Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Let's Improve Employee Onboarding

The March 24th issue of posted an article by Martha C. White titled, "Too Many New Hires Quit for This Really Dumb Reason."  Here's a quick summary:
  • One in six employees quits a new job within six months.
  • First impressions are lasting impressions when it comes to fitting in on the job.
  • On-boarding is the problem.
  • "Your new boss or HR department does a horrible job orienting you and getting you up to speed." (direct quote)
  • There's only a 90-day window for settling in. Don't mess that up.
  • Inform new employees without overwhelming them.
  • Perks are nice, but what new employees really want is better training.
The article when on to suggest some steps new employees can personally take to alleviate this situation.

1  Start before you get there.
2. Don't be afraid to ask.
3. Seek out a mentor.
4. Be friendly.
5. Approach people the right way.
6. Say thanks.

These are all good suggestions, but they treat the symptom and not the problem.  The problem is that organizations take a "sink or swim" attitude toward new employees.  On-boarding programs vary considerably.  Few address this issue.  A new employee's integration into the organization should not be a self-directed process. There is a better way.

When I was an officer in the U.S. Army, we had a great system for orienting new officers.  Each incoming officer was assigned a "sponsor."  It was that person's job to not only provide you a detailed orientation into your new organization, but to even assist you in getting your family settled.  It was a great program. For the most part, sponsors took their job seriously.  They knew that they, too, needed a sponsor when they were newly assigned.  In short, the process worked for the most part, and new leaders were up to speed in a short amount of time.

Here's a suggestion for how organizations can turbo-charge their on-boarding programs.  Assign a sponsor to each new employee for that employee's first 90 days.  Have a detailed checklist of what is to be covered by the sponsor.  This is an "additional duty," so to provide a proper incentive, give that individual a "sponsor bonus" for that 90-day period. Make it substantial.  Evaluate the effectiveness of each new employee's on-boarding.  Adjust the program accordingly.  If your organization does performance appraisals, evaluate each sponsor's effectiveness during their annual review. Identify and reward your best sponsors in other ways besides the bonus (e.g., recognition, extra bump come raise time, etc.).  While there are direct costs associated with this program, the costs of employee turnover are MUCH higher.

For more information about integrating new leaders, in particular, my book, BEFORE ONBOARDING: How to Integrate New Leaders for Quick and Sustained Results, is a great place to start. You can get it on Amazon and Kindle.  Link to Before Onboarding on Amazon

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Interview in CEOWORLD Magazine

Recently, I was interviewed by "CEOWORLD Magazine" on the topic of "Integrating New Executives into Your Organization."  In this interview I lay out the rationale for a structured integration process as well as some of the steps in the process described in my book, Before Onboarding:  How to Integrate New Leaders for Quick and Sustained Results (Amazon...five stars).  A link to the interview is attached.CEOWORLD Magazine

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Anatomy of a Lost Opportunity

It is a sad thing to see.  A promising leader who anticipates getting an offer for a job for which he is well qualified, doesn't get hired.  There are many reasons why this happens.  Here is one example:

Situation:  The candidate has completed three interviews.  It is for a key member of a start-up team in a greenfield operation.  None of the team members will be building and managing a team of people for at least a year.  There is much work to be done and almost all of it is very hands on.  The future of that organization is bright.  The hiring manager makes it perfectly clear in the interview process that this is a hands on role and that the new leader will be flying solo until the plant is up and running.

The hiring manager, who trusts his newly hired HR person, asks him to call the candidate and get his compensation requirements.  The recruiter is completely unaware that this conversation is taking place. In the candidate presentation process the individual's compensation history and expectations were clearly spelled out to the hiring manager by the recruiter.  The candidate is surprised by the call and quickly gives his current total compensation breakdown, including 401K match, car allowance, etc. He tells the HR person that he has a few questions. 1).  What will my title be? and 2) How many people will I be managing?

The HR person reports the total compensation number to the hiring manager who assumes that this number is his base salary requirements.  The base salary for the job is significantly less than this total amount.  The HR person neglected to explain the breakdown.  He also shares the candidate's questions with the hiring manager.  The hiring manager says he is no longer interested in the candidate.  The HR person calls the candidate and says, with no explanations, that they will be passing on him as a candidate.  The candidate reports all of this to the recruiter who is surprised to say the least and attempts to do damage control. Result: A total communication breakdown occurs and an offer is withheld.

