Hitting the ground running: Getting manager onboarding right

Laying the groundwork early ensures they can onboard others properly, too.

Managers are an employee’s closest touchpoint to all other parts of the organization. They translate and deliver directives from leadership, news about the company, and set a precedent for your organization’s culture.

But what about when new managers show up on the scene — how do you onboard them and set them up for success so they can lead effectively?

Managers are more likely to onboard others effectively when they’ve been brought in the proper way themselves. But the groundwork for getting managers onboarded begins before they ever flip open their new work computer for the first time — it’s a process that communicators and HR can collaborate on for maximum effectiveness. Ahead of our panel on effective onboarding comms at Ragan’s Employee Experience Conference in Nashville this August, we spoke with two panelists about the importance of holistic onboarding, some specific strategies for making it happen, and more.

Checklists and processes for getting managers up to speed

Whether you’re bringing someone on from outside your organization or hiring from within, there’s still much that needs to be done to get a manager set up for success in their l role. That means customizing each onboarding scenario as much as possible to the individual and the team they’re taking over.

Anita Myers, training manager for e-commerce at DHL Supply Chain, said that the planning process for onboarding begins before any manager ever sits down for their first day of work.

“Behind the scenes, there’s a series of checklists and conversations going on in the background to ensure that the new manager has everything they need to get started,” Myers said.

At DHL Supply Chain, new managers are given as many resources as possible to not only acquaint them with the processes and people in their new job but also how they fit into the larger operations of the company.

“Before their first day, all of our new leaders get some email communication to get them excited about their role and to help them learn more about the company,” she said. “We also foster connections with other leaders across the world since we are a global organization.”

Each new manager is also given a welcome kit of sorts to help them get to know their team better. It includes prompts to ask the manager’s new team members and reports to help along the transition process.

“We don’t want it to seem like a robotic transition,” she said. “As a global company, we want to make sure everyone is speaking the common language of the brand, but that the process is tailored to the person.”

Supporting the smallest unit of culture with consistency

The manager-employee connection is critically important, no matter where you work. A great manager knows how to not only build up their reports but also have tough conversations.

According to Cat Colella-Graham, communications consultant and adjunct professor at St. Francis College, setting the tone from the outset is key. She suggests new managers try to schedule short, daily gatherings with their teams at the outset, and weekly meetings with reports to help build rapport.

“These guiding principles will help develop key relationships,” she said. “We want managers to feel like they are an extension of leadership and standing shoulder to shoulder with the company, that they’re bringing employees to feel shoulder to shoulder as well.”

Colella-Graham added that communicators should work to ensure that managers have the lay of the land from day one — echoing Myers’ suggestion of providing reference workflows and FAQS that answer the many questions that might arise early in a new job.

“You can try to cobble things together for a new manager, but imagine how supported they’ll feel when they’re given guiding documents at the outset,” she said.

“When they’re given guiding structures and support, they feel like they and their team have their own space to grow. Consistent messaging and support will help both the new manager and their whole team become more confident.”

Learn more from Myers and Colella-Graham during their panel at Ragan’s Employee Experience Conferenc, which runs from August 12-14, 2024 in Nashville. Register here .

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.


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