I have the opportunity to coach senior executives from large companies who have either changed roles or changed companies during the pandemic, and something that continues to be shortchanged is onboarding while working remotely.
This is a problem because onboarding is a critical starting point for any new employee. Within this process, connecting with one’s new peers is falling through the cracks, and this can have dire consequences for the success of that new executive down the road. That is why I suggest companies devise a new onboarding plan that is probably different than the plan they had before.
Reach Out to Peers
There is not only a gap in overall onboarding, but a specific gap that is not so obvious. When onboarding, or starting a new role, it is rather automatic, I suppose, that new hires have remote conversations with their bosses and with their direct reports in order to understand the business. But in the process, they often forget about their peers. Having solid relationships with an executive peer is critical to success because that will cut down on infighting that inhibits productivity and efficiencies.
I continue to encourage clients to reach out to their peers when starting a new position. Head off this potential issue with your equal at the first pass by taking the initiative to introduce yourself and to warmly open the line of communication. What we continue to find is that recipients of this outreach are surprised because it is just not expected, or even thought of, but it is vital to develop those relationships. It can start with just a friendly discussion to say, “Hey, I’m here,” but more importantly, these conversations can be used to establish an understanding of mutual expectations.
More Listening Than Talking
When I coach my clients who have taken on new roles, I remind them that their first responsibilities at the beginning are to do more listening than talking. Realistically, newly installed executives should not know what their priorities are on that first day because they need to take the time to understand the position. After that process has been completed, I encourage our clients to share the key learnings with peers to discuss priorities for their teams, next steps, and working together.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to onboarding today, there are two key points that need to be addressed: Companies need to think differently about onboarding people in the current situation because so many people will be working remotely. And newly hired or installed executives need to take the time to learn about their new jobs before declaring priorities for their teams.
Global business leader Robert J. (Bob) Ryan is an executive advisor at Shields Meneley Partners, where he focuses on building strategic business partnerships and expanding service offerings to top leadership teams around the world. His career has included key leadership roles with companies ranging from $500 million to $84 billion, including Procter & Gamble, Tate and Lyle, Bombardier Recreation Products, Kimball Hill Homes, and Griffith Laboratories. Born in Montreal, Canada, Ryan began his career as a manufacturing engineer after graduating from Carleton University in Ottawa, and McGill University in Montreal with a degree in mechanical/aeronautical engineering. When approached by his CEO, he “jumped at the chance” to lead strategic human capital initiatives that directly impacted the bottom line. Ryan has served on the Boards of the British American Business Council, the Northwest Cultural Council, and the Human Resource Management Association of Chicago. He also has been on boards representing economic development, education, and the arts. Ryan is also a graduate of the Hudson Institute Coaching Program and a member of the International Coach Federation.