What went wrong?

1.  The hiring manager neglected to keep the recruiter involved in the closing process.
2.  The HR person was not experienced in the offer process for executives.
3.  The candidate did not tell the HR person that he would get back to him soon with the info.
4.  The candidate did not immediately call the recruiter and report the situation.
5.  The candidate asked two questions to which he already knew the answers.
6.  The hiring manager is turned off based on the candidate's questions.
7.  The hiring manager was inflexible in his decision.
8.  The recruiter was unable to resolve the situation.

Lessons that should have been learned:

1.  Keep the recruiter involved to the end of the process.
2.  Use the recruiter as the intermediary in the closing process (company and candidate)..
3.  If you're a candidate, delay with information and questions until you can speak with the recruiter.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Speaking at the World Business of Leadership Summit (WBOLS)

I am pleased to be one of the 25 featured presenters at this year's World Business of Leadership Summit (WBOLS).  My topic is "Executive Integration and Assimilation Strategies."  The Summit lasts from 17 to 28  June.  Other presenters include Marshall Goldsmith, renowned executive coach.

WBOLS is a virtual conference.  From one to three presenters will be doing web-based presentations each day throughout the Summit.  My presentation is on Wednesday, June 19th at 11:30 Eastern time.  You can go on-line at to see the list of presenters, their schedules and to register.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Transitioning New Leaders in the 21st Century

I recently came across an excellent article on the Deloitte Consulting website entitled, "Human Capital Trends for 2013."  Its authors were Deloitte consultants, Bill Pelster and Geoffrey Helt.  Within that article is a section called, "Debunking the Superman Myth" in which the authors assert that organizations still committed to "...trying to identify and clone the mythical perfect leader..." need to face the facts that the world is simply moving too fast for organizations to think they can continue to train leaders to fit a standardized corporate leadership profile.  They suggest that what is driving this need is: Jagged Markets, Perpetual Uncertainty and Instant Obsolescence.  Moreover, yesterday's leadership theories struggle to keep pace with the velocity of today's disruptive marketplace. They conclude that "...many companies continue to pursue a singular vision of the ideal leadership style..." but that "...the humbling truth is that tomorrow's leaders should be able to thrive across multiple complex environments..."

Years ago I saw a chart that talked about the styles of leadership needed for each of the growth stages of an organization: Form, Storm, Norm and Perform.  It made perfect sense to me (and still does). Anyone with diverse leadership experience in the marketplace knows that a start-up company's leader exhibits far different traits than does a leader running an organization in the "norm and perform" stages.

As a veteran executive recruiter, I have seen this situation played out many times.  I have often been asked to recruit a special leader that is right for the circumstances of an organization at a particular time.  For example, if an organization has been operating on cruise control for several years and the market just unhinged them, what my clients have asked me to recruit is a leader with relevant, successful experience turning around or even re-inventing organizations. There is a very high likelihood that such a leader is not the right fit for an organization that is on cruise control. This is one reason why so many organizations decline.  Long after the entrepreneur who created the organization has moved on (often due to an inability or unwillingness to lead an organization that has reached the "Norm" stage), the leadership team evolved into a group of maintainers who are good at making steady, incremental improvements through sound management practices rather than making radical changes that require entirely new ways of thinking.  I have both worked for, and recruited for organizations whose leaders fitting that maintenance description are simply incapable of taking their companies through a reinvention process. .

What I have learned is that it is folly to think that leadership development programs can prepare leaders to function in the volatile market environments of today.  One company the authors cite has managed to categorize its leaders based on their innate talents within specific organizational situations.  Their talent managers and succession planners then plot careers for them where their talents can best be utilized (and where they will be happiest) rather than trying to make them all things to all people.

There will continue to be a need for organizations to recruit new leaders from the outside.  So long as they are committed to supporting new leaders brought in to deal with drastic change, this is often a better approach than trying to grow such talent from within (This assumes of course, that leaders without the necessary attributes do not currently reside within the organization's management ranks.).

