If you are the COO of a small to medium-sized company, do you have experience integrating new leadership team members? It’s critical for you to have a process in place so that when you hire a new executive, you can acclimate this new hire to your team in a smooth and professional way.
The best way to integrate new leadership members is to:
- Create a detailed onboarding plan for the first 90 days
- Include in this plan all the key meetings: with sales, marketing, finance, operations
- Ensure that your new hire can get to know these other team members in a comfortable and informative way
- Set clear expectations for the first 90 days: Do you want her/him to create a 3-month plan? Become familiar with your inventory and product lines? Spell out precisely what is expected.
- Build trust. You can do this by communicating both the good and the bad: Let the new hire know where people in this role might have fallen short; let her know what the biggest challenges of the position are. Don’t sugar coat the reality. Let your executive know the truth and hear his suggestions for fixes. In his book Traction, Gino Wickman says, “Trust starts with you. You set the tone by openly admitting mistakes and issues and then working together to solve them.”
- Set the expectation about when the new hire will be expected to make department personnel changes as required: Not too soon, and not too late. Each leadership team member needs to know that he is responsible for his department’s performance, and if there are people in the group who are not meeting the company’s expectations, then changes have to be made. Make sure that everyone who is going to be replaced gets a fair hearing and a clear explanation about why he is not a good fit for the job.
Some companies integrate a new leader into the management team by emphasizing learning at all levels and asking the executive to complete a questionnaire that compares practices in the manager’s former company with his new setting. In this way, the recent hire can understand how the culture in his new firm may differ from that of his previous employer’s.
Integration is Key to the Executive’s Success
The importance of integrating new managers into your firm successfully cannot be underestimated. As the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) noted in a report about onboarding:
“In Fortune 500 companies alone, about 500,000 managers take on new roles each year, and overall, managers begin new jobs every two to four years. Unfortunately, in the midst of all these transitions:
- Half of all senior outside hires fail within 18 months in a new position.
- Half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first 120 days.”
In their article in Harvard Business Review, writers Mark Byford, Michael D. Watkins and Lena Triantogiannis noted that in an online survey of 588 executives at the VP level or above conducted by international executive search firm Egon Zehnder, almost 60% reported that it took them six months to have a full impact in their new roles. Close to 20% said it took them nine months.
Based on their research, you can decrease the time it takes to get an executive up to speed and implement processes that can improve the integration into a new organization.
The authors describe the process:
“These might include team-building workshops and deep-dive discussions about strategy. The organization helps the new executive identify specific cultural challenges to be overcome, as the global communications company does with its questionnaire about previous ways of working.” These may seem like common sense suggestions, but the authors have found that few companies offer such detailed onboarding.
“Despite the clear value to be gained, our research suggests that no more than 2% of global companies address integration this systematically,” the authors stated.
Distinct Methods for Integration
Companies have developed customized plans to onboard executives.
- “On the first day of employment, American Express provides each new hire with a human resources partner, hiring manager, and external assimilation coach to formulate a 100-day transition plan and to provide continuous support during the onboarding stage,” TD.org reports.
- TD.org also notes that Johnson & Johnson, Canada, tailors its onboarding program to the specific needs of each new employee. For example, new hires from outside the company enter a different onboarding track than those hired from within the company. Internal hires also are onboarded differently according to their key skill gaps, which the company has previously identified through its performance management process.
- Google now uses an electronic checklist to remind managers to discuss roles and responsibilities with new hires, set up check-in meetings for the first six months, and match new hires with a peer buddy, according to the Harvard Business Review.
- Zappos offers new hires a five-week course that teaches them about the culture and values of Zappos, according to HBR.
- At Twitter, managers start thinking about onboarding well before a new hire’s first day by streamlining the many steps and interactions that must occur to make a new hire’s early days at the company welcoming and successful, wrote HBR.
Conclusion – Benefits
You have spent the time and money to recruit and hire your new leadership team member.
The Society for Human Resource Management noted that there are definite benefits to be gained by integrating a new executive successfully into your company:
“….research shows that when onboarding is done correctly, it leads to:
- Higher job satisfaction.
- Organizational commitment.
- Lower turnover.
- Higher performance levels.
- Career effectiveness.
- Lowered stress.”
The extra effort you take to integrate this leader into your company will be well worth it, and the strong team you develop in the process will serve your firm for years to come, with the results showing on your bottom line.