Let them in
Start as you meant to go on and involve your new hire in the process. Rather than setting out what their onboarding will look like, let them take the reins. Before their start date get some time in to talk through what they think is important and what they want to learn about the business and the team. You can use that to build a timetable for their first couple of weeks that will ensure they get the information and start to develop the relationships they need to make an impact quickly.
Encourage them to be the critical eye
If you want someone to shift the direction of the business or to create change you need to give them permission to do so. As they interact with the new team, attend meetings, and meet with clients, ask them to keep notes on what they see, what they learn, what they think could have gone better, and how it compares to their past experience. This gives them permission to offer new perspectives and initiate positive change from the outset. At the end of every week invite them to share their observations with you.
Which brings us onto the next point – block out quality time to spend with them on a one-to-one basis. It’s likely you’re investing a lot of budget and a lot of faith in this new appointment, so make sure you invest your time in their first weeks. If they have a question, prioritise it. If they need a check in, make sure you’re available. This is the time to start building the trust and credibility that will be the foundation of your successful working relationship.
Building trust is key and transparency plays a big role in this. As leaders we can fall into the trap of trying to paint a perfect picture to new starters, but for senior hires they need to truly understand the business. Invite them into processes, operations, and decisions from the start to foster an environment of openness and honesty. This transparency will ensure clarity around realistic expectations and outcomes for them – and the rest of the team.
Focus on a project
If you’ve got a large team you might want to consider focusing your new hires first few weeks on a project rather than introductions. A short-term project can be a great way to combine getting to know the business while also delivering something of real value. It will help them start to understand the team and the processes and also feel like they are having an immediate impact on the business.
An ongoing process
While the first few weeks are key, try not to see onboarding as a finite process. It can be useful to set some onboarding milestones – a week, a month, 3 months – but the foundations you build, the trust, communication, and transparency, need to be maintained and develop long after your hire has bedded in.
Helping new leaders to feel confident in their new role will help them find success, supporting them to grow and develop with you will ensure that success is sustained.