The interview hiring process took six months, following countless meetings and teleconferences. Finally, the candidate accepted the position of country manager of the budding start-up. Both the company and candidate were embarking on new territory.
As part of the transition process, we put together 11 points to ensure a smooth transition. A senior executive read them, grinned from ear to ear, and let out a belly laugh. She told me that these were great ideas, which are seldom followed by companies. As she walked away, I asked myself: Why would a company spend months and tens of thousands of dollars on the vetting process and yet not follow a clear plan to ensure success?
Here are some suggestions to get your candidate off to a flying start!
- Be SMART.
Begin with the end in mind. Fast-forward 24 months and ask, “What has been achieved?” Ensure that the goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART). Create opportunities for early wins. Tell success stories—success leads to success. Ask if there is someone in the organization who has a similar background and has been successful in a similar role.
- Assign a mentor.
Designate someone in the organization who knows how things are really done to serve as a mentor. This gives the new employee an independent channel for questions that he or she might otherwise not want to ask a boss, colleagues, or subordinates.
- Know your company culture.
All companies have quirks and idiosyncrasies. Knowing what you know now, ask what you would want to know about the company. What is the real story, with warts and all?
- Be seen and heard.
Provide opportunities for the new executive to be seen, past accomplishments to be recognized, and clear expectations to be set for the future. Have the new hire meet the key stakeholders.
- Expect and reinforce success.
People generally live up to expectations placed on them by others. Always edify. Remember first impressions last; be positive about everything up and down the line of command.
- Engage in Q & A.
If the candidate is Japanese, he or she may speak English well and may have been working for a multinational for several years. Culturally, the Japanese tend to ask fewer questions. However, questions do exist! Non-native speakers of a language, even those who seem fluent, may miss nuances and certain idiomatic expressions. Misunderstandings may arise from this that do not reflect a lack of knowledge or uncooperativeness.
- Have a cohesive strategy.
The Japanese, as a rule, need a lot of preparation time and input during the initial stages. Then, however, they will follow the plan to the letter and can be very detail-orientated. Provide clear milestones.
- Beware of information overload.
Provide the necessary processes for information to be gathered and processed.
- Look for teachable moments.
All organizations experience times when the business does not run according to plan. We often learn more from failure than success. Obstacles can be the touchstones of growth. Look for examples of people who have joined and succeeded or failed. What can be learned?
Ensure that the candidate is clear about how he or she will be evaluated, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Clearly identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and how they will be evaluated.
- Quantify onboarding.
On a scale from 1 to 10, has XYZ been achieved? If it’s not ranked a 10, then ask, “What would need to happen for XYZ to be a 10?”
Watkins, M. (2003).The first 90 days: Critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels. Brighton, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.