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E238 | Building a Better and More Efficient Onboarding Process with Brad Giles

Does your organisation suffer from onboarding debt? It’s the difference between what people should understand and what they actually understand about how to succeed in their role. This debt manifests itself through low retention, poor cultures and frustrated leaders. But it doesn’t need to be this way. 

In his new book, Onboarded: How to bring new hires to the point where they are effective, faster, Brad Giles gives a simple step-by-step process that leaders can use to significantly increase the effectiveness of new hires and existing teams. And this week, we got the chance to learn more from him on a new episode of Mind Your F**king Business Podcast. 

Brad is a business coach based in Perth, Australia, and this week he joined us to talk about how to get new employees to deliver faster, how to get clear on expectations and the impact that will have. Often, there are structural reasons that lead companies to do onboarding inadequately. There’s a big gap that remains unmeasured, which is what is the difference between what people should know and what they actually know. Onboarding isn’t something that should be left to HR. It should be done by the hiring manager and the team. Brad also talks about managerial fit and expectations, the technical skills that people need to learn and the things that culturally define the business that new hires need to pick up on.

Don’t miss this fantastic conversation. Download and listen to learn more.

On today’s podcast: 

  • The difference between a job scorecard and a role scorecard
  • The 90-day onboarding plan
  • What is onboarding debt
  • Who owns onboarding in a business
  • How to build a robust onboarding process

Follow Brad Giles:




How To Help Your New Hire Succeed In Their Role

Brad Giles has more than twenty years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, strategic planner and leadership coach. He has twice been recognised as a BRW Fast 100 founder, an EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, and is actively involved in EO, the Entrepreneurs Organisation. As founder of strategic planning and coaching consultancy, Evolution Partners, Brad works with CEOs and leadership teams to build enduring, great companies. His previous book is Made to Thrive: The Five Roles to Evolve Beyond Your Leadership Comfort Zone.

The reason why Brad wrote his latest book, Onboarded, is that he believes that the greatest source of misery in the workplace today is people who don’t understand how to succeed. They don’t understand our expectations as leaders, the culture, the technical and process expectations of their role, or the business. A misunderstanding that, he says, is incredibly expensive. 

“Is the greatest source of misery. In my first book, I wrote about this issue of misunderstanding in one aspect, and it was such a big issue I decided to write a second book purely on the topic. How do we get people to understand? We onboard them well.”

Everybody has a bad onboarding story, affirms Brad. There’s a big gap between what is expected from a role and people not understanding how to succeed in it. As part of his book, Brad surveyed more than a thousand CEOs and hiring managers around the world, and the data is clear. There are structural reasons why people don’t do a good job of onboarding. But it doesn’t need to be this way. 

The book resonates with people because, during the pandemic, they stumbled across staff issues and realised they had a problem. 

“Having a computer at your desk, having a business card available to you, or even having a desk is not onboarding. That’s so simple and basic as an induction to start a role. We’re talking about how do we get a person to succeed in the role? That’s what we’re saying based around the premise of a job scorecard or a role scorecard.”

Job scorecard vs Role scorecard

Wait, aren’t these two the same thing? Apparently not. And for Brad, it’s important to make a distinction between the two. Although their structure is fundamentally similar, the important difference is when you use each tool. The job scorecard is for hiring and it includes the competencies for the role. For example, if you’re hiring an accountant, one of the competencies is having high honesty. It is once you’ve hired the person that the role scorecard comes in. In both scorecards, the purpose and the accountabilities are the same, as well as the measure of success. But in the role scorecard, you don’t need to include the competencies. 

“Because we know the competencies that we’ve got. So then I’m just switching it out to be this is the expectations of the manager, or basically how to succeed around the three areas that I mentioned earlier, the three primary areas of onboarding being managers expectations, cultural expectations, technical and process expectations.”

Ultimately, the role scorecard is used to build the 90-day onboarding plan.

The 90-day onboarding plan

The purpose of the 90-day onboarding plan, or Sprint plan as Brad calls it, is to get the person competent and help them succeed. Brad has been using this tool in various forms with clients for eight years, and what he’d seen is that the focus from the manager on getting them to understand it’s like putting the relationship on steroids. 

“The A-players, the right people, really step up, and it really shines a light and diverges people one way or the other. If they can’t succeed in the role, it becomes really obvious within 90 days.”

No hiring process can claim to get it right 100% of the time, says Brad. And there’s no substitute for the manager’s validation. Ultimately, what does success mean? It means that they live and breathe the purpose. They have taken ownership of the accountabilities within the scorecard and they’re executing the metrics.

