Don’t Leave On-boarding to Chance

Onboarding, employee transition, employee engagement, employee success, KPIs

Companies that have “On-boarding” programs are generally regarded as forward thinking and ones that place great store in the value of human capital. However, your success at a new company should not be dependent on its home grown program alone. Consider some key facts:

  1. 40% of newly hired executives fail to meet their objectives in the first year – Industry Week Magazine (2010)
  2. Average time to reach full productivity for executives = 24 to 28 weeks – Bersin & Associates (2008)
  3. The biggest mistake new executives make in the first 90 days is not understanding the culture before making changes – Journal of American Academy of Business (2008)
  4. “Organizational dynamics, structure, norms and language” are some of the most least valued components of onboarding programs but  they are the areas where employees struggle most upon joining a new company – Intrepid Learning 2011

Most organizations in reality, do a poor job of on-boarding. Sure the filling out of paperwork, lunch and learns and gaining access cards are all useful but these will not help the new executive become operationally savvy quickly.

The solution? Take matters into your own hands and drive your own on-boarding process.  Don’t wait for HR or your boss to take the reins AND in fact, start the process well before your first day on the job.

Here are 10 things you can do to improve your success in a new assignment with a new employer:


  1. Get the financial picture. Research the organization’s financial situation via their web site, news feeds, SEDAR etc.
  2. Get the cultural picture. Find out what it is really like to work at the new company by talking to current and former employees, especially the person that held the job before you. Use your LinkedIn connections to gain introductions
  3. Get the people picture. Gain a sense of the players you will be working with. Go to an Annual General Meeting. Review the bios of board members, your future boss, peers and team (again via LinkedIn), Who’s Who or Google search
  4. Go behind the official job posting. Find out how long the search has been going on. What caused the opening, has the role description changed and assess the role’s SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time) based accountabilities


  1. Review the organization structure. How a company is organized can tell you what it considers important and how it will likely behave. Is it organized along geography, product or function? How much is centralized versus regionalized? Is there a stronger orientation towards one rather than others
  2. Understand the perception of your role and your team. Are your team seen as people that get things done or the gatekeepers and bureaucrats or worse; a necessary evil. Get the perspective of peer level colleagues that interact with your team not just the VP
  3. Pick your measures carefully. Organizations have myriad measures, reports and data but find the 3 or 4 that get the attention of the CEO and Board. Know these intimately. How will you contribute to these critical few measures
  4. Create a detailed 100 day plan. Create a document  and review it with your boss, team, peers and customers (internal and external). Be explicit and ensure there are SMART objectives listed. Define success by targeting high impact issues that you KNOW you can hit. Don’t try to change the world (at least not in your first 100 days!)
  5. Plan the work and work the plan. Get everyone on board and make it a part of everything you do. Do spot checks with your boss, team and customers to make sure their expectations are being met along the way. Don’t wait until day 99 to ask “How am I doing?”
  6. Find the trusted advisers. Filter out the “yes men” from those that want you to succeed. You may find several within and outside the organization. Find a mentor.

The Human Well helps companies and leaders across organizations of all size develop meaningful on-boarding programs for an impactful first 100 days.

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