One of the key Human Resources (HR) touchpoints in an employment relationship is onboarding. This is the step where employees are welcomed into an organization and (hopefully) integrated so they can hit the ground running and become productive members in their new company. One concepts, which is becoming more prominent, is to move from the process of simply onboarding a new employee towards integrating that employee into the culture and ethos of an organization. These concepts were explored in a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, entitled “Onboarding Not Enough”, by Mark Byford, Michael D. Watkins and Lena Triantogiannis. Their article presented several ideas which I thought could assist a compliance professional to use in the employment lifecycle to more fully operationalize compliance into an organization.

If you are like me about the only onboarding you received in a new corporate position was someone from IT to make certain you could access the company network. However, that sink or swim attitude can lead to huge inefficiencies for both the new employee and the company. The authors suggest a process, which they term ‘integration’ as a way to think through this opportunity to introduce a new employee to the new corporation. From the compliance perspective, it is another opportunity for the compliance function to use HR to further operationalize compliance through the employment lifecycle. More and better integration of employees will give them a greater chance to hit the ground running, fully understanding not only what is expected of them and who their team will be moving forward but what corporate values are embraced at their new organization.

Culture can be a wide range of areas. For instance, companies with a more entrepreneurial culture may find that new hires from more heavily matrixed organizations desire more collaboration with key stakeholders before making strategic decisions. However, this “may be perceived in the new setting as slow decision making or lack of conviction and initiative.” Transnational and regional differences can also be acerbated if there is not sufficient integration. The authors found that support for integration of new employees comes in one of four levels.

Sink or swim. IT arrives at some point to make sure your computer is working. The authors termed this “Level 0” of support and found that about 5% of transnational organizations provided this level of integration.

Basic orientation. You receive some written materials such as policies and procedures. You are left to read and study it all on your own, with no guidance from the new company. The authors note “the company provides the raw data, and the new leader studies it and interprets it independently.” While this approach can certainly put a fresh set of eyes on documents, with interpretation or even the opportunity to ask questions, the new hire is left to his or her own devices on understanding it. The author terms this “Level 1” and found almost 2/3rds of all international companies used this approach.

Active assimilation. Under this next level, “the company organizes meetings with key stakeholders to accelerate a transfer of deeper knowledge about the business, the team, the culture and strategic priorities.” Obviously, this approach is preferable than the first two but it has its drawbacks in that the new hire may not be aware of areas of specific or detailed inquiry going forward. About 25% of companies use this integration approach.

Accelerated integration. This is the “ideal” for the authors where the new company “orchestrates custom-designed experiences that enable a new leader to integrate more fully and rapidly.” Techniques can include “deep-dive discussions about strategy” and workshops. The discussion is not one-way as the new hire is given the opportunity to consider culture at his or her prior employer and how those views might or might not translate into the new organization. The is Level 3 and unfortunately only about “2% of global companies address integration this systematically.”

While Level 3 may seem like quite a bit of work, companies which have embraced this approach have shown greater results from new hires more quickly, particularly at the senior management level. Also, this systemic approach, through the integration process, allows for a wider variety of follow up as appropriate. Clearly this type of support is a resource investment but the authors found that results could cut the time to becoming effective in their new organization by as much as 50%.

Some additional techniques that can be brought to bear are 360-degree feedback reviews, individual learning plans and more robust insights on key stakeholders. There was the additional benefit to current employees to have the opportunity to meet with new senior managers in a more focused two-way conversation. This allowed the current employees to have greater relationships and reliance on new leaders, allowed stakeholders to “understand the roles they must play in new leaders’ transitions” and all parties saw this integration process as an investment in talent development. Yet this investment did not stop during the integration process as key insights and lessons learned were reviewed by senior management for inclusion back into the company through continuous improvement.

The authors end with the following statement “by treating integration as fundamental to their talent strategy, they can harness leaders’ potential more rapidly and reap the rewards much sooner.” If you apply that statement to the operationalization of compliance into an organization, you can see how such conversations around compliance will facilitate an entire deeper level of commitment within an organization. For not only will the new hire understand the corporate expectation of doing business ethically and in compliance with company expectations but it also sends a continual message of commitment to compliance throughout the organization. Additionally, any lessons which arise in this process can be considered as part of a continuous improvement process. Finally, if the government comes knocking, your organization will be able to satisfy several prongs of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs with increased and documented operationalization of compliance.


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© Thomas R. Fox, 2017