that up.

Talent management is about great conversations.  Talking about this equation is a great conversation for a person in transition.