Manager Onboarding: 5 Steps for Setting New Leaders Up for Success

Manager Onboarding: 5 Steps for Setting New Leaders Up for Success

by Sharlyn Lauby

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Onboarding is such an important part of an employee's success. It starts well before the employee decides to apply with an organization in the forms of employment branding and the candidate experience. It includes sourcing, interviewing, background checks, and extending the job offer. Next comes new hire paperwork, orientation, and training. Lastly, performance management. On some level much of onboarding touches every single component in the employee life cycle. Yet, when it comes to onboarding managers, we do nothing or very little. But we expect managers to help onboard new employees. They are an active part of the recruiting process. Managers are expected to train and develop employees. They are required to coach and mentor employees for exceptional performance. It's time for organizations to give managers the same foundation for success that we give new hire employees. Manager Onboarding will walk HR managers and business leaders through the process of creating a manager onboarding program. While onboarding has many touchpoints in a manager's career, this book is going to focus on the new hire or newly promoted phase. This book is for HR and business leaders who are looking for a roadmap to designing a manager onboarding program. The book touches on just a bit of theory and a whole lot of practical knowledge. It is filled with stories and examples about how companies' onboarding programs work—both for new employees as well as managers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781586444532
Publisher: Society For Human Resource Management
Publication date: 10/20/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 265
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Sharlyn Lauby, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, CPLP, is the author/owner of the "HR Bartender" blog (with more than 65K followers on Twitter). The blog has been recognized as one of the Top 5 Business Blogs Read by HR professionals and a Top 25 Must-Read Blog for Employers. She is also president of ITM Group Inc., a South Florida based training and human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent.

Read an Excerpt


What Is a Manager?

Let me start with a simple request. Please do not read the title of this chapter and decide this book isn't worth your time. I realize there are whole books devoted to the study of management.

This is not one of them.

This book is a practical guide to help organizations create an onboarding process that will help employees become productive in their new role as a manager. That being said, it's necessary to talk about the definition of management because it frames the conversation.

Whenever I want to talk about a definition, I find it helpful to do what I did in school and reach for a dictionary. In the technology age, of course, that means doing a Google search. If you search for the definition of management, it says "the process of dealing with or controlling things or people." Since organizations are composed of things and people, it's no surprise that the Oxford Dictionaries definition of a manager is "a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization."

So for this book, the word "manager" will focus on those responsibilities commonly identified with management: planning, staffing, organizing, coordinating, and controlling.

"Planning" is the process of establishing a goal and creating a course of action to achieve that goal.

"Staffing" involves hiring the right people to achieve the goals of the organization.

"Organizing" includes developing an organizational structure and designating tasks to employees.

"Coordinating" consists of the communication, direction, and feedback necessary to make sure the organization meets its goals.

"Controlling" includes adding performance standards and monitoring employee results.

Now that we've defined what management is and what managers do, let's also address the one other quality often associated with being a manager: leadership.

Managers versus Leaders

A conversation about managers and management always seems to prompt a conversation about leaders and leadership. Frankly, I'm surprised when I read articles comparing management and leadership. I don't understand the comparison. In my mind, they are two completely different things. It's like comparing apples and pianos.

We've already talked about the definition of a manager. Let's do the same with the word "leader." The Free Dictionary defines a leader as "one who has influence or power." Using this definition of leadership tells us a couple of things:

1. Leaders exist at every level of an organization. They may or may not also be managers.

2. If you're a manager, you have some leadership power by virtue of your position.

If we want to cultivate leadership within our organizations, we have to recognize that leadership exists in everyone. It's about understanding how an individual's leadership manifests itself in actions and behaviors. It's about using our leadership ability in the right way and at the right times. Companies need leaders beyond the ones holding a manager job title. And individuals holding a manager job title need to realize that their boss, co-workers, and team members all have leadership ability. This will change the way they view their role.

In your organization, you may or may not use the terms leader and manager interchangeably. Again, the reason I'm defining leaders and managers is because this book is not about comparing and contrasting leadership and management. That might imply a zero-sum game. That is, great managers aren't great leaders, and vice versa. For this book, we will consider leaders and managers to perform two different roles in the organization. Companies need both of them to be successful.

Here's another way to look at it. Several months ago, I had the opportunity to interview Ken Blanchard, Ph.D., author of the best-selling book The One Minute Manager, for my blog, HR Bartender, and I asked him about the difference between management and leadership. He said, "I never like to get in an argument about leadership and management, because whenever they are compared, management takes second fiddle, due to the fact that leadership sounds so much more exciting. Yet there are really two parts of leadership."

Blanchard explained the two parts of leadership. "The first is strategic leadership — which involves vision and direction — the second is operational leadership, which involves implementing the vision. The part that entails setting the vision and direction is what people usually associate with leadership. The part that entails implementation — how you accomplish the goals and live according to the vision — is thought of as management. But I really think both are aspects of leadership."

Leadership is a part of management. But it's not the only part of management. Excellent leadership skills are needed at every level of the organization. We will address leadership in this book along with the functions of management.