“We know that there can be ramp-up periods. You don’t expect a new salesperson to do budget on day one. It might take three months. But what we’re trying to do is to force a decision at the 90-day point, which is successful fit or unsuccessful fit. We want to force the new hire’s manager to make that decision at that point.”

Brad also clarifies that, although many countries worldwide have a 90-day period, it might not be the same for your company, and he recommends that you use your own legal advice to determine what the best practice is for your business. For instance, he also gives the example of a business owner in Texas who has a good onboarding process in place, and whose goal was to make money as quickly as possible. He said they know that if they commit to 100 days, not 90, that’s fine. In 100 days, they’ve got to understand all of the systems and they’ve got a highly systemised process to take them through that and spend time with the manager. And they’ve validated that. Without that 100 days, it’s going to take them nine months to get up to speed. 

The true costs of poor onboarding

Entrepreneurs or execs in entrepreneurial teams think that giving a new hire a computer, a new t-shirt and a coffee cup is a good onboarding. But, the extensive research that Brad has done with more sophisticated firms shows that the costs are outrageous and that entrepreneurs need to look at the hard dollar costs. In his book, Brad wanted to quantify the cost of doing onboarding inadequately.

“I didn’t want to just write a soft book trying to make you feel nice and fluffy. This is a real and hard cost. And so I focused on the cultural cost first of all, which we can quantify, but more importantly, for those who don’t believe what I just said, then there’s the hard dollar cost.”

What happens when you’ve hired somebody into the business and the rest of the team feels that you’ve hired the wrong person within weeks? This could erode trust in the company and your ability to hire A-players. Why wait three, six or nine months to let that person go you know on week three that they don’t have the right attitude, or weren’t a cultural fit? 

“The problem with that is that people think that you just don’t care. Your inaction around someone we knew after three weeks, why did it take you nine months? Right, that’s all fine and well, so, therefore, you wear the cost as the employer. But the problem is that other people in the business think that you just don’t care. And then the second part of that is, so why should I care?”

This leads to the issue that Brad calls onboarding debt, which he compares to sleep deprivation. If you don’t get enough sleep in a night, you’ll probably be a bit grumpy over a few days. But then if you don’t get enough sleep over weeks, months, or even years, it can have major health consequences on your body.

If you bring someone in as a new hire, they should understand after 90 days what’s reasonably documented on a role scorecard. The job of the onboarding process is to get them to understand that to be a successful fit. Without that process that I’ve described, if they just join and they start on the first day, how much do they actually understand if you don’t follow a focused and targeted approach? They might understand 30%,50%, or 70% of how to succeed in the role, but those things they don’t understand is what Brad calls an onboarding debt.

“Then we’ve got this absence of understanding. But then you think about that in terms of one person, and then that person equally interacts with other people. So if you’ve got a person who doesn’t understand 35%, and then there’s another person who doesn’t understand 20 or 40%, this onboarding debt comes at a cost across the whole business in terms of mistakes, rework, and people not being aligned.”

How to build a robust onboarding process

So, to solve the issue of onboarding debt, what do entrepreneurs or leaders need to do? Who truly owns onboarding? And, at which level are you no longer prepared to accept the cost of misunderstanding? If you’re hiring someone, you need to help them to understand how to succeed. 

“There’s a very large mining company in the town where I live. I was talking to someone at an event, and they’ve been hired by this company, and they’re like, ‘I don’t know who my manager is. I don’t know what my job is. I’ve got no idea. And I’ve been working here for a month and I’ve got no idea at all.’ Someone inside that company decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to get someone to understand. So I think it’s more about, are you prepared to invest in paying the price of not doing the work?”

For Brad, the person who owns onboarding is the manager. HR is accountable for the induction, but that’s a completely separate process from onboarding. If you start a new job, you want to interact with your manager, and you want to understand how to succeed. You don’t want to go through a week’s worth of watching videos to try to understand. You want to get that learning directly from your manager. So, as a manager, spend two hours working preparing the job scorecard.

“And then across 13 weeks, one hour per week dedicated to one-to-one meetings between the new hire and the new hire’s manager equals 15 hours, approximately. So the value proposition that I’m pitching is to spend 15 hours as a manager. You’ll get absolute confidence if they’re a successful fit or not. You’ll be forced to make that decision after 90 days, but they won’t carry onboarding debt moving forward. The productivity, the retention, all the stats are there that it just makes such a big difference.”

Book recommendations 

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Movie)

Small Giants by Bo Burlingham

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