The Cost of Failed Onboarding

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

Guest Post by: Jack Baxter onboarding

A colleague just sent me a note asking me to write about Onboarding. They read my recent posts about my checklist for Competency Based Hiring and my list of critical factors regarding competency based hiring I have learned from hindsight. My colleague pointed out that Onboarding was just as important as hiring, if not more so. It is true that a person who sails through an interview that was conducted based on competency could leave just months after being hired! I have seen it happen more than once.

I was consulting with a major financial intuition and became aware of a situation that had developed in the management ranks. It seems that an important operational position was soon to become vacant. When I asked for details I learned that the individual who was leaving had only been there 6 months! I had several meetings with this individual previously and I was impressed by his knowledge of the industry. I was interested in why he was leaving so soon; before I could catch up to him to ask why, he had left.

As it would happen, I ran into him several months later at the airport. Since we both faced flight delays he agreed to have lunch with me and talk about his experience. I had heard rumors that he had left immediately after his “mandated probation period” had concluded. Since other comments that I had heard did not match up with what my impression of the individual, I was curious to hear his side of the story.

He related his excitement at getting his “dream job” after what he described as a very tough but fair interview. He had done his research on the company and believed he would not only be a good fit, but would make a significant contribution to the bottom line.

Soon he was using words like “outsider”, “lack of communication”, limited access to key resources such as his boss! He mention more than once, “I couldn’t wait to get out of there!” It seems Onboarding, the process of helping new hires adjust to the performance and social aspects of the job, had failed this individual. Essentially the company had made a strategic hire and then left the individual to figure the rest out for himself. This was a strategic mistake on the part of the company.

I have read that half of all senior hires from outside the company fail within 18 months in a new position. The record for hourly workers is worse; half leave within the first 120 days according to SHRM.

Considering the cost of turnover it becomes important to support the new hire during those first months of navigating the company organization and culture. This applies to companies large and small regardless of industry. We in the O.D. (Organizational Development) world refer to this as organizational socialization. Once a new hire feels welcome within the organization and has a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of their job the faster they will be able to make a significant contribution.

Next time I will discuss the process of successful onboarding.


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VPI Strategies was awarded a community organizing grant from PhRMA to form a San Diego County affiliate of the California Chronic Care Coalition

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

San Diego County affiliate of the California Chronic Care CoalitionVPI Strategies was awarded a community organizing grant from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to form a San Diego County affiliate of the California Chronic Care Coalition comprised of voluntary health agencies representing patients living with specific chronic illnesses. An astounding 75% of our health care spending is on people with chronic conditions. The definition for a chronic illness is one lasting 3 months or more (U.S. National Center for Health Statistics).

The coalition, California Chronic Care Coalition in San Diego County, will provide a place for patient advocates to strategize and share information with “like” organizations around chronic illness public policy issues. “Reforming California’s health care system will require a paradigm shift from ‘crisis centered care’ to ‘prevention centered care.” -Liz Helms, California Chronic Care Coalition President & CEO. More than 20 organizations in San Diego County will be invited to participate.

Scott Suckow will serve as the convener of the coalition. Scott is a VPI Affiliated Partner and Vice President of Development and Government Relations with Mental Health Systems. He has a long history of involvement in the non-profit community, particularly around improving healthcare access and standards of care. Scott was also the appointee on three San Diego County Health and Human Services commissions and named one of San Diego Magazine’s “50 People to Watch”.

VPI is grateful to PhRMA, which represents innovative biopharmaceutical research and discovery companies. PhRMA is devoted to advancing public policies in the U.S. and around the world that support innovative medical research, yield progress for patients today and provide hope for the treatments and cures of tomorrow.

Established in 1999, VPI Strategies works in the for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors. VPI leverages strengths, provides intelligence and offers innovative solutions to complex issues. The organization is committed to our work in nonprofit sector and specifically to community organizing initiatives that better the lives of San Diegans. VPI is honored to part of California Chronic Care Coalition in San Diego County.

