Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rapid Onboarding

What I've been referring to as my rapid transitioning plan is apparently referred to as "rapid onboarding" by some employers and human resources departments. Wikipedia offers the beginning of a definition of onboarding:

"Onboarding is the process of integrating a new or a newly-promoted leader or associate into an organization or role. Onboarding begins when the leader accepts the position; it includes orientation, and extends through about month six, and sometimes up to one year, depending on the organization. Best practices for a world-class onboarding process include building knowledge, key relationships and providing feedback for the new or promoted leaders."

Three tips that apply equally well to the new employee and the employer:
- Avoid information dump (be strategic about what to focus on)
- Focus on introductions and networking
- Carefully select initial projects

A couple of related resources:

Don't Wait: Start Your New Job Now
Abstract: "Given the frequency of role changes today, managers must have their own fast-start strategy at the ready before transitioning into a new job. The most successful of these strategies combines reconnaissance on both business and cultural issues through face-to-face meetings with colleagues and customers and through plenty of independent research. Learn how sizing up your new role ahead of time can help you do more than hit the ground running."

Getting New Hires up to Speed Quickly
Abstract: "How do managers and companies quickly transform new hires into productive employees, a process called "rapid on-boarding"? The authors contend that companies that are more successful at rapid on-boarding tend to use a relational approach, helping newcomers to rapidly establish a broad network of relationships with coworkers that they can tap to obtain the information they need to become productive. Most organizations realize the importance of integrating new employees, but many fail in this regard, often because of five pervasive myths about the process: (1) the best newcomers can fend for themselves, (2) a massive information dump allows newcomers to obtain what they need, (3) cursory introductions are all that's needed, (4) first assignments should be small, compact and quickly achievable, and (5) mentors are best for getting newcomers integrated. Because of those misconceptions, managers will frequently rely on certain taken-for-granted practices that can actually hinder new employees from becoming productive."

There is probably a way to put a bigger knowledge management spin on this onboarding approach. In essence, what the new employee needs to do is a rapid knowledge audit and knowledge gap analysis to be able to focus on key knowledge areas essential to start contributing to the company/organization's mission. The employer is in a great position to help connect the new employee with the organization's knowledge bases (people, physical knowledge databases, etc...), but the employee is in the best position to identify his/her own weaknesses and knowledge gaps in terms of knowledge needed to do the work.

While most of the literature I came across was looking at the issue from the perspective of the employer and what the employer should do to accelerate onboarding, there should be more about how individual employees might want to take charge of their own onboarding -- especially if the company doesn't have a strong employee orientation or onboarding program. What I did find on this topic tends to focus on the highest levels of management and "how to take charge" rather than the average employee who might be more interested in "how do I become a productive member of the team."

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