People versus Process Managers

Another manager comparison that happens quite frequently is the "people" versus "process" manager, the definitions being that people managers have direct reports and process managers do not. Sometimes a judgment is made that people managers are more valuable because of their responsibility to manage their direct reports. Let's put that comment to rest right now. All managers deal with people and process, regardless of direct reports. Human resources is a great example:

• A recruiting manager has a team of recruiting staff. The recruiting manager manages people, but he or she also manages the recruiting process.

• A recruiting manager without a team manages the recruiting process, but he or she also works with other people.

In fact, some might argue that the solo recruiting manager has a tougher job managing the process by working with the hiring managers, payroll, and other functions than the recruiting manager with a team. My point is this: The goal of this book isn't to debate whether people or process is better, tougher, or more valuable. The point is, people and process are intertwined. Even individual contributors with a manager title do not operate in a silo.

Another reason that the people-versus-process distinction isn't necessary is due to the increasing number of times a manager is placed in charge of a project team or task force. A common example might be the technology manager who is responsible for a project implementation team to roll out a new software solution. The technology manager could be a process manager and, because of his or her extensive knowledge about the process, the manager is placed in charge of the implementation. It's critical for project success that the technology manager knows how to manage his or her team, even if it's a temporary situation.

Bottom line: If you're a manager, you have to deal with both people and process. And you have to learn how to deal with both successfully.

Manager Career Lifecycles

I recently heard someone say, "There's no such thing as a career ladder. It's more of a career obstacle course." While the image is humorous to envision, the comment offers a good perspective. Many of us are not doing the jobs we thought we would after leaving school. That doesn't mean we're unhappy or disengaged. It does mean that as we spend more time in the working world, our role as a manager evolves. So in having a conversation about manager onboarding, we need to consider the needs of both employees and managers at every phase of their careers.

A perfect example is happening right now in today's workforce. As the Baby Boomer generation is planning its exit from the workforce, Millennials are establishing their early careers. Millennial managers need to be ready to manage their own career needs as well as support the career needs of their Baby Boomer workforce.

Millennial Managers Are the New Face of Business

According to the "Multi-Generational Leadership Study" conducted by Workplace, an executive development firm, and Beyond, an employment site, a growing number of Millennials (83 percent) are managing Generation X and Baby Boomer professionals. However, 45 percent of Baby Boomers and Generation X respondents felt that Millennials' lack of managerial experience could have a negative impact on the organizational culture. On a related note, over one-third of Millennial respondents indicated that it's difficult to manage older generations.

"Millennials are no longer new to the workforce, they're now in the thick of it," said Rich Milgram, founder and CEO of Beyond. "However, a significant portion of the older employees they're managing don't have faith in their abilities. The only way to overcome this unique challenge is through a range of professional learning and development delivery options, including formal training, mentoring, coaching, and online self-directed learning. This will help create a culture of learning that benefits all generations, and provides employees with the tools and resources they need to flourish as leaders."

In the book Defining HR Success, the authors talked about different professional career levels such as early, mid, and senior/executive (I like to call it "late career"). Within these career levels, we travel a progression of sorts starting with our first jobs. Our needs and the company's expectations for us differ during each phase.

Early Career: Establishing Your Long-Term Goals

The early-career phase can involve a couple of dimensions. First, it can be the time when employees have their first few jobs and are learning those skills that make them great employees. Examples might be working with occupational schedules, dress codes, and company policies and procedures. The second aspect can be when employees are trying to find their chosen professions. It might be the jobs we held while we were getting our education.

Those first impressions of the working world are incredibly important, and they shape how we view management. Our first managers might have more influence than they realize on our decision to become a manager in the future. And this is crucial when it comes to the role of a manager and his or her ultimate success.

Midcareer: Dedication to Your Profession

During the midcareer phase, employees are considered generalists or specialists in their chosen fields. They manage programs, processes, and people. And they can hold a formal title within the organization, such as manager or director. (Note: When we discuss manager onboarding in this book, we could also be talking about supervisors, directors, vice presidents, and other roles. It's about what the position does, not what the position is called.)

Also during midcareer, employees are looking to refine their knowledge and skills. It's possible they will explore opportunities outside of their departments or organizations. Managers need to be confident and trust that employees will make the right decisions about their careers. Their responsibility is to play the role of coach.

Late Career: Sharing Your Knowledge and Expertise

In the late-career phase, we are considered very experienced in our profession. We may or may not be an executive. We also may or may not have tenure with one organization. Also, during this stage, we might be formally or informally considering semi-retirement or some sort of planned exit strategy. (Note: Career stages aren't driven by age. There are many people who have multiple careers in their lifetime.)

Later in our careers, the focus changes from developing ourselves to developing others. Hopefully, we've had a fortunate career and want to pass along what we've learned. The organization wants that as well. It wants experienced managers to share their knowledge with high-potential employees.

Which leads me to the most important role that managers have ...

Managers Have One Job

... and that's to identify and groom their replacements.