My Checklist For Competency Based Hiring

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

hiringGuest Post by: Jack Baxter

As a manager you are charged with building and maintaining a successful team. In order to do that you have to hire the right talent. The quality of your hires determines your team’s ability to sustain a competitive advantage.

In order to know what to ask a potential candidate you must know what type of job you are hiring for; in other words what does this job require in terms of primary duties, i.e. what skills and experience are required? It doesn’t stop there. You must determine if there is anything or something that would make the candidate unacceptable; what does a “good fit” look or feel like? What are your expectations of this new hire? Finally, what competencies are required in order for this person to succeed?

Your checklist will have the following or similar topics:

  • Primary Responsibilities
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Self-Management Style (Emotional IQ)
  • Competencies Required
  • Expectations (broken down by quarter)

Competency Based Hiring

Here is where you decide the type of competencies that will be required for that person to be successful in the job. The competencies that you assign to the job must align with the job description and support the expectations you require.

Competencies come from the responsibilities of the job. Yes, they can be somewhat subjective; however, it is important that the competency align with the requirements of the position.

For example, let’s say you are hiring for a sales position. Remember you are looking for evidence that the person you are talking to exhibits the behavior that is consistent with someone who understands the competency required. You might consider the following competencies as a prerequisite for this position.

Competency: Financial Analysis

The product may require the individual to understand and explain the cost to own versus the cost to maintain.


  • Makes logical presentation showing advantage of a product choice
  • Demonstrates they understand the cost effectiveness of the product choice
  • Abel to identify areas where the right product choice will make a positive financial impact on revenues

So the question you might ask to determine if this individual’s past behavior would indicate that this person would be a best performer.

“Can you give me an example in your previous position where you had to explain the financial advantages of a certain product choice and how did the potential customer respond to your analysis?”

Simple enough, right? Let’s try another one.

Competency: Client Relationships

The individual in this position must be able to establish, cultivate and manage client trust and brand loyalty over the life of the product.


  • Creates a partnership with the client so the individual (sales person) can anticipate future needs and solve current problems
  • Establishes the clients’ needs and expectations
  • Involves subordinate members of the staff of the company and the client to provide services proactively
  • Hold regular meetings with the client to gauge product performance against service level agreements

So the interview question would go something like this:

“Detail how you would establish and maintain a client relationship with a new customer that made a move from a competitor to our company.”

Early in my management career one of my mentors once told me; “Questions are the answer”. In other words questions in an interview must be structured to obtain the appropriate information. As an interviewer, you are only as good as the questions you ask.

There were times during an interview that I felt I was not getting all the information I needed. I was not clear in my question which led to a misunderstanding on the part of the candidate which made it necessary for me to ask the question a different way. Rewording a question with one of the following phrases can make a big difference in how the question is clarified.

  • What key elements…
  • Why is/was that important…
  • How did you do that…
  • What part did you play…

Take Detailed Notes

You will need to establish guidelines for scoring the interview. It is important that you ask the same questions from one interview to the next so that you will have established a baseline for each candidate. Your guidelines should consider the level at which the candidate performed and your estimation on how strong the candidate is. To improve your skill as an interviewer take detailed notes. There has been more than one occasion where I did not take enough notes and had to re-interview my top two candidates.


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Competency Based Hiring: Critical Factors I Learned From Hindsight

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

Guest Post by: Jack Baxter

My management career got started when I was promoted from a sales position to that of a Regional Manager covering 5 or 6 states for a laboratory equipment company in the medical device industry. Having never managed a group of salespersons, my boss thought it would be appropriate to send me to an American Management Association seminar. I spent the better part of a week learning the ins and outs of managing a sales force; from recruiting to hiring to managing them.

Competency Based HiringOutdated Interviewing

In those days interviewing individuals for a company position was pretty much the same from industry to industry. The interview theme was broken down to the three parts:

  1. Can they do the job?
  2. Will they do the job?
  3. Do they fit in?

“Can they do the job” was based on the resume. We looked at the individual experience of the candidate and made a decision based on their experience in the industry, their rolodex, who they knew in the industry and the amount of sales they had made in the previous years.

