LaTonya Wilkins Coaching & Consulting | How to Onboard an Innovator
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How to Onboard an Innovator

How to Onboard an Innovator

You are in the process of changing your culture and/or are in amidst of a huge organizational initiative so you hire an innovator.  This person is different from your current team, while it’s possible that they are of a different race, gender or other diverse quality, the innovator definitely thinks differently.  You promised this person an outstanding career trajectory. Your vision is that this innovator will instantly serve as your informal sounding board and, in the longer-term, bring brisk change to your organization.

Two months in, you are finding that your new hire is not effective. In addition to change being slow, your staff hasn’t warmed up to the innovator as they believe this person is pompous and doesn’t understand how things work. If the person is of a different culture, frankly, your team may attribute the hire to meeting a race, gender or ethnicity quota.  What the heck happened?

You have probably seen this in your organization before.  While all of your staff need a comprehensive onboarding plan, a one size fit all approach will not work for an innovator. So, what’s the ideal approach to onboard an innovator?  Here are some tips:

  1. Be up front about the innovator’s job responsibilities and how they will be measured.  If you hired an innovator, you probably want him/her to show immediate impact.  But, in addition to results, you need to allow time for the innovator to be an informal advisor to your team.  When communicating job responsibilities and performance metrics, be sure that in addition to results, you factor in time for relationship building and advising.  Innovators cannot create change if they are not given time to build relationships.  Don’t forget to build in this critical time.
  2. Make yourself available to the innovator and get them in front of critical stakeholders within the first 60 days.  Think of this person as investment, you have to put resources in up front if you want him/her to grow.  It’s important that you schedule weekly meetings with the innovator.  You should also help the new hire schedule meetings with key stakeholders.  Plan to sit in on some of these meetings to show your sponsorship and to also to observe how the organization is responding this new person.
  3. Hold your team to similar standards.  While the innovator will bring a different skillset, it’s important that you do not single him/her out from the rest of your staff.  If you want the innovator to generate new ideas, expect the same from the rest of your team.  The outputs may not look exactly the same but consistency across the team is important.
  4. Provide the innovator with access to honest feedback.  An innovator will be assessing his/her fit in the organization throughout the first year.  If he/she is doing things well, positive feedback early and often is key.  On the other hand, if something is not working, don’t let it linger, be sure to tell the innovator right away.  Continue to check-in with the innovator every three months to ensure that they are doing engaging work and to get feedback on how he/she fits with your team.

It’s critical to take these actions in the first 90 days to ensure that the innovator is invested and is inspired to make magic happen quickly.  These are just a few tips that I have based on my experience so whether you are an innovator or hiring manager, please share any others in the comments area!

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