If managers take their jobs seriously, then part of their function is staffing. Not just staffing their team but thinking about who will replace them. For the organization to run well, managers must be able to take a day off, leave the office for training, and go on vacation without the department falling apart. If the company is going to be able to meet its short- and long-term goals, managers must think beyond the here and now.

That's why managers need onboarding that is specific to their role. We are giving managers a role and, at the same time, asking them to prepare for giving it away. Organizations need to set managers up for success.

Managers need to realize that the role of being a manager isn't to be indispensable. They must be willing to share control, power, and authority with employees. In addition, they need to be able to delegate comfortably and effectively.

Ultimately, organizations want managers who are constantly thinking about talent. They want the managers' job of finding and training their replacements to permeate the organization. That takes more than a management development program. In the next chapter, we'll dissect onboarding and discuss why it's the appropriate method for new managers to quickly become productive.


What Is Onboarding?

Years ago, onboarding was synonymous with orientation. Today, onboarding has transformed into a process that's much longer and broader in scope. Some organizations have given onboarding a different name to breathe new life into an old concept. For example, at NCR onboarding is called First Steps to represent your first steps with the organization. The program was created by Wendy Smith, the leader of new employee experiences at NCR. Again, "new employee experiences" is a fresh new phrase.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because it's not about what you call the program. For this book, we're going to call it onboarding. It includes several different phases and activities. The goal of onboarding hasn't changed.

Onboarding is a process that helps employees become productive in the most effective and efficient means possible.

While it's hard to track the history of onboarding, the term seems to date back to the 1970s when it was introduced as "organizational socialization," which is defined as the process through which employees learn the knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective. It included meetings, trainings, and printed materials. Organizational socialization leads to positive outcomes such as higher job satisfaction, better performance, and reduced stress.

But the primary reason onboarding was created is quite clear: turnover is expensive. An article in Fast Company stated that 31 percent of new employees quit a job within the first six months. Organizations cannot achieve their goals and objectives if they don't have employees. Managers can't accomplish their goals if they are constantly recruiting. So setting employees up for success (that is, onboarding) is essential for managers and the business.

Organizations realize the importance of onboarding. According to the Sierra-Cedar 2015–2016 HR Systems Survey White Paper, over 40 percent of survey participants plan to work on iniatives to improve recruiting and onboarding business processes. Many of those business plan improvements are in the form of onboarding solutions. Survey responses indicated a 90 percent increase in mobile adoption from the year prior, and another 65 percent increase is forecasted for next year. It's obvious that onboarding is a priority and that finding effective onboarding strategies is key.

Onboarding involves several phases and various activities. I want to spend some time talking about what's involved with onboarding so when we start discussing how to design a manager onboarding program, we're on the same page. If onboarding is the process that helps employees become productive, then it only makes sense that onboarding includes recruiting, orientation, training, performance management, and employee engagement.


We all know recruiting as the process of bringing a person into the organization. It includes employer branding, career portals, sourcing, interviews, selection, and, finally, extending the offer. In the context of manager onboarding, we could be talking about external hires or internal promotions and transfers. Either way, the process is similar.

For external hires, we want managers to be interested in our organization and excited to apply (employer branding). Organizations need a clearly defined and efficient way for applicants to submit their interest (career portals). Recruiters want to identify the most qualified candidates (sourcing), connect them with the department (interviews), choose the best talent (selection), and finally, extend the offer.

Internally, organizations want management candidates who are interested in positions of greater responsibility. An internal job posting process makes it easy for employees to express interest in job openings. The internal recruiting process still needs to source the most qualified candidates, conduct interviews with the department, and select the best person before extending the offer.


Excerpted from "Manager Onboarding"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Sharlyn Lauby.
Excerpted by permission of Society For Human Resource Management.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Part I: Manager Onboarding Defined,
Chapter 1. What Is a Manager?,
Chapter 2. What Is Onboarding?,
Chapter 3. Where the Need for Manager Onboarding Might Surface,
Part II: The Business Case for Manager Onboarding,
Chapter 4. The Value of Onboarding in General,
Chapter 5. Why Manager Onboarding,
Chapter 6. Selling the Idea to Senior Management,
Part III: 5 Steps to Developing a Manager Onboarding Program,
Chapter 7. Assessment,
Chapter 8. Program Design Options,
Chapter 9. Development Strategies,
Chapter 10. Pilot Programs,
Chapter 11. Program Implementation,
Part IV: Manager Onboarding Content,
Chapter 12. Technical (Hard) Skills,
Chapter 13. Management (Soft) Skills,
Chapter 14. Well-Being,
Chapter 15. Human Resource Skills,
Part V: Post-Onboarding Strategies,
Chapter 16. Career Development,
Chapter 17. Alumni Groups and Internal Networking Groups,
Chapter 18. Preparing Managers for Their Next Promotion,
Part VI: Measuring Program Effectiveness,
Chapter 19. Measuring Program Effectiveness,
Chapter 20. Maintaining the Program,
About the Author,
Additional SHRM-Published Books,

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