By Robert Bell

Bringing on new employees is a moment filled with promise.  Whether an intern, an entry-level engineer or a proven executive, those new hires could have a big impact on the business.  They could create new technologies or find profitable markets, and could trigger years of strong growth. 

Or they could underperform, grow dissatisfied and be gone in a year or two, taking their knowledge and talent along to another employer. 

SSPI has launched a new series of reports and webinars called Making Leaders.  For our first report in the new year - How to Bring New Hires on Board - we talked to some of the smartest people in talent management about what every company, large and small, can do to maximize the chance for a new hire to become a contributor, a high performer and even leader of the pack.  Their advice is worth reading for anyone who manages talent for a living.  

Leadership matters

McKinsey & Company did a ground-breaking study in 2011 that compared the growth of 700 companies with independent performance appraisals of more than 100,000 executives by an executive search firm.  They found that leadership quality is critical to growth – but that most companies don’t have enough high-quality executives. Companies with a critical mass of executives who got excellent performance appraisals recorded superior growth consistently, both organically and through acquisitions.  

In other words, the old saying that “people are our most important asset” is measurably true.  The challenge for companies large and small is to translate that insight into action, beginning with the first day that promising employees walk in the door.

Welcome aboard

It's called "onboarding" the process of integrating a new employee into the company and its culture, as well as getting a new hire the tools and information they need.   Onboarding is not the same as orientation – the paperwork and other routine tasks that have to be completed to comply with laws, regulations and company policy.  Onboarding is a structured effort to engage employees from their very first day in the mission, culture, customers, technology and processes that make the company distinct and important.  And it doesn't have to cost a lot of time or money.

“It's about competence," said one executive we interviewed.  "Our goal for onboarding is to get a new employee from zero to 70-90% competence at their job and in navigating the organization.  If you think you are going to get there in a day or two, you are fooling yourself.  You need a meaningful onboarding process.  If you ignore it, you are going to have future retention issues – guaranteed.”