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Taking a New Job and Assimilating Successfully

Enda Goodwin

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Field Agent

Field Agent

The First 90 Days in a New Position

Organizations spend a great deal of time and money seeking and hiring new talent, but they are generally not very good at providing effective on-boarding support to help ensure the success of new hires. Just as you created a marketing plan for your job search, develop a game plan for the first 90 days in your new role. This timeframe can be critical to your long term success.

When new hires fail, it usually is not caused by a lack of job knowledge or technical skills, but a failure to assimilate rapidly into the new organizational environment. People joining a new organization face special challenges: lack of familiarity with the culture, unwritten rules, and possibly an organizational bias toward outsiders. It’s realistic to anticipate some skepticism about your arrival, and it may take some work to uncover the way things truly work in the new organization.

Importance of the first 90 days

Expectations of you will be the highest during the first three months of any new role. All eyes will be on you, and people will be forming opinions based on very little information. In a short period of time, decisions will be made about your abilities and your potential. You need to develop a plan to create your momentum and future success.

  1. Review your own leadership style
  2. Conduct an honest self-assessment of your leadership style before you join the organization. Start by considering what others have told you in the past. This may involve taking a 360 assessment and asking former managers, peers and subordinates to help you understand your own style, and your areas for development. It’s important for you to discover your blind spots, and try to eliminate them before your first day.
  3. Start off on the right foot
  4. When you start a new role, you may think the best way to success is to showcase your skills and expertise, to make an impact as soon as possible. Recognize that there are many important stakeholders who will be making assessments – not just your immediate manager. You will need to quickly develop productive relationships with your peers, as well as with your direct (and indirect) reports, and possibly customers, suppliers, and shareholders.
  5. They will be evaluating any changes you made to determine if the changes were made with careful assessment and thought, or just for the sake of making changes. Making decisions too quickly, without assessing your current situation, may set you up for failure.
  6. Immerse yourself in your new environment
  7. If you’re starting in a new company, it’s important to immerse yourself in the new environment and learn as much as you can about it. Show some modesty. Yes, you were hired to bring certain skills to the organization, but don’t be a know-it-all, or brag about past accomplishments. This is your time to learn.
    • What is the company culture?
    • How does your department/team work together?
    • Are there any obvious issues/conflicts?
    • How is your department/team regarded in the organization?
    • What cross-departmental relationships are the strongest? The weakest?
  8. Establish a game plan
  9. Develop a plan of the things you want to accomplish over the next 30, 60 and 90 days. Remember, your plan should be flexible, as it may change the more you immerse yourself into your new organization.

The first 30 days

Depending on your role, there may be a structured training schedule and/or a steep learning curve during the first 30 days. Use this opportunity to interact with as many people as possible.

  1. Who are your peers?
  2. Have you met all the key stakeholders?
  3. Gather insight into the organization.
  4. How well do cross-departmental groups work together?

If you are managing a team, meet with each of your team members individually. An initial group meeting may be ideal to share general information, but following with individual meetings will give you a better perspective.

Watch and listen! During the first 30 days, be hyper-observant. Try not to create biased or speculative opinions during the first few days. Immersing yourself into a new environment will require you to be both interactive and highly perceptive. Create a log of key items that could impact your future success.

Days 31-60

Review all the information you’ve gathered. Where can you make some easy wins, build credibility, and begin showcasing your value as a new hire? Be cautious not to make dramatic changes as you are still new to the organization and what may seem as ‘old’ methods, or procedures may have been created with considerable thought and reasoning.

Begin cementing key relationships. Take a continued interest in how the entire organization functions, and investigate how you and your group can leverage mutual opportunities.

Days 61-90

Now is the time to begin making your mark. With the success of some early wins, it should be easier to make other, more significant changes. But don’t make decisions in isolation. Wherever possible, thoroughly explain your rationale to your team, and listen for comments and feedback. Remember, real progress can be made with the support of your team.

Learn to avoid common traps

Not listening. Listening is often avoided, or done half-heartedly in your eagerness to show your knowledge and success. People fall into this trap when they come into an organization with pre-determined ideas, before they’ve familiarized themselves with the new environment and understood the existing processes and players.

Complaining. Don’t complain about inadequacy of existing processes, and don’t keep referring to the success you had in your previous position. This will only isolate you from your existing team. There was a reason why these processes were set in place – listen and learn when and why they were implemented, and ask for feedback on how your team members think they can be improved.

Picking favorites. Yes, you’ll be evaluating peers and building allies, but don’t be seen as having favorites. You won’t win a fan base with the broader team if you do.

Making big decisions without input. You’re new to the organization. You may have some great ideas, but you’re still learning. Once again, listen, and ask for input and suggestions.

Creating too much change in a short period of time. Focus on one or two initiatives. Don’t try to make a big splash with four or five. Change is not easy, and you’re still building your credibility, so don’t make the mistake of taking on too much. Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself.

Continual reflection and assessment

During the first 90 days, set up regular meetings with your manager to get feedback and advice. Listen, and show you can adjust your approach based on feedback. Your manager knows the organization and the people better than you do.

Near the end of your first 90 days, leaders will be evaluating you.

  • Did they make the right hiring decision?
  • Are you fitting in?
  • What have you accomplished?
  • Can they see your future potential?

Your success is often within your control if you prepare and effectively manage the first 90 days’ transition.

Maintain your career momentum: Moving forward, continually reflect on how you’ve personally performed. What have you learned? What successes have you contributed? Continue to build your professional growth objectives.

Use the Onboarding Strategy Template to organize your tasks.

Additional resources

There are several useful books on this subject, and we encourage you to read one or more.

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