Onboarding Medical Affairs Leaders: Igniting Passion in Your People

Employers need to tend to multiple considerations when pursuing and retaining their most-valued employees. HR leaders need to be aware of the reputation they are crafting in the talent market and ensure they’re supporting a top-notch employer brand. This starts with solidifying your employee experience through the onboarding process.


Despite the importance of onboarding, the process is often overlooked. According to the Learning Match Maker, 91% of employees stay with a company for at least a year if that company has an efficient onboarding process. That number only drops to 69% after three years. In Medical Affairs, in particular, where competition for talent is fierce because it has grown at such a fast pace, the number of roles quite often outnumber the talent out there.


Our research indicates that organizations are missing a massive opportunity to engage and win over the hearts and minds of their employees from day one. According to Ben Whitter, a leading figure within HR globally and a key voice on “Employee Experience” thinking worldwide, there’s a gap between what the employee is sold during interview and what they experience as a new employee. “I’m still seeing classic mistakes like failure to align the employee experience to external brand promise. HR needs to become everything now to the business: a marketer, an innovator, an architect, a facilitator, to guide and cultivate these moments that really do make a difference not just to the business but individual human beings.”


But what does a well-designed and integrated onboarding strategy looks like? According to Mette Aagaard, founder of consultancy firm TWIN, former Corporate VP, Global Head of People & Organization, R&D, Novo Nordisk, we should think more long term and with a much stronger focus on helping people understand and relate to the unwritten rules and the organizational culture. “I think a company should set up an onboarding program that has a two- to three-year focus. I don’t think it’s enough to focus on the first 100 days.”


Integrating into the new company can be both difficult and stressful for a new employee. One solution that is often overlooked is executive coaching. According to Jenn Fenwick, Founder of Rebel Road Coaching there needs to be investment in onboarding because hot talent doesn’t wait around if they are not sufficiently supported. She deems executive coaching as a perfect solution to provide a safe haven for the leader to share their concerns and feel supported while they transition into a new role. “I think if you’re moving into a new leadership role, no matter how experienced you are, the challenge of stepping up into a new role or joining a new organization and taking on a new leadership role can be pretty overwhelming. Coaching offers that confidential partner, who looks at where you are starting from and where you need to get to, what is the vision?”


The onboarding process needs to start before staff join and should be tailored to what matters to the five different generations (mission and values, career and personal development) as well as designed for how they consume information. "Millennials especially want to make an impact straight away”, explains Mary Collins, Senior Executive Development Specialist, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Institute of Leadership. “Generation Z will spearhead the workforce in 2018, so employers should stay one step ahead of the changes they’ll bring. Think five star, think concierge service, think personalized. Forget generic emails, they want the human touch."


Employees need to see how their work is connected to the big picture of company purpose. According to Jill Donahue, author of Engage Rx and creator of The Power of Purpose, when companies help individuals find purpose and meaning at work, they benefit from having more productive and successful employees. “Employees who feel like their work creates positive impact are more likely to feel fulfilled, promote their company to others and stay on the job longer.”


Through new approaches such as design thinking and employee journey maps, HR departments are now focusing on understanding and improving this complete experience and using tools such as employee net promoter scores to measure employee satisfaction. Without successful onboarding procedures, companies spend substantial amounts of money on employee turnover and loss of productivity.