In this article, Interfacio founder and principal consultant Richard Wear talks about the need to focus on the time between finalising a key new hire for your business and the agreed start date, to avoid some common mistakes that could undermine the success of your important new appointment.
How many times have you stood waiting at an airport gate, with the excitement that’s been building since planning your trip, gradually fading away and being replaced with tiredness, irritation and even self-doubt? It can make for the worst start to a well-planned holiday or business trip. And a bad start to a journey may affect the outcome and enjoyment of the whole thing for some, or at the very least it may set you back as you get started into the activities you have planned.
As a hiring manager, inhouse recruiter, HR business partner, recruitment consultant or executive search professional – you’ll be familiar with this scenario. After weeks or sometimes months of intense work searching and recruiting for a key new hire, you finally get the deal over the line and celebrate. But what happens next?
The concept of ‘Onboarding’ is well understood amongst HR teams and with many business owners and managers, who will quite rightly plan and invest in early-phase engagement and monitoring activities and programmes once someone has started. But at a time when top talent is in short supply and the task of identifying, selecting and confirming a key new appointment for your business is becoming increasingly time consuming and costly, getting the pre-boarding phase right is perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of the process.
We have seen this in our business increasingly in recent years. After all the hard work that has lead to the closing of a new hire, both parties are energized and also relieved when the deal is finally inked. But then there is often a delay or pause in the engagement, as normal business is resumed, and you wait until the new team member arrives for their first day.
For both parties, employer and employee, human nature as well as the day to day pressures of business can take over.
The hiring manager or team gets drawn into or switches back to the pressing issues of the day within the business, content in the knowledge that they have finished the long and challenging process of finding and securing their key new hire.
And for the individual, embarking on what may be a major new chapter in their professional life and career, the focus, excitement and stress of securing the appointment or negotiating the right deal will give way to life suddenly being ‘back to normal’ for a while. There will be a void, where previously there was an ongoing and intense interaction and focus.
Contact may well tail off or even dry up altogether. Engagement with the new business is lost or goes quiet for a while. And during this critical time, for the new appointee, other people start to become aware that you are moving on including current colleagues, customers and competitors.
This inevitably leads to a review of the decision that’s been made to move on or commit to a new company, career challenge or direction. Human nature can kick in at this point, and for even the most capable and confident individual, doubts or reflection may emerge.
We recruiters like to talk in relationship analogies, and for good reason. You only have to look at what happens when a relationship moves from casual dating to something more serious, to engagement and on to marriage, to see the way human nature tried to ensure that the relationship is given the best chance of success.
Asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you or accepting that proposal is possibly one of the biggest decisions many people will ever make. And once made, it is normal and natural for support to be on hand from family, friends and within the relationship itself as you move on to plan the wedding.
It’s critical to make sure that the same support and focus is maintained once you have agreed to get together in a professional context.
The importance of Pre-boarding
Between signing and starting, there are some key things to implement to ensure you get the best result from your key new hire. Getting these things right doesn’t need to cost a lot in time or money. But the cost of getting them wrong may be immeasurable and irrecoverable for your business.
Keep up the dialog
In a time where talent is short, and businesses are more and more concerned about hiring the right person, the time between making the deal and start date may be extending for many businesses. Think about the level of contact there has been and look to keep that going. Perhaps not at quite the same level as during final negotiations, but at a reasonable frequency to ensure that both parties are continuing to think about each other. This will ensure the relationship is nurtured and continues to evolve naturally in the context of developments within the business and for the individual personally.
Pay attention to the details
Nothing makes a clearer impression as the way in which details are attended to and managed. It is critical that the same level of attention and quality is given to the details of planning for someone to come on board, as was shown when the employment agreement was being made. This might be around travel arrangements, provision of personal equipment or home office facilities, relocation, or introductions to key members of the internal team and even to customers. Get these things right and you will build security and strengthen trust and confidence within the relationship before you even start working together. Get it wrong and this will be undermined, possibly for ever.
Maintain the same contacts
Often, once an appointment has been made, the hiring manager will hand the appointment over to other members of their team, to coordinate details or communications. Although this may be necessary, the hirer needs to be careful not to lose the relationship thread that the appointment itself was built upon.
Small nuanced details agreed during the selection process can easily become lost or forgotten. This can have a huge impact on your new hire, and you may not even learn about it until much later, when it is too late. So if you are the hiring manager, or HR lead for a key recruitment, ensure that you check in regularly, and keep a close eye on what is happening during the preboarding phase.
Create focus and momentum
For both parties it is key to ensure there is continuity of focus within the relationship, replacing what may have been somewhat abstract or isolated discussions around possible strategies or actions within the business, to practical realities involving actual situations, challenges and opportunities. Keeping up a dialog around real issues within the business as well as areas of interest or concern for your new hire will ensure that both parties remain appropriately and properly engaged together.
Set the scene properly
Finally, it is critical to ensure that the messaging in your business, regarding your new appointment, is consistent with everything that has been discussed directly with the new hire. Internal as well as external communications can become blurred or altered, if other potentially conflicting dynamics or situations are not properly addressed in a clear and honest way. How many times have we seen someone start a new job, and it is clear from the outset that different stakeholders have been given a slightly different version of the agreed reality around a new appointment to suit their own interests or agenda? This is likely to be extremely damaging and will lead to confusion, and resentment. It could even lead to the failure of the very appointment that you worked so hard to achieve in the first place.
There are no guarantees in business, and when it comes to hiring, we must remember that however carefully we select and plan, we are dealing with real people. But with a little planning, and some simple actions, you can make sure you can give your business the best possible chance of making a success of your key new hire.
Hopefully, after the honeymoon, there will be years of successful mutually rewarding partnership to enjoy together.
If you’d like to discuss a challenging new hire within your business or speak about how best to develop a process to ensure you have the best possible pre-boarding process, do get in touch to arrange to speak with a member of our consultant team.