Onboarding new team members

blog Oct 18, 2022

Why do plans fail? 

According to Harvard Business Review, 90% of strategies fail due to poor execution

So, maybe you’ve built an excellent role scorecard and an onboarding plan that still might fail. 

On November 9, 1996, when a reporter asked Mike Tyson whether he was worried about Evander Holyfield and his fight plan, he replied with the famous line, 

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. 

Only one out of 50 boxing writers polled at the time gave Holyfield a chance of upsetting the odds and winning the match. 

As Holyfield went into that fight, the odds against him were 15-2. 

Yet he shocked the boxing world by winning. 

He stuck to the plan and adapted it when the circumstances changed. 

Seven months later, during the rematch, Holyfield’s plan could never have anticipated that Tyson would bite an inch off his right ear and then bite his left. 

But Holyfield adapted to the situation, stuck to the plan, and won the rematch. 

As a business owner with an onboarding plan (make sure you have one), you do not want any of your people to say:

“We dropped the weekly onboarding meeting after a month. We were just too busy, and the new hire was going pretty well.” 

You know they planned for a new hire, but that plan won’t deliver the intended success. 

They didn’t adapt the plan to the situation. 

They’ve let the new hire down and their peers down, but most of all, they’ve let themselves down. 

In Atomic Habits, James Clear notes a question he is often asked:

“How long does it take to build a new habit?” 

But what people should be asking is:

“How many does it take to form a new habit? 

That is, how many repetitions are required?” 

In the figure below, you can see how James demonstrates that a behaviour can become more automatic than conscious after a certain number of repetitions by exceeding what he calls ‘the habit line’. 

When James Clear asks, “How many does it take to form a new habit?”, through the lens of onboarding, he prompts us to ask how many repetitions it would take for a new hire to form a habit that will overcome the forgetting curve. 

Forming habits through a plan will only work if executed entirely and adapted as circumstances change….with DISCIPLINE.

The onboarding plan should be executed weekly with the manager and the new hire. 

It should lead to the successful execution of a role scorecard after the onboarding period. 

How you adapt the weekly meeting will depend on which onboarding stage you are in. 

At each weekly meeting, the manager should cover the following topics: 

  • What’s up, status update?
  • Where are you stuck?
  • Review last week’s progress
  • Review onboarding plan, and 
  • Priorities for the new hire for the next week. 

A longer meeting could be held at the end of months one and two. 

This longer monthly meeting would also cover the following: 

  • Past month’s progress
  • Onboarding sprint plan overall progress
  • Progress toward intended performance, and 
  • Next month's priorities. 

Onboarding success is an important piece of your overall recruitment procedure.

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

As we like to say “recruitment is the most important thing a manager does.” From our experience, firstly of being direct reports to terrible managers, then being shit managers in our own business - to now being effective managers, we put together the ‘Kick-Ass Manager’ online course. Check it out.