Optimize Onboarding

It takes roughly 2 weeks to form a habit; it takes roughly two weeks to get comfortable in a new environment. A common mistake is to treat a new report’s first couple weeks like college orientation - social, light hearted, get-to-know-you stuff. If your report spends the first two weeks reading C# documentation and having lunch out on the town with the team, guess what, they’ve just normalized that behavior as what the role is.

The answer: start your report doing real work as soon as possible. If they’re a software engineer, they should be committing code week one (ideally day 2 or 3); If they’re a product manager, they should be attending meetings and picking up supporting activities on a similar time frame. Then the tone has been set - working here means getting things done.

This means as manager you need to give your report tractable work in the first week. Managers not being ready for a report to start is the number one reason people end up normalizing underperformance, because they had nothing meaningful to do. If a manager describes a report as not having initiative in the first couple weeks it’s a red flag - it’s the manager’s job to provide new hires with clear paths to contribute immediately.

Another main reason people fall into onboarding traps is because your organization has painfully slow onboarding. Endless HR videos, slow security processes, a mountain of fragile technology setup - these all make for a shitty and counterproductive start at a company. Optimize your onboarding to get people doing what you hired them to do. Look to formalize performance indicators of your onboarding. For example, for engineers this could be time-to-first-commit and time-to-joining-sprints.

This approach holds for managers and executives as well. In that cohort it’s also common and a common red flag for people to spend the first couple weeks putzing around under the guise of “getting to know what’s going on”. Managers and executives should be involved in the decisions of the team from day 1 and developing artifacts - plans, TODO lists, strategy documents - in the first couple weeks. With good managers and executives you see them day 1 adding perspective and insight into conversations, and everyone collectively appreciates that the right person has been hired.

Onboarding is one of the most critical periods in a person’s time at a company. It’s one of the highest ROI periods when managing someone. Take that opportunity to set expectations properly and measure success quantiatively.