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The Secret to Successful External Hiring: Building an Onramp

Bringing in an external hire for a leadership position—or any position—can be tricky. Even family businesses, though, must at some point look outside of their own walls for good people. The trick is finding the right person and successfully onboarding them. Finding the right candidate, though, is only the beginning. Successful external hires are the result of months and even years of integration into the company and its culture—and it’s not always easy. In fact, the failure rate for external hires in the first two years ranges from 40-60 percent.

The hiring process is time-consuming and expensive. Hiring the wrong person, and eventually firing them, can damage a company’s bottom line. So why do so many businesses make mistakes in hiring? Judgement plays a part, but the biggest driver of failed external hires is a lack of a plan to integrate that hire into the company and its culture. New hires need direction. They need to learn what is expected of them, and how to thrive in the company’s unique culture. They need the support of management. They need an onramp. You can hire the best talent in the world, but if you don’t show them the roadmap to success, they’ll end up failing. Building the right onramp for new hires requires planning, and above all, it requires buy-in and engagement from leadership.

Culture Is Essential

One of the biggest reasons external hires fail is because companies put too much weight into technical skills. Yes, technical skills are important—the person must be proficient at the job they are being hired for—but culture fit ends up being far more important for new hires’ success. And while personality should be taken into consideration when trying to identify the right hire, culture must be learned. No one is a culture fit on day one. The responsibility of integrating a new hire into the company culture falls on leadership.

Show and Tell

The most important thing you can give a new hire is clarity. In order for new hires to successfully integrate into the company and its culture, they must know what is expected of them, the scope of their position, how their position relates to others in the company and how their success will be measured. All of these things must be clearly communicated by management. But simply “telling” isn’t enough. Leaders must show new hires what is expected of them by demonstrating the actions that they expect. Showing new hires how to work and communicate will do far more to integrate them into the culture than simply telling them will.

Communicate. Then Communicate Some More.

Poor work cultures are, in many cases, the result of poor communication. In the absence of communication, the mind immediately assumes the worst. Lack of communication can and will build on itself, creating information gaps, lack of trust, lack of direction and eventually, a toxic culture. Good communication is key for every employee and every leader, and it is paramount for new hires. Leaders must communicate with new hires and prepare them for everything from the company’s internal “politics” to potential pitfalls to how they can successfully communicate with others. Communication is essential to building an onramp for new external hires, and for their future success.

Build the Onramp, and They Will Come

External hiring, whether for a leadership or any other position, is important to get right. Hiring the wrong person can set the company back both operationally and financially. Hiring and onboarding the right person isn’t hard—but it does take effort that goes beyond the search phase. Companies that build onramps to help new hires become acquainted with, and eventually integrated into company culture, will find great success.

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