HR Insights, Talent Management

Onboarding and Talent Management: It’s a Lot Like Spring Gardening

Spring onboarding

After all the horrible weather that we had this winter, a 70 degree March Friday changed the attitude of almost everyone on the streets of New York City.

Everyone seemed to sparkle as they walked the streets. Everyone had a smile; you could hear the laughter in the conversations. Everyone was talking giddily about the outdoor projects or impromptu events that they would be doing.

One of my other passions (besides HR) is gardening. My thoughts were about going to the nursery on Saturday morning to begin my ritual of finding new plants or shrubs to prepare for the onslaught on my yard.

For anyone that gardens, the spring is nirvana.

The best Saturday for me starts with the gym, and the next stop is to my local Home Depot. Only this time of the year, the garden center is opening and I am walking the aisles making mental notes. I am preparing for bringing in new plants and getting ready for the work to produce my beautiful yard.

Talent management modeling

I gave a speech a few years back on talent management, and I closed with a spring analogy that brought the house down. I equated gardening with talent management.

For people that garden, every winter is full of bottled up anticipation for spring and the bringing in of “new talent.” We know the areas needed to spruce up. We have watched the barren land over the winter and made mental notes as to where or what type of plant would be needed.

Sometimes this would be just a replacement. Other times we may make wholesale changes to a certain “department.” And still there are times when we see a plant that is not growing the way that it should. We may re-pot it to another area, we may fertilize a little more, or maybe, it just needs more of our attention.

These are all dilemmas of gardening or growing a department or team. But there also comes a time when we have to just give up and remove a troubled plant even though we know that we have done everything possible to give it a chance to survive and flourish.

Onboarding new talent

Every year In anticipation of bringing in these new plants we till the soil, fertilize if needed, prepare to bring them home from the nursery. We have determined in what area of the department that they will be planted. We would never think of bringing in new plants without making preparation for them.

Think about onboarding here, because we know that if we do not prepare for the new plants they will not survive, or their chances of survival will be very limited.

I have neighbors that grow vegetables instead of landscaping. During the winter they manage their compost pile, and the conversation is about their upcoming vegetable harvest. The rest of the neighborhood is also waiting because every year there is a bountiful harvest and we all partake.

But there are also others who just mow the lawn, never giving any thought to doing all the prep work, watering fertilizing, weeding, etc. Yet they always wonder why they can’t have a beautiful landscape. And each year, they say that next year they are going to do it the right way.

The importance of onboarding

According to Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels,” the break even point for mid-level managers is 6.2 months.

And according to ManagerSmarter.com:

  • 22 percent of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment. (The Wynhurst Group)
  • 46 percent of rookies wash out in their first 18 months. (Leadership IQ)
  • Companies that leave onboarding (what we call onramping) to chance experience failure rates in excess of 50 percent when it comes to retaining new talent. (Egon Zehnder International, 2007)

Think for a moment of the cost of not getting it right.

If you are building a talent management model, the first, and I think the most important part, of that foundation is your onboarding program. If within that first 90 days you do not connect, forget about it. The result will not only be turnover but one more percentage point off the level of engagement.

As the gardener will attest, it starts in the winter; we do not wait until spring time. If you do, it is already too late.

Onboarding: Where is the starting point?

The starting point means that a high level of engagement starts with your application process, your career website, and your social media initiatives. When your recruiters reach out to a candiadate, you are beginning the initial steps of your talent management strategy called onboarding.

I have heard so many times of organizations reaching out to a candidate, setting up a phone interview, and then the potential candidate NEVER got a call back as to where (or why not) they were in the process. Other times, the candidate has basically moved on — and then they finally get a call to find out whether they are still interested.

Stephen Dufaux wrote a beautiful piece over at ERE.net titled Recruiters Need to Follow Through.”

Here’s one of his quotes:

By failing to do so, your actions are contributing to the further erosion of the reputation of our profession and are fueling the negative perceptions presently associated with recruiters”

Great point, but there’s another way to read it. By failing to do so, your actions are contributing to the further erosion of the reputation of your organization and are fueling the negative perceptions presently associated with your company.

So next time your thoughts run to talent management, think of spring gardening.

If you plant well, you too can produce a bountiful harvest or talented and engaged employees..

Ron Thomas is CEO of Great Place to Work-GCC countries, based in Dubai. He formerly was Chief HR Officer of the RGTS Group in Saudi Arabia. Ron is also a senior faculty member of the Human Capital Institute. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as a Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) and Strategic Workforce Planner (SWP). Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living. Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia. Contact him at ronaldtthomas@gmail.com or on Twitter.
  • CC

    Very true. I recently accepted a position, and went through the onboarding process. It was so well organized and easy to do. It left me with a great first impression of my new company. My employer actually offers onboarding as a SaaS, so I expected it to be good, but it far exceeded my expectations.