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Onboarding new employees. Learn from my mistakes.

This year I had the pleasure of hiring a new graduate consultant at Saville. With just over a year of management experience, this was a fairly daunting task.

I haven’t managed that many people before and I didn’t have that much experience onboarding people. I basically recounted the experiences I’d personally had (some of which were non-existent) and cherry-picked the best parts. On reflection, I didn’t think about the fact that these experiences were very traditional and administrative focused.

In my mind, the things I had to get right were:

  1. Administration. Get them a new laptop, give them some pens and notebook. A phone would be useful, and email address is ideal.
  2. Go through the role and responsibilities.
  3. Define some goals and expectations.

Did it work? To some extent. Was it outstanding? Definitely not.

When I look back on this with hindsight, I realise that I had access to invaluable information – their personality tests results – and I didn’t use them. Even though almost every day I train and advise clients to use the data to understand and get to the know the new employee, I actually forgot to do this myself. It didn’t even cross my mind to discuss the results with the my new hire. I obviously had read the results, understood them, and thought that was enough (Spoiler: It is not).

I’m not afraid to admit this has been a big learning curve for me. Over the past year I have learned more about onboarding turnover and how it impacts retention of staff. Research has shown that employees who have a negative onboarding experience are twice as likely to begin looking for new opportunities within one year. It’s such a shame that so many organisations put in so much effort on the attraction, recruitment and selection side, only to lose them at the other end.

Learning about this immediately made my skin crawl. What could I have done better? We luckily haven’t had any staff turnover, but what if this had negatively impacted my team? What if I had turned them off working for us by not fully engaging with them at the start? Start as you mean to end is a philosophy I like to live by.

Luckily, I had a new opportunity to redeem myself and practice what I preach. With my new graduate starting, I knew I could do things differently this time. Instead of going straight to the goal-setting exercise, I decided to pull out the Wave Professional Styles Expert Report and the Onboarding Report and use them as stimulus for some discussions.

What happened actually surprised me. Quickly it became apparent that setting up goals on their first day or week is not the best idea. The new employee doesn’t really understand the job, and wouldn’t know how to leverage their strengths or what will be important to develop yet. Goal setting should ideally be a negotiation between the manager and the employee.

This time around, we discussed strengths and development areas and related it back to the role. The Onboarding Report really helped with this part and gave a lot of stimulus for discussion. We talked about opportunities we could find to leverage those strengths and build on weaker areas. I left the report with my new employee and gave them time to reflect on the results.

The other surprising finding was that using the reports actually helped to develop some genuine trust between us, and as their manager, I cannot stress the value of this relationship enough. The results from the questionnaire gave me an opportunity to show that I was invested in the development and future of the new graduate. It would have been easy for me to delegate the feedback to someone else (which is very common practice, and usually to the HR rep), I’m very glad I didn’t because the bond I formed as his manager would have been with someone else.

I think this trust probably boils down to psychological safety. This is the belief that you can show your true self without fear of negative consequences of self-image. It’s incredibly important for creating a cohesive work environment, getting employees engaged and it’s also important for relationships outside of work. It’s hard to form close bonds with people without it.

Getting to the crux of who a person is much easier to do when you can explore their personality profile. This time, by using the information at hand in the onboarding process, I hope I have improved from my previous experiences. I urge you to learn from my mistakes and use the psychometric data you have to create two-way conversations with your new staff. The Wave Professional Styles Expert Report is only part of the picture (though very helpful in the initial selection process). The Onboarding Report builds on it by identifying the key development areas and practical guiding points for the new hire.

Onboarding Core Strengths 2
Onboarding Core Strengths 1
Onboarding Challenge Areas
Onboarding Core Strengths 2
Onboarding Core Strengths 1
Onboarding Challenge Areas
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Excerpts from the Wave Styles Onboarding Report


Most importantly, don’t hide it from them. The worst thing you can do is treat the data as confidential. It is their data, they completed the questionnaire, the least you can do is show them!

If my past onboarding experience sounds a bit too familiar for your liking, feel free to drop me a line, or check out the Wave Onboarding Report and Professional Styles Expert Report. Trust me, your new hires will thank you for it!

Posted by Amanda Krulis

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