Autumn through to Christmas is the busiest hiring time of the year.
By the time a new manager arrives on the first day with a new company, it is likely that considerable time and expense will have been spent on the recruitment process. Success or failure in the new role could have a profound impact on the individual and the company. The 'opportunity cost' resulting from further delays in appointing a replacement manager is likely to be many times the amount of money spent on the hiring process.
The process of integrating the new manager into the management team usually goes extremely well and both parties are happy with the recruitment decision. Unfortunately, though, a significant number of new appointments fail to live up to expectations.
Most organisations recognise the importance of a good induction programme in explaining the activities of the company, its heritage, its organisational structure and key processes. The care, detail and practical preparedness involved in welcoming an individual into the organisation is now generally seen as having long term benefits in setting the standards that will be expected in the months ahead.
However, a successful introduction into a new business, or indeed any organisation or culture, is usually the result of a combination of these practical measures and less definable ‘soft’ elements. Real integration requires an individual to understand the priorities, politics, working practices and quirks of a business.
Speed and inclusiveness of decision making, and levels of adherence to defined, but not necessarily standard, operating procedures are some simple examples of cultural traits that are very difficult to document even if, particularly with long serving management teams, there is a recognition that they can vary.
One company’s consultative style might be viewed as weak in another, just as strong leadership could be viewed as dictatorial elsewhere. Autonomy viewed as disinterest, micromanagement as mentoring.
The ‘getting to know each other’ phase can be further and seriously tested if the new manager has arrived to find a number of key decisions awaiting their attention. Making these big, and potentially role defining, calls prior to having a good understanding of the historical business context and informal ‘ways of doing things’ is far from ideal. At best it is likely to ruffle too many feathers, at worst result in poor decisions, and a mutually disenchanted new manager and team.
An awareness of these risks is a considerable step towards avoiding them. A framework with the objective of ‘educating’ the new manager in the ways of the business requires some thought and time; and significantly less than the potential cost to the business of omitting altogether.
In the early days regular meetings with a line manager (or another senior figure if diaries and geography dictate) to discuss proposed methods, style, previously successful and more turbulent projects, and possibly methods and scenarios that have tripped others up before, will provide invaluable context for someone new to the business to work with in planning their approach. There may be individuals or areas of the business that would typically be used to being consulted on matters that are not obvious. Someone more familiar with these protocols will spot these potential slips in a schedule of work before they are made.
The information that is not so easy to document is often more valuable than the induction pack facts. Knowledge of the nuances of a business culture, expectation levels, how it works, its fiefdoms and dynamics, and the useful short cuts are crucial to getting things done.
Ensuring the successful integration of a new recruit therefore requires sensitivity and awareness by both the individual and the organisation.
Ideally, time needs to be allowed for the individual to become fully acquainted as to 'how things are done around here' before being expected to implement a programme of change or making key decisions.
John Cashmore, Director, Davies & Robson Recruitment Services