Posted by ATD
Viewpoint: 5 Key Steps to Effective Manager Onboarding
In my role as an organizational development leader, I have worked closely with frontline staff who reported anxiety, distress and fear from the prospect of losing their manager and having to adapt to a new leadership style. The change can be taxing on employee engagement and productivity since new managers tend to shift direction and introduce new models of operation. Whether bringing on a new manager from the outside, or promoting a manager from within the organization, it is critical to invest the time and resources to develop them so they can set the right direction for the team, influence engagement and promote the company's values and culture.
Think back to your first day of work, or talk to someone who has recently joined a new organization or group, and most likely you'll hear similar thoughts about what new employees want. Most people want to feel welcome and hope their onboarding experience is personalized to meet their needs. Make it about me, guide me through my workspace tools and applications, provide me with the guidance I need to succeed as a manager in my new position, help me get to know my key stakeholders, and create a clear map of leadership success behaviors.
Throughout the years, numerous people have shared with me their disappointing experiences with onboarding. Those moments are unforgettable. Megan reported staying in her office for three days prior to meeting an interested peer. David shared his disappointment in having no mentor to show him the basic management tools used in the organization. Michael laughed as he recounted how he had to rely on his team to access the company's organizational chart and strategic goals. Cheryl expressed her discomfort as her vice president asked her to develop a strategic charter and present it at the management forum three days after her promotion to a new role. She was clueless about the strategy and the process to develop one. "I wanted to run and quit. I realized I made a big mistake," she says. Today, Cheryl leads a large team, and it took her 18 months to feel comfortable in the role.
What is missing in all these stories? A well-designed onboarding process that takes into consideration new managers' needs and specific measures of success at the operational, leadership, cultural and organizational levels. How can talent development leaders make the company's brand a focal point in the new manager experience? How can you bring into perspective a memorable experience? How can you influence the long-term retention of emerging managers?
Gallup research found that managers are accountable for 70 percent of employee engagement variance. A study of more than 7,200 U.S. adults concluded that half of employees leave their jobs to get away from their managers.
Most of us agree, then, that leaders—the new manager's manager—have significant influence on retention, including during the onboarding experience. It starts with a clear communication of manager expectations. Building the relationship with a new manager is imperative to his success and his ability to acclimate to a new role with confidence and trust.
In addition to feeling valued and engaged, research suggests that creating the connection is vital to new managers leading their team in the right direction through succinct goals and action plans. And while all forms of communication are effective, Gallup reports that managers who promote transparency, clarity and safe communication are the most successful at influencing the new manager experience. Influential leaders plan time to meet with their new employees, get to know them and ultimately promote an environment of safety, trust and open communication.
Building a genuine leader-manager relationship also will likely influence the new or promoted manager's integration into the role, which ultimately influences her decision to stay. Unfortunately, this is not a common practice. According to Harvard Business Review, a survey of 588 executives at the vice president level and above found that less than one-third received any meaningful support during their onboarding process. Around 60 percent reported that it took them more than six months to have a full impact in their new roles. That certainly is a big miss in productivity.
Leaders should not underestimate the power of their role in onboarding new managers to a place of influence and integration. Leaders in general agree with research that reveals that when employees are happy, they are more likely to stay, more eager to influence the customer experience, and more likely to promote a healthy culture and exhibit collaborative behaviors. A new manager's manager has the most significant influence on those outcomes.
In my 25 years of experience with onboarding programs, a memorable and effective program boils down to five key ingredients. It can be remembered easily with the acronym CAMPS:
Connect. Create a connection with the new or promoted manager prior to and throughout the first 90 days. This is one of those defining practices that brings relief to new managers because it alleviates the stress of knowing what to expect throughout the onboarding process.
Align. Select a mentor (I use the term buddy) to support the manager's onboarding process. Ensure the buddy is vested in the right leadership behaviors. Train the buddy to provide support to the new manager and to help him acclimate to a new culture. Increase buddy awareness about different styles in the workplace, emotional intelligence, influence and trust.
Manage. Schedule time to meet with the new manager on day one and plan to connect daily for optimal results. Share your vision, values and expectations. Discuss pertinent challenges and design a personalized development plan. Hire an external coach or work with an internal one to support the new manager's integration into the new role.
Plan. Plan weekly milestones with the new manager and buddy. Schedule meetings and shadowing moments with key stakeholders. Incorporate strategic discussions into the process. Assess progress using reliable technological solutions. Incorporate career development discussions early in the process.
Streamline. Track the new manager's weekly milestones and progress of the development plan. Integrate feedback loops and "wow" moments into the process, such as a welcome gift, lunch with peers, a "day with my manager," introduction in management meetings, or a surprise visit from a senior leader. These small wins create long-term value for new managers.
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