The full embrace (Strategic On-boarding, part 1)

11 05 2011

  “On-boarding” is the name for the collection of processes and tasks that need to be completed to bring a new worker into an organization and up to speed.  Typical on-boarding processes include things like filling out I-9 and W4 forms (in the United States), filling out benefit forms, attending company training, getting a company photo ID and or security badge, and even procuring equipment such as phones, laptops, offices and the like.  The goal of on-boarding is to “dot I’s and cross T’s” all in an effort to get a new employee compliant with corporate policy and productive as soon as possible.   An extension of on-boarding involving talent management activities goes past just bringing someone into the organization and  involves full “assimilation” into the person’s role inside the company.  This is sometimes referred to as “strategic on-boarding.”

There are two goals to a strategic on-boarding process.  The first is simple and straight-forward, that is to make sure the organization hold on to any information it learned about the new employee during the recruiting process.  Second, and more involved, is the process to make sure the employee fully understands what is expected of him or her in the role.

Organizations that do a good job making decisions on who to hire and who not to hire spend a great deal of time and resources to make those decisions.  A great deal of investment goes into hiring, including: advertising open positions, sourcing, interviewing, assessment testing, background checking, and so on.  All of these associated processes generate a huge volume of data on both those people that are eventually hired and those who are not.    Most organizations that have more that several hundred employees track candidates using an automated system to track candidates and in many cases to report on hiring practice compliance issues.

Unfortunately, many organizations miss an opportunity to get more return on the huge investment they make in hiring.  Once a candidate has been hired and is brought into the organization, all of the learning and information gathered about an individual is effectively “lost.”  Managers and co-workers of course remember some of what they learned about their new colleague during interviews, but the reusable “data” about the person is not saved in a reusable format.  Resumes may go into a personnel file in a cabinet in HR.  If they are saved in an applicant tracking system, the resume is the same as lost because it is not easily available to any other process.  The results of assessment tests or applications or questionnaires are lost as well.

An integrated talent management solves the problem of “lost” data very easily.  Data captured during the recruiting and interviewing process gets added to a “container” in the form of an employee or “talent” profile.  Profile management for the employee acts as an electronic file for the employee, storing the results of any talent management process that person is involved in.  The profile includes information the person is privy to, such as the results of their last performance review, compensation history, and information they may have volunteered themselves (e.g. relocation or travel preferences, career aspirations, etc.) It may also include information about the individual that the company chooses not to make transparent to the person such as potential assessment ratings or their status as part of a succession slate or talent pool.

By saving or “moving forward” the learning about an individual in the hiring process to an employee profile, the organization increases the value of their talent management database.  Over the course of a career employees move around in an organization.  Managers change.  New people join.  The prior work history and experience of a new candidate is “forgotten” by the organization as a whole.  Captured in a profile, that information becomes searchable information that HR professionals and line managers can leverage in the future.

The second goal of strategic on-boarding is to assimilate the person into the specific role they are in.  The start of a new job is an important inflection point in the person’s career at a new company.  It is at the start of a new job when a person is on “high-receive” in terms of learning about the organization.  Is this a high-energy, fast paced environment, or slower paced?  Do people get to work early and go home late or do they punch the clock right at quitting time?  Most of what a new employee learns is going to be through observing their fellow employees; however, an integrated talent management system can help set the desired tone for new employees.

In any large organization there is variance in the quality and methods of line managers.  From manager to manager the first few weeks on the job might be vastly different from one employee to another.  What a talent management system can do is to put the process in place that ensures each employee is understands the answers to the following questions:

  • What is my job description?
  • What behaviors and responsibilities are associated with my job?
  • What are the goals of the company as a whole?
  • What are the goals of my manager and the organization that I am in?
  • What specifically are my goals?
  • What do I get if I achieve those goals?

Certainly it is important from a HR standpoint to get people enrolled into different talent management programs they may be a part of, but what the answers above questions do for an employee is to help them understand “how do I succeed here?”

Mike Ditson




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