For leaders who have been recruited externally, it is both necessary and important that they complete an induction programme. It can be beneficial to tailor any standard induction programme the organisation may have for more senior employees. Because they operate at a different level, this calls for a different, or even bespoke, induction plan.
Recent research shows that often senior employees can be caught in a ‘CEO bubble’ or, in other words, be very focused on what is going on at their own level. It is important to allow senior employees to become aware of the goings on in the entire company to ensure that when problems may arise, they have an idea of where it may have started.
When designing an induction programme plan that can be used for new employees in senior positions, the stages outlined below are recommended.
Stage 1 (pre-start)
- Discuss the role and responsibilities that come with the role
- Meet new peers (working at the same level)
- Meet new direct reports – it is important to set the tone at this stage and understand team dynamics and current performance. However, it is also important to be friendly and understand exactly what they do
- Meet the new boss – at this stage, the boss can give them an idea of what is expected of them but also question what the new employee wants to achieve
Stage 2 (the first day)
- Take them through the employee handbook and outline company policies (for example, health and safety policy)
- Discuss the day to day running of the company (for example, facilities available, lunch time, secretarial support, contact details)
- Explain the values and philosophy of the business (for example, ethics, integrity, corporate responsibility). It is important to note, however, that the new employee should already have an idea of this from the interview process
- Give detail of the Business background – company history, major events over the last number of years, major elements of company business (clients/customers, markets, contracts), current performance (financial position, key performance indicators), significant litigation the company is involved in, previous annual reports and accounts and any other significant reports
- Outline that there will be fixed review times to discuss their experience and achievements
Stage 3 (the first month)
Recent research has found that new senior employees settle in and become effective faster if that person has an external business coach to bounce ideas off, prevent the new appointee from being blindsided and help them deal with difficult relationships with other senior employees. By adopting a coaching approach within the HR team, the external coach may not be needed if the new appointee can approach an internal resource for guidance.
In addition, it is important to meet the new employee at regular intervals to ensure they are settling in well to the role. Some questions that can be asked during these meetings include:
- How are you finding the experience of working here? What’s working for you? What isn’t?
- Who have you met with/corresponded with?
- Have you attended many meetings? How have they been beneficial?
- What are your plans for the next 30/60/90 days? What do you want to achieve?
Research also shows that it can be incredibly beneficial to immerse senior employees in the day to day running of the company, for example having them work a shift on the production line or shop floor. Although this is not always an option, it could be something to consider if the opportunity arose. This action could be most valuable in the first month of an employee’s role.
This induction plan is tailored for new employees, but it is often the case that senior employees have been promoted from a lower level and do not need to learn the ins and outs of the company. Other obstacles can come into play with these employees. For instance their previous role may have been that of technical expert whereas now they are required to manage people. It goes without saying that every organisation believes, when promoting an existing employee into a more senior role, that the employee in question has the skills to carry out that role. When the new job differs in nature to their previous occupation, the company may include a period of ‘probation’. The prudent employer will ensure that if the promoted employee does not demonstrate the required skill set in the new role, there is provision in the contract for that employee to revert to their old position (typically backfilled on a temporary basis).
How can you adopt a coaching approach?
If it falls to you as a HR practitioner to adopt a coaching approach within the organisation’s HR team, what are the golden rules? The top five identified in the research include building trust, asking questions, seeking understanding, listening and seeking proposals. Meanwhile some practical pointers to help you live by the golden rules include:
- Use open questioning, such as when, what and how. Don’t ask leading questions – for instance instead of ‘why did it go so wrong?’ ask ‘how did it go?’. This way, you are not setting yourself up for an answer and the employee can tell you exactly what happened without the preconception that it went wrong.
- Active listening – be silent and listen to what they are saying. By listening intently and letting them talk, it can be easier to discover what really is the problem and in addition, highlight areas in the company that may need extra resources.
- Encourage employees to be present and focus on the tasks at hand. This can be done using various coaching techniques, such as mindfulness exercises. By doing this, tasks will be completed faster as the employee will be less likely to get distracted.
- As a coach, you are a facilitator rather than an expert. Anyone can adopt a coaching approach and they do not have to be experts in the specific field they are working with.
Research shows that by using a coaching approach, employees may become more self-aware, more productive and in addition, leaders are developed more easily. Adapting a coaching approach is also beneficial in managing leaders, a task which can sometimes be difficult as they are often seen as being the most senior employees.
The golden rules outlined above can help an organisation gain real value from their coaching relationships. Good coaching relationships greatly benefit newly appointed senior managers, their coaches and the wider business.
Ibec Employer Services Division
Tuesday, 17 October 2017