Sally Henderson
Executive Mentor
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Sally Henderson

Why Onboarding is a must have for every creative business

The market today calls for new talent, new thinking, diversity and fast impact like never before. We are dealing with so much change and it is only going to keep evolving.

This makes Onboarding a critical part of the process for any new talent joining a creative organisation. But it very, very rarely happens well. The normal approach to senior hires in the creative industry is to appoint someone and then expect them to know what to do, to prove themselves and why they are worth such a big financial investment. This is a risky strategy that often ends in failure. 

When a senior appointment doesn’t work out as hoped, the result is lost revenue, damaged relationships, weakened culture and a stressed out senior team that must cope with the aftermath. And I haven’t even begun to talk about the next stress that comes which is trying to fill the role again.

So, what can creative agency owners and leaders do to change this? Let’s make it easier for senior folk to fly in their early days, minimise risk and invest in the investment. It makes sense to me!

Here are some top tips that I hope will help if you are Onboarding new talent:

1.    Make sure you have a clear compelling Job Description linked to purpose for both the organisation and the individual. Senior appointments fail when there isn’t clarity or joined up thinking about what “success” looks like. Senior leaders need clear boundaries and responsibility remits. They are ambitious and looking to advance learning and career so let’s embrace this and use it positively. The norm, due to lack of clarity, is often leaders clashing, frustration kicking in and negativity around new and different polluting senior appointments

2.    Clarify key learning milestones and the support the new person, and the rest of the senior team, may need to deliver them. It takes a lot of energy to transition in career and business. Having a road map for success enable this energy to be better managed and supported

3.    Communicate well, regularly and authentically. I often quote that senior appointments, especially change-led ones, fail 8 times out of 10. Why? Because people fail to communicate well and once the new person is onboard they are often left to “just get on with it”. No-one likes to admit they are finding things hard so difficult conversations are avoided, niggles become problems and voila emotional connection is weakened and then breaks. Once this happens there is no going back. Regular open conversations based on the truth prevent this

4.    Celebrate early wins. Fear can be a right old bu**er in senior appointments. We are all human and we all have it. Minimise the fear factor by seeking out success and celebrating it. This builds confidence, supports growth and reassures the fit is working. So often the little things and human touches make the biggest difference. Frustratingly these “golden moments” get missed because people are too busy, too externally focused and running on the assumption senior people don’t need this because, well they are senior aren’t they. Wrong!

5.    Commit to past the honeymoon. Real change and transformation takes time. It needs to be nurtured, embraced and supported for the long term to really root and thrive. There is the old saying be careful what you wish for! I have seen clients swear blind they want change, for a provocateur to come in to shake things up. When this happens, often old habits kick in and the established leaders / owners want to stick with what feels comfortable. Often this isn’t even realised as it is happening on a subconscious level. Consciously committing to the long-term and working through the bumps benefits everyone, will see your return-on-investment paid back and set up for repeated successes. (Of course, this is assuming the recruitment process was effective and the other tips mentioned in this article are happening!)

I am thrilled that the importance of Onboarding is starting to take effect. One of my clients has recently invested in a new senior hire with a tailor-made on-boarding programme for the rest of 2017 both for the new person and the core leadership team. It’s fantastic to see creative businesses investing in talent and leadership as this is the way to remain at the front of the industry, relevant to clients and attractive to future-critical talent.

I am offering a complementary on-boarding audit to support change and senior talent in an industry I love. Please email mesally@sallyhenderson.co.uk to arrange a call.

I am also very excited that the first Shine Brighter Roundtable: Attract & Retain Top Talent is taking place in April. I will be sharing practical proven methods, short-cuts to better talent engagement and ways you can save money and get better results attracting and retaining exceptional talent.

Click here for full details.