“Will they do the job” came from the interview process, usually performed by the manager and one of the experienced sales individuals or an operations person. Of course there was no scripted interview. We asked questions that we thought appropriate at the time using the resume to form the basis for our questions.

To answer the question, “Do they fit in”, we would ask a third person on the staff, usually one of the technicians, since the salesperson and the technician worked closely together to take him for coffee and talk with him. If the technician felt a type of report with the candidate and he had past the two previous questions we would hire the person and pass him/her off to the technician to spend a week or two in the field. The candidate would shadow the technician until formal product training could be set up at the corporate office.

When I left the medical device industry my employer at the time set up period of time that I could have access to an “outsourcing” center. This type of interview process was taught at the various seminars during my time at the center. As far as I know this type of hiring process went on for years.

Costly Mistakes We Missed

In subsequent management positions it became painfully clear that this type of interviewing process did little to measure the competency of an individual prior to hiring them. In some instances this became a costly mistake. There was no guarantee that hiring a top sales person from a competitor’s company meant instant increase in revenues for the company. In fact, in my own experience some individuals who looked great on paper (resume) fell flat when compared to other sales individuals in the same office.

Hindsight being 20/20 I missed some, what I now know as, critical factors in the interview process. Yes, I knew what skills and experience were required; they did seem to fit in with the company culture, call it a gut feeling. However, I failed to define the core competencies and expectations for the individual I was about to hire. I am not making excuses, but it must have occurred to me that the individual should know what was expected since he/she had been in the same environment for years before they came to me.

Adopting Competency Based Hiring

Certainly, we had job descriptions with what the position requires in terms of knowledge and experience. This type of “position specifications” is required by HR for their documentation. What I had failed to do was to define and examine the patterns of behavior that distinguished high performers from others in the same job. It is essential to identify the behaviors that are required to perform a job at optimum levels. The competency must align with the job description.

One advantage of using the same competencies in each interview allows the interviewer to make fair observations from one candidate to another. This type of questioning for competency will provide a true sense of the individual’s ability.

There is an old saying, “How you hire determines who you hire”.

Next time I will talk about how you determine the type of questions you ask to illicit information regarding past and present behavior.


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Employee Feedback is Best Delivered Like Sunshine: Frequent Small Bursts

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in 4 Generations at Work, VPI Blog

Employee FeedbackGuest Blog by: Ilana Herring reports that a sensible amount of sun exposure on a frequent basis is one way to get the Vitamin D that your body needs. I personally aim to get about 20 minutes daily of sunshine, while being careful not to get a sunburn. Turns out, human resource experts advise that frequent, short doses of employee feedback are best delivered similar to a natural dose of Vitamin D. People bask in sunshine, just like they do with recognition. We are thirsty for feedback. In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown explains that when we don’t get feedback, we ask ourselves: “Why am I not getting feedback? Tell me you love me! Tell me it sucks! Just tell me something so I know you remember that I work here!” If doing something wrong, employees want real-time feedback, not delayed criticism 11 months later, clouded in the darkness of a hierarchical performance review. Employees want to know they are seen and heard.

How do you give feedback? 360-degree feedback is a popular type of review for leaders and directors. The well-known employee engagement advocate, Dr. Larry Bienati, recommends that the first 360-degree assessment take place after about one year on the job. Leaders and the employee can use the 360-degree feedback to develop action plans for the year ahead. Dr. Bienati suggests a follow-up one year later, ideally with the same population of respondents. He also advises tailoring the employee feedback to elicit key measures and specific actions that are calibrated to success. Dr Bienati notes the importance of thanking the participants for their valuable feedback and support of the one being assessed. It is noteworthy that the 360-review can often have 20 or more data points, it’s an arduous process and it’s not likely possible to conduct a 360 for every member of the organization.

The Best Managers Provide Feedback Regularly

In order to create structure for feedback, organizational development experts suggest an annual review. VPI Strategies recommends not limiting yourself to just an annual review. Provide employee feedback regularly. According to Gallup Research, “Our studies show that the best managers around the world provide feedback regularly. Expectations are set and continually clarified through ongoing performance feedback and recognition.” The Gallup Business Journal published: “What Your Employees Need to Know: They probably don’t know how they’re performing. Feedback and recognition are among the lowest rated workplace elements.”

“Gallup researchers conducted the first assessment of employee engagement worldwide using the Q12, Gallup’s 12-item assessment of engagement. Decades of research has proven that these items distinguish the most productive and successful workplaces from the rest. More than 47,000 employed respondents in 116 countries, from Canada to Qatar, were asked to respond to these 12 items.

In most global regions, two items were the most poorly rated among the 12: “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work” and “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.”

VPI Strategies recommends the use of Q12 measurement device or other engagement assessments. It is part of our Strength Based Leadership curriculum. Research and anecdotal evidence support our belief in the Q12 measurement device. When managers don’t provide workers with regular, individualized feedback, they are depriving them of the sunshine to grow and improve their work performance. Gallup notes that: “Frontline managers may also be overlooking opportunities to talk with their employees about what they need to remain engaged and productive at work.”

Help Your People Get an A

Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge coauthored: Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A” When asked about why he wrote the book, Garry Ridge answered:

“When I first heard Ken talk about giving his final exam at the beginning of the course and then teaching students the answers so they could get an A, it blew me away. Why don’t we do that in business? So that’s exactly what I did at WD-40 Company when we set up our ‘Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A’ performance management system. Has it made a difference? You’d better believe it. Ever since we began the system, our company’s annual sales have more than tripled, from $100 million to more than $339 million. And we’ve accomplished this feat while making the company a great place to work.”

Executives know talent management is important. But do they know what “helping their employees get an A” looks like in their organization? It’s no secret that most performance management systems don’t do what they intended to do – enhance performance. Now is the time to be thinking about an organization’s next generation’s performance management system. Train managers to use the systems in place, but train them to also maximize the smaller, more frequent opportunities to give employees feedback. We know that Millennials are looking for that constant feedback because they want to be keeping score, always learning, always growing. Encourage management to know what works best for their teams and to make feedback apart of the constant flow of communication.

Don’t Abolish the Annual Review

Whether or not to abolish the annual review is a hot topic amongst bloggers. I do not advise abolishing the annual review, but suggest that feedback should not be contained to only the annual review. Waiting to give feedback only once a year deprives your employees of their needed dosage of Vitamin D. Humans and organizations alike need sunshine. Employees who don’t get as much feedback as they desire often suffer and ask themselves ‘How am I’m doing?’ We need regular feedback to be our be our best self at work.

Organizations are smart to create structure like annual performance reviews and 360-degree feedback. We would love to get to a point where companies give their employees feedback on a continual basis. At VPI Strategies, we recommend an annual review plus two more discussions per year. We often call these two discussions “performance coaching”. We encourage you to take an honest look at your performance system and consider how a structured performance discussion could complement the annual review until we are all really comfortable with the giving and receiving of feedback. Until we learn to instinctively take the opportunity to provide feedback when we have the opportunity. Until it is part of our work and lifestyle, not an isolated event. When someone does something good we want to tell him or her right then and there. When someone does something wrong, we also want to say it right then and there. Of course, deliver it in a tone that does not make people feel bad for an action they took. Prompt frequent dosages of feedback can keep our employees, our organizations, and ourselves healthy. Just like taking our vitamins, let’s commit to healthy lifestyle for ourselves and our organizations. Let’s model feedback today and help the next generation grow up learning from our positive example.

Bottom Line

Employees need feedback. There are a lot of vehicles for how you can get and give feedback, but ultimately they are looking at you to make a commitment to getting and providing feedback. Get it regularly. Give it regularly. Just like getting your Vitamin D.