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Manager Onboarding: Setting Up New Leaders for Success

Human Resources

How do you set up new leaders for success? Effective leaders rarely evolve spontaneously—it takes a deep understanding of superior management skills and strategic acumen. However, they’re not necessarily wizards at particular tasks. “Don’t assume technical competence will translate to leadership success,” counsels Sharlyn Lauby, president, ITM Group Inc., a consulting firm that develops workplace training programs. Indeed, she says, “the worst thing organizations can do is hire or promote the most technically competent person and not set them up for success.”

The author of the blog HR Bartender, Lauby presented a session at the 2016 Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) Annual Conference and Exposition in Washington, DC, focused on onboarding new managers and providing them with the wherewithal to make lasting, positive contributions to the company.

Onboarding, according to SHRM, is “the process by which new hires get adjusted to the social and performance aspects of their jobs quickly and smoothly, and learn the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and behaviors required to function effectively within an organization.” Managers need their own onboarding program because “management and leadership are two different things,” Lauby says. Leadership should exist at every level of the organization and be implicit in succession planning to help ensure the strength and viability of the company.

Five Steps to Develop a Management Onboarding Program

Lauby says a firm seeking to design a training program for managers, and leaders in general, must use a five-step process: assessment, design, development, implementation and evaluation.

Assessment: Don’t be tempted to skip this step — it’s necessary. Perform a gap analysis, identifying the space between where your company is now and where you want it to be in the next three to five years. What tasks must be completed to close this gap?

Design: Armed with information provided by the assessment, determine the structure of your onboarding program. Set goals and objectives that trainees find realistic and relevant. Plan to deliver information via a mixture of delivery styles, such as classroom teaching, online material, mobile, and social media tools. “People learn in different ways,” Lauby notes. Consider microlearning, in which content is delivered in small, specific bursts controlled by the learners. (Microlearning can be especially effective with millennials, who may have short attention spans.)

Development: Carefully craft the steps your program requires, starting with the introduction. Then decide how discussions and/or demonstrations will function. Test your approach, and have trainers practice it. Decide how you will elicit feedback from the trainees. Establish a wrap-up strategy to launch new managers into their full roles.

Implementation: Determine the content you want to impart to management trainees. This is likely a mix of technical, or “hard” skills, and management, or “soft” skills.

Evaluation: This step — the next promotion — weighs each trainee’s leadership quotient. Managers who have proven their competence in guidance and vision, as well as supervision and administration, are the leaders you want. Lauby suggests keeping them and others seeking success connected with career-development resources, such as coaching/mentoring arrangements and networking opportunities. A strong manager onboarding program features prominently in a workforce that meets organizational goals. Such training supports succession planning, as well as speedy or unplanned promotions. Lauby’s ideas resonated with session participants. Here are a few of their Tweets:

How do we build stronger cultures? Create real-time development opportunities within your organizations. @sharlyn_lauby #SHRM16

— Lisa Fleming (@lisafleming78) June 20, 2016 @lisafleming78


Setting up manager onboarding program: Do your homework, get buy-in, consider pilots/phases, create maintenance plan #SHRM16 @sharlyn_lauby

— Kelly Marinelli (@KellyinBoulder) June 20, 2016 @KellyinBoulder


Don't assume technical competence will translate to leadership success. @sharlyn_lauby #SHRM16

— Jon Thurmond (@Jon_Thurmond) June 20, 2016 @Jon_Thurmond

Helping your company’s managers succeed helps your company succeed. It’s as simple as that.

Image credit: Sharlyn Lauby


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