Inboarding Can Help You Grow the Talent You Already Have – Overlook Your Internal Talent Pipeline at Your Own Risk

Have you ever witnessed the meteoric rise and burnout of an employee who could’ve done great things for a company? Unfortunately, I recently did with someone I’ve known since he was a boy. I played with Robert, mentored him through adolescence, and proudly watched him blossom into a thoughtful, responsible, trustworthy human being. I wholeheartedly believed he would have a bright future.

Robert graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. Beyond academic excellence, he took on leadership roles in the university’s theater arts program and secured highly coveted, industry-appropriate internships over the summer. An admirable go-getter.

He began following his dream right out of college, securing an entry-level position at perhaps the most well-known talent agency’s reception desk. With his outstanding work ethic and willingness to start at the bottom, I was confident he would achieve his goal.

Often held for a year or more, Robert’s laudable performance and a lucky turnover catapulted him to the next step—the mailroom—in just four months. Both of frontline roles entailed fairly repetitive work and came with a handbook regarding how to fulfill specific responsibilities. However, without a mentor or a supportive colleague who had experience in either role, Robert was flying solo and had to “wing it”. When he chose the correct path, everything was awesome. When he stumbled, each learning experience came with a sharp verbal rebuke.

Once again, turnover was on his side, and he landed a theater assistant seat coordinator position in only four months. His new manager, who he described as tough but not difficult and fair in his expectation of first-class work performance, yet not demanding when it came to personal needs, buoyed Robert’s enthusiasm. In other words, he expected lunch like other managers but unlike many, wouldn’t complain about the wrong mustard on a sandwich. Unlike his last two roles this role came with no written processes and procedures. His manager never discussed expectations, process, or milestone goals with him. Without a mentor or a supportive colleague who had experience, Robert was flying solo and had to “wing it”. When he chose the correct path, everything was awesome. When he stumbled, each learning experience came with a sharp verbal rebuke.

After a few months into this new role, Robert had second thoughts about the work: He was bored; the tracks for promotion were very narrow; many others were on the same track; and he and his colleagues were basically earning minimum wage—in New York City. Robert remained focused. When he was at work, he worked hard and when he was away from work, he thought about opportunities in marketing and entertainment.

Meanwhile a colleague from another department told him about an opening he thought Robert would be perfect for—Events Coordinator in the Books & Literary Department. Intrigued by this unexpected opportunity to leap frog into something that might recapture his interest, Robert secured a meeting with the department manager. Developing events from start to finish with a focus on details was right up his alley. He was candid about how he had been considering leaving the agency. If he were going to make an internal move, he wanted to be sure he could be successful and contribute.

The manager was aghast that Robert, who had been identified by leaders as one of the company’s rising stars, would ever consider leaving. She promised him rewarding work and her mentorship. Taking a leap of faith, Robert accepted the position a few months ago, climbing another rung on the ladder toward his goal.

Recognizing how smooth transitions impact success, he reached out to HR to engineer a smooth transition from theater assistant to events coordinator. As a self-starter and thoughtful problem solver with an “can do” attitude, Robert emailed a recommendation that included him training the new person filling his old role, training for him on his new role, and a detailed list of everyone’s tasks. His suggestions were not accepted, and the transition was unorganized and difficult for those involved.

This rejection foreshadowed the disappointment Robert would encounter being subjected to a Jekyll-and-Hyde type manager—unpredictable and occasionally shockingly mean. There was no transition plan to inboard him, and no discussion about expectations, process and milestone goals. She threw Robert into the deep without a flotation device and very little direct communication, and no written procedures. Despite his efforts in taking advantage of the growth opportunity in running a tour start to finish, his manager has all but broken his spirit.

Robert asked questions to try to shorten the learning curve. Yet when he used the new manager’s answers, he was frequently told he did not do it correctly. This inconsistent, haphazard chaos made the learning curve unbearable and drove the rising star’s departure from the agency.

Lessons from the Loss

Absent of a documented inboarding process, companies like this talent agency will continue to lose their best and brightest who, despite their best efforts to succeed, are doomed to either fail or succumb to frustration. It doesn’t have to be this way.

5 Ideas for creating a consistent, smooth inboarding process:

  • Connect the transitioning employee’s former and new managers. The HR team should organize a meeting for both managers and the transferring employee to coordinate the move and help the new manager with important insight into their newest team member. Create a standard checklist of topics to be covered.
  • Create an inboarding road map with specific priorities and focus. Roadmap should outline the first 90 days. The transitioning employee may have been a rock star in their previous role but likely have no experience with their new role.
  • Set task expectation goals designed to measure progress in the new role at 30, 60 and 90 days, and a feedback loop. In addition to measuring success, these guideposts create “redirect” moments if progress is veering off course.
  • Promote socialization
    • Ensure a social and cultural belonging. Different departments can often have their own cultural norms. Making the internal new hire feel like they belong will make them more productive, motivated, engaged and 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their fullest potential (data from Center for Talent Innovation).
    • Short bios or profiles of team members will help the newest member get to know their new team more quickly. As little as a head shot and an “about “ paragraph can provide important insight to new colleagues.
    • A department lunch to welcome the new team member will also creating a sense of belonging. Individual department members lunching with the new employee 1:1 further punctuates hospitality.
  • Assign a Mentor to help the new team member test ideas and troubleshoot issues. A mentor also has the insight to the department culture, which is helpful to new candidates who are making a career change or advancing.

Internal role transfers and promotions are a powerful way to build your talent pipeline, strengthen engagement, and lower unintended turnover. Need help in making the most of these opportunities. Let’s start a conversation…..

Toll free: 800-742-6800 In Minneapolis/St. Paul: 952-933-8365 email: