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From The MRA Newsletter
Is "Onboarding" a Word?

By John Loven, MRA
Eric Wood, President of EnviroSense, Inc., an environmental consulting firm, understands why you should be worrying about doing onboarding right: "With a thorough orientation and onboarding process, the probability of achieving the goals of the business and the employee are greatly increased. Without it, the probabilities of disappointment, employee turnover, re-work, and dissatisfied clients all grow unnecessarily."

Not too many years ago "employee orientation" was as minor, perfunctory task handed off to a manager or HR staffer who happened to be free. Today the "onboarding" process is a top priority which, in some cases, is partially outsourced to specialized vendors. Listen to David Lee from

An investment in effective onboarding is an investment in employee retention, morale, and productivity. Research at Corning Glass Works revealed that employees who attended a structured orientation program were 69% more likely to remain with the company after three years than those who did not go through such a program. Another study conducted at Texas Instruments showed that employees whose orientation process was carefully attended to reached "full productivity" two months earlier than those whose orientation process was not. More recently, Hunter Douglas found that by upgrading their onboarding process, they were able to reduce their turnover from a staggering 70% at six months, to 16%.
Some suggest that your onboarding program be considered at three levels:
  1. Accommodation: Providing things that enable people to do work. This includes getting them a workspace, phone, computer and other tools they will need.
  2. Assimilation: Providing things that enable people to work with others, including the employee handbook, training materials, insights into current projects and the basics of the corporate culture.
  3. Acceleration: Jump-starting critical strategic, operational and organizational processes. This includes clarifying goals, establishing accountability and tracking systems, and eliminating or redesigning "lagging" functions or suppliers that hold back the rest of the effort.
How does knowledge of the employee's MRA profile and the profile of the person(s) responsible for onboarding make the process more efficient and more successful? Consider the five MRA profile groups. Each will respond most effectively to opportunistic onboarding processes designed to make best use of profile strengths.

Profile Groups 1 and 5

Authoritarian, Generalist, Determined, Entrepreneurial, Planner: Characterized by aggressive behavior and a need to dominate.

Initiator, Integrative, Integrative Rigid, and Organizer: Characterized by strong sociability, they like to win more by persuasion and enthusiasm.

These individuals are aggressive, dominant and enjoy being in charge. They pursue personal objectives with determination and vigor, and view these achievements as necessary for personal growth. They like a fast start, broad-strokes guidance and a chance to explore and innovate. What does this tell us about the most effective onboarding process?
  1. Accommodation: They will ask for (even demand) what they want and need. They will improvise as necessary and scavenge if needed. Expect a fast start and eager "can do" attitude, but expect impatience if the process of getting to work is delayed.
  2. Assimilation: They will prefer a "learn as needed" approach to employee benefits, procedures, corporate culture and so forth. They like quick learn-and-do cycles, rather than a comprehensive theoretical basis prior to hands-on practice. Be very specific about those ares which are "must know", and be flexible about areas in which they just need to know where the information is available when, and if, they need it.
  3. Acceleration:
  4. Their natural drive to get to work, be competitive, and have a broad-strokes approach makes them very receptive to acceleration. They will respond well to a productivity challenge. If the work necessary to achieve acceleration seems too detailed or analytical, however, they may become impatient.
Profile Group 2

Coordinator, Participative: Characterized by the need to be liked and by altruism, they need detailed direction and closure.

Personable, Persuasive, Promotional, and Service: Also outgoing but more independent, requiring less policy and direction from others.

These individuals are very friendly, enthusiastic and outgoing. They will quickly blend into teams and office society, and will be accepted because of their accommodating manner. Although somewhat cautious in their approach to new or difficult problems, they will often demonstrate a good sense of timing. A cordial atmosphere is important; they will avoid contentious situations, seeking to keep things running harmoniously. Restless and uneasy about how others may be evaluating them, they tend to hide a worrisome nature behind a self-confident appearance. What does this tell us about the most effective onboarding process?
  1. Accommodation: They will ask for what they need politely and be flexible in adapting to the situation. They will be hesitant to improvise or scavenge without managerial support. Expect a lot of discussion and social bonding in the process.
  2. Assimilation: They enjoy variety, humor and good feelings in the learning process. At the same time they want very specific guidelines, policies and directions so they can know they're on the same page as everybody else. Corporate culture, employee guidelines and best practices should be expressed as "thou shalt's". "Thou shalt nots" may produce inhibition and hesitancy. Be sure they know when they are equipped to be independent: they need to hear it from you.
  3. Acceleration:
  4. Their natural desire to work well with others helps in acceleration. To the degree that the process is done with warmth, confidence and enthusiasm, they will respond with their best effort.
Profile Group 3

Analytical, Creative, Persistence, Reflective, Research, Scientific

Reflective, logical, aggressive, and self-assertive, they take a positive but calculated approach to objectives and enjoy challenging or competitive situations. Objective and discerning, they are inclined to examine problems factually, unencumbered by the emotional climate. They set high performance standards for themselves, and prefer to work alone. What does this tell us about the most effective onboarding process?
  1. Accommodation: They will ask for (even demand) what they want and need, having thought it out carefully, according to their expertise. Let them express their analysis of what is needed. If their needs cannot be readily met, encourage them to innovate and invent solutions. Simply asking for patience will not be effective.
  2. Assimilation: They will be slow to engage socially. Assimilation will be built around information, a committment to detail, accuracy and rational arguments. They prefer to get a thorough intellectual grasp of the situation before doing hands-on. Have detailed information available for ongoing projects and point out areas where they will have authority and control. Demonstrate detailed accountability.
  3. Acceleration:
  4. While they have high performance standards for themselves and others, they will be suspicious of acceleration activities that seem arbitrary, reckless or rushed. Make sure they have access to the rationale behind the ramp-up process.
Profile Group 4

Administrative, Closure, Discipline, Staff, Specialist, Systematic

Thorough, accurate and methodical, these individuals prefer areas of specialization or professional discipline. They are at their best in a highly organized context where the application of system, methodology, or technical competence is highly valued. They are more at home dealing with things of a tangible nature than new, or complex, social situations. They are good team players, calculating their risks and seeking your objectives in an undemonstrative, consistent manner. What does this tell us about the most effective onboarding process?
  1. Accommodation: They will be very accepting of what is offered in terms of equipment, logistics and support. Be sure to verify that they are well equipped. They will be slow to complain or "make a fuss", so be thorough and supportive.
  2. Assimilation: They prefer to work in the context of a relationship, responding positively to affiliation and consensus. Being a valued team member is an important motivator. They prefer very detailed job descriptions, guidelines and policy so that they can be sure to meet expectations. Areas of ambiguity cause uncertainty and discomfort. They will want to know the "Thou shalt nots."
  3. Acceleration:
  4. They are systematic and detail oriented. Haste and pressure don't bring out the best. So couch all acceleration efforts in terms of making them "more valuable to the team" faster. If others need to be challenged or redirected to accomplish acceleration, do it yourself: don't rely on the new Group 4 employee.
What is Your Profile Group?

If you are responsible for the onboarding of a new employee, remember Dr. Tony Alessandra's Platinum Rule: Manage others as they would be managed. If you are a Group 3 person (or 1 or 2 or 4), and are onboarding everyone in the fashion that would serve YOU best ... you may be disconnecting valuable employees at one of the key points in their relationship to your organization. Always move toward the management needs of other Profile Groups to bring out their best work.

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