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I’m always surprised how it is the little things that once overlooked; go on to create such havoc in the best laid plans. We have recently lost some important people. Their feedback suggested that unrest, or disillusion set in from day 1, and our insensitive Induction methods.

The first weeks in any new organisation are anxious ones. Perhaps it is surprising but the more senior the new posting, the more anxious they are. Few senior executives succeed fully when they are parachuted in from the outside. All parties tend to contribute to the perceived failure, mostly unwittingly and for perfectly human, albeit counterproductive, reasons.

  • The firm assumes the new expert knows what to do and wants to allow them space to “make their mark”.
  • The new people want to be successful quickly and justify the firm’s investment in them.
  • The new people will feel lonely, in a vacuum and will need to make friends.

Both sides will have underestimated or covered up their anxiety (will I fail?), the need to understand new support systems, different pace of decision making, unseen blockages (is this the way things are done here?), the need to create a fresh following (am I OK? How can I get things done?), and the need to create real trust all over again (will the CEO blame me?). Finally it may be that the incomer is paid relatively highly and be resented (rightly or wrongly – it’s the perception that is so enervating).

The purpose of induction is to see that these misunderstandings are dealt with. Partly this is a question of “precision management” (see below) partly it is about dealing with the hygiene factors well and partly it’s about emotional empathy – hence the appointment of a “buddy”. Here are some thoughts, let’s talk them through when we meet next week.

Precision Management

  1. Outline, quantify and check (with me and other advisors) the priority deliverables for the first 6 months
  2. Write down precisely what you want the new person to do week by week for the first 6 months (check with me/Jo, etc.)
  3. Set out who reports to whom, frequency and reporting format.
  4. Appoint relevant “buddy” and mentor
  5. Ask the new person to check, adapt, change, challenge and ultimately fully “own” your proposals for 1-4

For the rest of the detail, see my note on delegation. This is a major example of it. I thought it might be helpful, once on the subject, to go on and outline my further thoughts, hence what follows.

The Aims of Induction

There are 4 key purposes behind induction:

  1. Ensuring a supportive, reinforcing introduction of a new member to the company.
  2. Ensuring operational fit with other relevant existing members of the firm, so they are put into the best position to benefit mutually from the new member.
  3. Setting up and then implementing the optimal means for the new member to succeed, achieve agreed targets and win the future long term support of you and your team.
  4. Dealing with Risk

The cost of a failed induction is high. The new members are at their most vulnerable (new faces, new cultures, new targets, etc.). Without confidence, they will under perform (lost potential revenue, wasted time, increases anxiety for the MD) at worst, they will leave. A failed recruit costs cash (recruitment fees), time (wasted effort) and missed opportunities (fees forgone). The failure also costs morale within the department and is disruptive of the MD’s plans, client relations, poor internal and external PR.

The Introduction

“There was no one there to meet me, no desk, no reception – I don’t think they knew I was coming.”

Induction starts the moment your offer is accepted.

For the potential new member (NM)

  • Arrange briefing meetings to establish the first 6 months (see below no. 3), listen to and deal with any issues, start the NM thinking, planning ahead.
  • Involve the NM in socials (e.g. Art shows). Invite to a relevant team meeting, start the build up well ahead of time.
  • Brief on names, faces and key personalities
  • If feasible, involve in relevant key client meetings ahead of joining.
  • Sort out housekeeping
  • Pay details
  • Calling cards
  • Desk, laptop
  • Update internal registers/data bases
  • Email welcome

For the firm

  • Brief all department and other relevant members of the firm
  • E-mail all members of the firm as part of divisional PR and good news
  • Brief mentor, buddy roles
  • Position new skill source as part of new marketing planning
  • Arrange reception day to
  • Start with detailed briefing
  • Reception awareness
  • Team meeting
  • Mentor/Buddy meeting
  • End with feedback drink

Ensuring Operational Fit

“I just sat there for a few weeks trying to figure out what I could usefully do.”

The initial introductory work (above no. 1) will also include specific “selling” of the NM to relevant team members and other firm colleagues. The NM needs to be involved at once in relevant client, market, technical discussions and debates, if only as a spectator.

Part of this should include preparing a report on their former firm

  • SWOT
  • Key clients
  • Key innovations
  • Key ideas
  • People worth headhunting
  • Reasons for leaving

It should also include by the end of month 1 a considered feedback on our firm – initial impressions

  • Good points and bad
  • Inductions
  • How I felt, how I feel now
  • Major fears

This could become part of a first presentation they make at team meeting.


Setting Up Success

“They just left me to get on with it – OK, but pretty scary. I made it – but only just.”

The first 6 months are a vital rite of passage.

The process should be designed carefully so that

  • The NM gains your confidence and trust step by step
  • You come to learn their strengths and weaknesses and you are in a position to help
  • The NM’s build their confidence, grow into the job and learn how you, your team and the firm work.

Thus you plan

  • Exactly what should be done each day for the first month
  • What deliverables you want during this period, how you want reporting to be done
  • Feedback from mentor/buddies
  • Exactly what you want achieved each week thereafter for the first 6 months

Once again deliverables, quantification results, feedback and report meetings.

The whole aim is

  • Gradually to give the NM more freedom, responsibility AS THEY EARN IT.
  • To have regular grounds for justifying your own confidence or pin pointing emerging issues that need to be confronted and thereby lead to credibility.


Dealing with Risk

The fourth element of induction relates to Risk Management. The induction process is the first and most vital opportunity to

  • Explain “how we do things here”
  • Get buy in for the organization’s Risk Management procedures
  • Have the NM read and sign the Risk Management manual
  • Ensure the NM knows the relevant executive or partners responsible for risk areas.


Yours ever,