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Talent Development Hacks for Effective Onboarding Using Early Wins

I recently attended a B2BCamp series of presentations where one of the presenters reminded everyone of one of the most effective onboarding techniques for new employees – secure an early win.

The logic is that the early win can gain the new employee credibility and confidence within the organization. The problem is that some new people – especially those in more senior level positions – want to go for the “big sweeping change” and risk losing credibility because of the length of time it takes to implement.

What talent development strategy can HR use to help get this onboarding strategy implemented? Learn more below.

One of the best business books that I have read is The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. In his book he outlines steps that leaders of all levels can use to be more successful in their transition to a new role – whether it is an internal promotion or external hire.

One of the strategies that Watkins outlines is Secure Early Wins.

“By the end of your transition, you want your boss, your peers and your subordinates to feel that something new and good is happening. Early wins excite and energize people, build your credibility, and quickly create value for your organization”.

The logic for the early win is straight forward. The challenge comes in getting the wins in the right way. This is where Human Resources management can help their respective business units in developing an onboarding strategy to help their new employees succeed. 

Why is this important? Because their guidance can help new employees avoid the wrong type of win which can severely damage the career of a new employee. These traps, as outlined by Watkins are: 

Failing to focus.

One of the most common traps for new employees trying to make a mark is to attempt to do too much. This lack of focus leads to over promising, under-delivery and lost confidence that the employee can deliver results. It is better to zero in on some manageable A list priorities that will help in securing victory and have a positive business impact. 

Not taking the business situation into account.

What makes up a win will differ from business unit to business unit, company to company. The new employee will need some help in getting the proper context on what defines a win. This is where HR in collaboration with the business units can help bring clarity and definition and point the new employee down a productive path. This is especially important when looking at short term versus long term challenges. While the long term challenges may be critical the new employee can risk losing credibility if they are not focused on the immediate problems at hand. 

Not adjusting to the corporate culture.

One of the most important elements to effective onboarding is learning the culture. As Watkins says”

“Leaders who come into an organization from the outside can fall into this trap. After absorbing a different organization’s culture, they bring with them its view of what a win is and how it is achieved. Be sure you understand what your new organization does and does not view as a win”.

Failing to get wins that matter to your boss.

Alignment of priorities between the new employee and their boss is a critical element to onboarding. What constitutes a win may be different for each of them. Human Resources can help provide an objective third party view on how to better align priorities so that everyone wins in the end. 

Letting your means undermine your ends.

Integrity matters. Nothing will undermine an employee’s position in their organization more than being seen as being deceptive or in it only for themselves.  As Watkins explains:

“Process matters. If you achieve impressive results in a way that colleagues think is manipulative, underhanded or inconsistent with the corporate culture, you’re asking for trouble. An early win accomplished in a way that illustrates the behavior you hope to instill in your new organization is a double win”.

Bringing individuals into the organization from outside or promoting from within is one of the most important talent development responsibilities that Human Resource leaders have. Unfortunately this is left to each business unit to manage and the results can be negative. HR can provide the objective counsel to the business unit leaders on how to develop an “early win” program. The results speak for themselves – improved results, increased engagement and lower turnover.