Missed Opportunities: Talent Intelligence During the Onboarding Process

article by Dr. John Sullivan and Master Burnett It is widely accepted that, in small pockets around the world, the second iteration of the war for talent is well underway. Emerging companies in China, for example, are invading small rural villages in an effort to convert agrarian citizens into knowledge workers, and professional service firms are eagerly grasping at once undesired college new grads. It would be logical to assume that growth-oriented firms would be devising new methods to uncover hidden sources of talent and fend off poachers from other organizations, but in reality few are. At a time when most organizations should be abandoning the conservative approach of continuous improvement and embracing innovation, too many are still focused on miniscule efficiency gains. At no time since the final years of the Roman Empire has the world population mimicked its current state. With a huge population of aged workers and a significantly smaller influx of youthful workers, it is well known that something will have to change. Innovation will take place. The world is full of people who look back and say, “If only I had thought of that,” or, “If only I had leveraged that missed opportunity, where would I be today?” It is also full of people who routinely try to reinvent the wheel. Unfortunately, the recruiting profession seems to be a magnet for these types of people. For years now, thought leaders have been advising organizations to embed formal competitive-intelligence-gathering activities into their onboarding processes, yet few actually have. When a recruiter learns of actions in a competitor, rarely do the managers who could leverage such information hear of it. What is even more disappointing is the lack of talent intelligence gathering that takes place during the onboarding process, and the shear volume of missed opportunities that go unnoticed. The Problem With Most Onboarding Approaches Like many programs in human resources, onboarding programs suffer from narrow perspective design. Quite frankly, they are designed by people who truly have no idea what value talent provides or how to maximize the value of that talent. The most common evidence of this design flaw is the scope and direction of information flow during the onboarding process. In most organizations, information flows only one way, with the exception of benefits enrollment data. Few organizations look at the onboarding process as an opportunity for both parties to exchange in a dialogue where both parties learn something of value. In short, we add another element to the list of missed opportunities in HR. The New Perspective The first week on the job can play a crucial role in motivating and retaining new employees, helping them contribute not only to their own success, but their new employer’s as well. Organizations often spend lots of time and money recruiting and wooing new employees, but as soon as they start they turn around and treat them like barely welcome strangers. In the new perspective, recruiting is viewed as only half of the task of hiring. Orientation is the other, often ignored element. The new hire’s first week on the job is too important to delegate to human resources or to devote to “reading the manual.” Managers need to take control of the process of bringing a new employee on board and engage in what we call “talent intelligence gathering.” Just like a parent adopting a new child, the role a manager plays during the first week is of critical importance if the value of the new hire is to be maximized. Talent Intelligence Onboarding Areas The following is a short list of areas for which managers interested in performance should take responsibility and for which they should make use of intelligence that is gained:

  • Accelerating time to productivity. Coming into a new environment can be stressful for even the most adept change seekers. Any delay in providing new hires with the guidance, equipment, and training they need to get started on what they will be held accountable for can slow the time it takes for a new employee to reach a minimum expected level of productivity. Each day of delay can frustrate the employee and may also mean the loss of thousands of dollars in revenue if product development or sales are impacted. During the intelligence-gathering process, managers should engage with the new hire to uncover his or her desired management style, perceptions of company processes (good and bad), and insight about how other organizations may have approached the new hire’s role differently.
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  • Continuous recruiting. Having recently changed teams, the new hire has an innate interest in helping their new team succeed ó and that gives both managers and recruiters a perfect opportunity to discover leads for other potential hires. By asking new hires on their first day who else is good at their former firm, managers can easily increase their supply of talent. New hires can also be asked (when appropriate) to directly help in recruiting their former colleagues.
  • Competitive intelligence. By asking new hires about the best practices of their last firm, their new managers can gather some new benchmark ideas.
  • Setting a manager’s expectations. On the first day, it is important for the manager to make sure that the new employee knows the manager’s expectations, the departmental goals, and what important contributions the employee can make to the product and the firm.
  • Understanding the employee’s expectations. It is equally important for the manager to find out what expectations the new employee has in the areas of training, promotion, and preferred management and communication styles.

Conclusion Innovation is an activity without boundaries, so there truly are no limits as to what opportunities can be created and leveraged during the onboarding process. But organizations must abandon the useless activities that most onboarding programs consist of, and instead embrace programs that immediate create value for both parties. Gone are the days when an organization could afford to wait six months or longer for a new hire to become productive, or when they could pay recruiters to spend months researching potential hires when the information could have been mined in a matter of hours from existing employees. Take advantage of the opportunities before you to map the competitive landscape, using the expatriates you have just recruited. A war is underway, and you need to adopt warrior-like approaches.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

 

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