New Leader Attrition

One hard fact that is being discussed a lot these days is the staggering attrition rates of new leaders hired from the outside.  The number most tossed about is 40%.  And most of these leaders who ultimately fail do so within two years.  One prominent consultant told me that 18 months is a good target.  If a new leader has managed to succeed for that length of time, there is a high likelihood that success will last longer.  The key lesson that many studies are communicating is that what happens within the first 90 days of a new leader's tenure will often determine if they are still around in two years.  Yet, the vast majority of organizations do nothing to structure an integration period for their new leaders.  This can be an expensive mistake.

This is a situation that has got to change.  If new leaders are brought in to do more than maintain an organization, there is an even higher likelihood that failure will occur.  Change agents are in a risky position. So it is even more important that they be properly integrated into their new roles.

These studies determined that while internally promoted new leaders succeed at a higher rate than outside hires, the success differential is marginal.  The lesson is that internally promoted or transferred leaders also need to be formally integrated into their new roles, not just outside hires.

How does an organization do this?  They must commit to creating and implementing a structured new leader integration process that ALL new leaders (regardless of the level or the source of the candidate) go through. It is best that this process begin in advance of the start date (i.e.. "pre-boarding" versus "on-boarding") and continue through the first 90 days a new leader is on board--sometimes longer.

In addition to being the author of a "five star" rated book on this subject (Amazon), Before Onboarding:  How to Integrate New Leaders for Quick and Sustained Results, I have spent many months researching what a variety of organizations are doing to solve this problem.  In addition to the proven model that I lay out in my book, I have turned these numerous case studies into an on-site, two-day, hands-on workshop that I provide to HR management teams on a global basis.  After this workshop, they will have seen and analyzed a dozen case studies and will be able to take from them the best parts that are applicable to their own organization's unique leader integration requirements. For more information on this workshop, contact me at or call 314-341-1139.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Executive Integration Network

I am pleased to announce that I have formed a new LinkedIn group called the Executive Integration Network.  The target members for this group are HR, talent management, talent acquisition and organization development executives and consultants who are seeking a forum in which to exchange ideas and best practices for integrating newly recruited or promoted leaders into organizations.

This new group is already up on LinkedIn.  I will be better organizing this group in the days ahead.  Should you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at  Look for future posts on this topic.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Worthy On-Line Job Search Resource

We have surely come a long way in the realm of advice to job seekers.  I wish I had access to the myriad of tools currently available when I was in a job transition back in 1988.  I was fortunate to be provided a comprehensive outplacement program with a major firm.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that I had nine weeks of severance pay...well, not actually...I had five weeks of severance, two weeks notice and two weeks of vacation to cash in.  That abundance of cash came at a good time.  I only had two in college, a new mortgage and two car payments.

I recall being interviewed by the firm's psychologist, an individual who has remained a good friend for over two decades.  He had a series of assessments for me to do, some of which I had taken in a previous career.  I thanked him for his concern and efforts and then said I didn't have time for all of that because I had nine weeks to find a job.  He laughed.  I didn't.  But I can say this for the situation I was in:  I did not lack focus.

The facilities were decent and there was a library (yes...a library) of reference material.  There were several copies of leading newspapers available to us, as well.  We each had a cubicle with a phone. That was it.  Laptops with wireless communications networks were unheard of then.  We had yellow legal pads on which to write our resumes and cover letters.  We handed these drafts to one of two perpetually stressed out administrative folks whose job it was to do the impossible, fast.  There were many executives in need of letters and resumes.  We were not accustomed to having to wait for things.

There is a happy ending.  I had a job within nine weeks.  Someday I will write a book about it (not).

So now we are in 2011 and once again, there is an abundance of executives in transition.  I feel for these people, but there is one significant difference between their situation and mine back in 1988--technology, and lots of it.  The Internet and social networking in general are godsends to executives who know how to find the right resources and use them (and trust them).  I am always on the lookout for good resources to share.

My latest find is a website at .  It ranks up there with the very best career transition advice sites.  They cover a wide array of job search tips and the quality of their advice is pretty good.  I judge everything of this nature on how much I would have benefited from it in 1988.  This would have been a jewel of a resource to me back then and it is today. If you're in a career transition, check it out.