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MEMPHIS (August 26, 2009) — Talent acquisition — the art of identifying and recruiting the most qualified candidates who are the best fit for a particular position – is the second component of an effective onboarding program. The first being alignment, the process of defining credentials, qualifications and scope of responsibility in conjunction with the board of directors and/or senior leadership team.

Recently, the American College of Healthcare Executives asked me for my input on what should be included in a best-in-class onboarding program. My first response was that including recruitment – executive search – is an imperative because this is where contact with the potential employee begins. What happens throughout the recruitment process will directly affect the success or failure of the onboarding program. In preparing written comments for the College, I started to give onboarding a lot of thought. Why are some organizations so successful in recruiting and retaining their personnel while others have such a dismal record? Were they oblivious to the profit-draining costs of the employee churn? Were they not sensitive to the negative impact on patient care and safety? Were they somehow not aware that a high turnover rate in clinical departments is frequently a key factor in poor physician satisfaction? Or, did they not recognize the impact that turnover plays in shaping an organization’s image in the community?

One important answer to these questions is whether there is merely a standard employee orientation program designed around getting forms signed and explaining the rules, or whether there is a lively, engaging onboarding program that does not begin and end around those necessary forms and human resource policy explanations.

Onboarding must be built on a foundation of honesty and full disclosure. Wait, before you declare that statement a no-brainer, you need to carry that thought to the point that some CEOs might be uncomfortable. The honesty must include a full disclosure about the organization’s values, its ethics, the code of conduct, and performance expectations. So far, so good. This all makes good sense. But now comes the uncomfortable part: this honesty must also include a candid discussion about all things great, good, AND the not-so-hot aspects of the organization. This is hard because most CEOs and their teams are not comfortable talking about the negative characteristics of the enterprise. They say that such a disclosure is negative, it is unnecessary, and besides, it will frighten off desirable candidates.

I would argue that the least embarrassing time for a candidate to learn about the negatives is during the recruitment process. Honesty, and a careful explanation of the organization’s cultural profile – both good and bad elements – will go a long way to ensure that the candidate you recruit will have a better and more complete understanding of what he or she can expect – and what will be expected of them – before being hired, and will subsequently have a better chance of being productive and successful in both the short term and the long run. An effective onboarding program must not only begin with the decision to fill a position, it must also ramp up through the recruitment process.

Candidates do not fail in a new job because they lacked the requisite credentials or qualifications. Qualification is the ONE element of a candidate profile about which there should be no dispute. They fail because of one, or a combination of, the following reasons:

• Too many surprises – inadequate disclosure
• Poor cultural fit – either they were not told about the culture or they did not pick up on issues during site interviews that might suggest a lack of compatibility. It is unrealistic to expect a candidate to master the nuances of a company’s culture – its style of doing business – in one or two site visits
• Candidate’s leadership style. Yes, full disclosure works both ways
• The candidate’s depth of experience on critical performance issues was not as represented on the resume, and the screening process failed to identify these deficiencies
• They did not clearly understand – or were not told – the specific performance deliverables
• They were not told about the hurdles that must be overcome in order to achieve success. Recruiters seem to have an aversion to telling a candidate anything negative about the client – from the culture,to the failures of previous candidates, the decision process, the sacred cows, etc.
• Community factors and spousal issues – poor schools, lack of affordable housing, community personality, geography or employment

There is a clear common thread in each of these reasons: they could and should have been addressed in the recruiting process. Candidates with a deep understanding of the organization on Day One are more likely to accelerate performance, produce meaningful value and stay with the organization longer than those who are victimized by an inadequate recruiting process and an uninspiring employee orientation program.

Organizations that want to enhance their onboarding program should set new standards for recruiting and hold their internal staff or external search consultants accountable for their performance.

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.

You can contact Mr. Self at 214.220.1234 or Or you can follow him on Twitter at Self_JohnMarch. He is an active member of Linked In and a frequent editorial contributor.
Part IV How To Integrate Recruiting Into Onboarding

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