INDIANAPOLIS(August 25, 2009) – Onboarding is rapidly becoming a standard operating procedure for those companies who walk the talk that their employees are their most important asset.
The cost of identifying, recruiting, and retaining the best talent is a significant expense to an organization and the cost of turnover only explodes this expenditure. Investment in the right employees is a strategic imperative. In an aggressive market, the business with the top talent will be the most successful by all measures. Finding the best is only the starting point in the competitive battle. Keeping the best talent is the sign of a real winner.
For healthcare organizations, all of which are waiting for the other economic reality shoe to drop in the ongoing great American healthcare debate, it is no longer feasible to accept expensive turnover as just a cost of doing business. Paying for garbage pickup or building maintenance is a cost of doing business. Employee turnover is a critical budget item that must be controlled. It trumps virtually all other items in the budget.
An effective onboarding program will reduce this volatile component of your budget.
It is no wonder then that the number of new consultants flooding into the onboarding market of opportunity is impressive. The established players have a well-known service description. The new players are trying to differentiate themselves in this noisy market with clever consultant-speak explanation. While I covered the Wikipedia definition of onboarding in Part I of this series, I will now discuss their 5 A’s of onboarding: align; acquire; accommodate; assimilate; accelerate.
Align – If this is a new or restructured position, make sure that your organization is aligned on the same page regarding the need for this position, and their role and scope of responsibility. This is what we all call the “buy in.” If this is a mission-critical position, such as Vice President of Business Development, you may want to get Board buy in as well. Without the alignment, there will be confusion and concern with your existing team members. Everyone will be looking over their shoulders or asking what this person will actually be responsible for (read: other team members will be questioning whether their fiefdom will be diminished).
Acquire – Identify and recruit the “right” person to join the team. A great onboarding program will not overcome a bad hiring decision. DO NOT be mesmerized by their academic and professional credentials or prior employment. Massachusetts General Hospital is a great hospital. We all agree. However, they have mediocre performers there, too. Dig in to determine if they were successful, particularly addressing challenges similar to the ones you will ask the successful candidate to undertake.
Accommodate – Give the new leader the tools to do the job. Delegate, do not micromanage. Micromanagement is a fatal virus for a CEO or senior leadership team member. Hire the best people and then get out of their way. If your onboarding program is worth anything, you should not have to worry about an unintentional errant shot or explosion.
Assimilate – Help your new team member join with others in the organization so that they can effectively work together. Do not give your new executive a first-day charge and then send them on their way. You are asking for trouble and that is NOT the response you will find in an organization that truly embraces a best-in-class onboarding program.
Accelerate – Help them deliver better results faster. This is very important, especially when the organization is recruiting a new CEO. There are currently hospitals that are teetering on the brink of a financial catastrophe because board members believe that changing management will result in a 12 to 18 month period of ineffective leadership. They do not want to take the risk of replacing their mediocre CEO because “we cannot afford to lose the time.”
Memo to board members: Perhaps you should hold your search consultant responsible for accelerating the assimilation process, developing a comprehensive plan to ensure that the organization will not falter during the transition, and then tie a portion of their fee to the success of the new CEO. There is a great deal of money at stake here. Board members have a fiduciary duty and they should not be so timid in exercising that responsibility.
I believe there will be precious little wiggle room for hospitals and other health service providers regardless of what happens with the current healthcare reform initiative. Onboarding is not a nice little add-on for the organization that has everything. If you do not have or implement an effective onboarding program, you are throwing money away – you are throwing profits away.
NEXT Part 3: Onboarding and the Search Process
John G. Self is Chairman and Senior Client Advisor of JohnMarch Partners. He is a Co-Founder of the Firm. A former investigative reporter and crime writer with more than 30-years of healthcare leadership experience in public relations, national marketing, business development and as Chief Executive Officer of hospitals and consulting firms, Mr. Self is highly regarded for his keen insight into operations, business culture and for his ability to consistently select the right leaders.