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  • Gilbert Kruidenier

Giving a change manager a good start

Most companies spend $100k+ on hiring change capacity without blinking an eye. But when it comes to properly introducing and onboarding that person, the experience feels more like that half-eaten cheese and lettuce sandwich, from yesterday, left in the sun, pecked at by a flock of angry magpies. Here’s how to avoid that:

Involve the team

Contrary to popular belief, change managers don’t just appear out of nowhere and their arrival is often preceded by a lengthy and arduous selection process. However inconvenient and mostly unnecessary, the one big benefit is that you’ve got TIME to get the people involved who will actually work with them on a daily basis. Involve them in the selection and interviews. If there’s no click on either end during a 30-minute conversation, there will likely be no click later on. Best to avoid that as enough time was already wasted in the rest of the process.

Send that email

Once thumb-screwed, selected and reference checked, your offer might just be accepted and even though it was all left too it too long and the selection process took months, that person will probably not be able to start straight away. That should provide plenty of time to draft that introductory email (or even better, let THEM draft it for you!) and send it to all stakeholders. That way everyone knows what to expect when the person actually arrives a few weeks later. Keep expectations low, neutral language, no mention of superhero-like capabilities, vague promises of things getting better or references to previous successes. Also, be sure to spell their name correctly and be clear on their start date, location and reporting line That takes care of 90% of the first questions everyone asks. They’ll cover the other 10% without issues, they’ve done it before.

Give them something to read

Share relevant documents about the organisation and the project in advance. If you hate trees and the environment, print it all and put it in a nice binder that goes on their desk (clean and with functioning chair) next to the employee handbook, HR paperwork, badge, notepad and pen (new, not that chewed up one from your bottom drawer). Or you could send them a friendly email explaining why you’re sending them these specific documents (to prepare) and offer to answer any questions they might have. Talk about a running start!

Walk of shame, the short version

If you can’t avoid the dreaded ‘walk of shame’ where the change person gets paraded round the office, factory and/or mess hall to see where the nearest exits are and to be introduced to random people whose names they will forget 5 minutes later, make sure to keep it short and sweet. Save the jokes and flippant comments about how the saviour has arrived to ‘do the change’ for the exec meeting, it’s not helpful (or funny). Better yet, let them do the talking, chances are you don’t even really understand what they are about to do anyway (no worries, they do) and if you stay quiet, you can’t be wrong!

For goodness sake, fix that org chart!

If you really want to speed things up AND impress the newcomer provide them with an (semi-) accurate org chart and some helpful notes on the key people. This will get them up and running much faster, not wasting hours on trying to come up with the name of that lady in HR who they were introduced to yesterday but can’t remember their names (Linda? Lucy? Karen? Jim?) Just to be clear, those notes should be about work-related matters and relevant histories, however interesting their golf handicap, choice of coffee, names of pets and favourite snacks might be. You can always share those gems after and if they get through their probation. Don’t want to give it all away on day 1, right?

All joking aside, the way in which a change manager is introduced matters a great deal to how they will be perceived for the rest of their stay. Make sure you get the most out of your investment by setting the scene and expectations well in advance. Your job is done, now let them get to work.

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