Integrating not Onboarding: Retain the Talent You Worked So Hard to Identify

Year after year, HR leaders often list recruiting and retaining talent as their biggest challenge.

While there are many variables to recruitment and retention that are out of our control, we can make bringing new leaders into an organization less challenging if we’re vigilant in perfecting the parts we can control.

One of those parts is making sure our “onboarding” or “orientation” process – especially for new or newly promoted leaders – is not just focused on the basics of welcoming them, but on a true process of integration.

Integration is the key to lessening your leader’s transition time, flattening the learning curve, and accelerating their confidence in contributing successfully. It pulls people into the fold and highlights the meaningful place they have in the organization.

Why the focus on leaders?

While it’s certainly important to integrate all new hires, your leaders need extra support. They have a significant impact on their teams — and it’s critical that impact is positive and productive.

Human Resources Today shared a statistic that effects all organizations: one third of new hires quit their jobs after about six months.

If you pair that with the fact that the most important factor in any employee staying with an organization comes down to the leader to whom they report

…then your leaders need to be able to integrate, engage, and build relationships with their team if they (and you!) want to create engaged teams.

That will not only dramatically cut down on the high cost of having an unsuccessful leader (think: impact on morale, departmental productivity, and the expense that went into training them), but it will also cut down on your need to recruit new talent.

So….how do you go about integrating your newly hired or newly promoted leaders thoroughly and successfully, instead of just onboarding or orienting them?

Start by asking how you want to “show up” as an organization, and then analyze your current process. Use these questions to help:

• How do we want leaders to feel about our organization from application through successful integration?

• Do we conduct a New Leader Assimilation within the first 2-3 weeks on the job?

• How can this leader be supported with a coach, mentor, or knowledgeable peer?

• Are development goals in place to support this leader to continue learning about their leadership?

• How are we helping them build their network?

• What don’t they know that is important to understand about this culture?

• What does success look like for our organization when leaders are integrated well?

When you have answers to the questions above, consider doing the following things to begin creating a solid process for integrating new leaders:

1) Survey recently hired leaders about their onboarding experience to identify what they feel worked well and in which areas they’d like improvement. This is an opportunity to ensure you have “the basics” down. It’s tough to “integrate” a leader if their laptop is not ready for them when they arrive.

2) Conduct a Kaizen to identify how different departments within the organization integrate new leaders, including new leaders to the organization, those new to a leadership role, and those who are newly promoted. Identify the best practices.

3) Determine what you can improve now, and what may be longer term goals. Then develop project plans for those goals.

4) Identify what success looks like, and how you will measure it.

With a solid, repeatable process in place — connected to your vision of how you want leaders to experience your organization — you will increase the likelihood of successful integration for your leaders in new roles and retain key talent.


Heidi Zdrojeski joined CRN in 2016. She has over 25 years experience leading global learning and shared services teams in large financial and manufacturing organizations. She’s also a certified executive and leadership coach.


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