Three keys to successfully integrating senior hires

In professional services, there’s no question that a firm’s greatest investment is in its people. As such, finding and successfully integrating the right talent is critical to success—but it’s no easy task. And losing a recent hire can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in time lost, damaged client relationships, misdirected personnel resources, recruiting costs, and potential revenue.

Finding the right person is just the start of creating value from a new hire—real return on investment comes from successfully integrating them into your organization. But integration challenges abound, particularly with senior experienced hires. Because these professionals have many years of experience, they’re a big investment. And you’re likely hiring them hoping to get specific, tangible results, such as increased revenue and greater market penetration. It’s critical, then, to get their integration right.

Inadequate preparation, pressure on a hire to gain traction quickly, slowed collaboration or wariness of the new hire, and unrealistic expectations on everyone’s part can derail a smooth integration. Of course, a successful integration depends on both parties involved, but employers can avoid common pitfalls by focusing on three phases of integration: commercial, cultural, and operational.

Commercial integration

Commercial integration entails a firm’s efforts to introduce and plug a senior experienced hire into client relationships. Most firms understand this phase well—indeed many make the mistake of focusing solely on it—but fail to realize that commercial traction takes time. While the “honeymoon period” used to be 18 months, there is growing pressure to understand whether a hire will succeed or fail much sooner. The following steps can help firms to take a step back and better facilitate a hire’s commercial integration.

Plan. During the hiring process, prepare a go-to-market strategy that clearly delineates how the new hire will contribute to the firm’s business objectives in their first three to six months. When noncompete agreements are in place, though, the firm should focus on increasing its share of wallet with current clients by harnessing the new hire’s content and relationship skills.

Act. Promptly send out announcements, update web material, and rework marketing materials so that clients and firm members have access to the profile of the new hire and the hire can start forging relationships. Have them participate in client conversations and jump in on projects from the get-go.

Continue. Allow 12–18 months for the new hire to gain commercial traction and three years for your investment to mature, but expect to see trends starting to develop around six months in.

Cultural integration

No two cultures are the same, so firms must help a new hire adjust to the new environment. While commercial integration is mostly outward-facing, cultural integration focuses on the intangible benefits that internal efforts—including a supportive, collaborative environment—can bring to the process. Many firms underestimate the importance of the more inward-facing steps to integration, potentially leaving their new hire feeling out of the loop. Proper preparation involves the following:

Plan. Organize both informal and formal social events, including welcoming team meals and cocktail events. Invite firm leadership, the new hire’s teams, and their family to these various social gatherings. Connectivity is critical to success.

Act. Schedule presentations, interviews, and informal group meetings, and send out internal communication to establish familiarity. Clearly explain what success looks like at your firm and how the hire will be evaluated over the first 12–18 months so that they’re sure of their objectives.

Continue. Assign mentors and an external coach so the professional has people to go to with questions or general needs. Our data shows that a new hire will open up to an external coach about their integration experience more than they would an internal one and that this feedback loop is key. Continue this communication with the new hire for 6–12 months, ensuring they have all the tools they need.

Operational integration

Each company has a unique way of doing what they do, no matter if they’re manufacturing a product or providing a service. If two companies start with the same raw materials and the same kind of talent and produce the same thing, the processes will still be vastly different. One of the critical parts of the integration process, then, is to help the new hire learn and become comfortable with your processes. Without this information, they’ll work how they are accustomed to working, and the product—and their relationships within the firm—will suffer.

Plan. Brainstorm ways to get the new hire leading processes—the right way—right away. Many firms feel like this information and responsibility should be earned, but by integrating the hire immediately, you both inspire them with your trust and help them settle in sooner.

Act. Put the new hire on leadership committees so they have opportunities to learn how the firm works from long-tenured partners and executives. Doing so also gives them the opportunity to share fresh perspectives that could help the firm as it continues to mature and grow.

Continue. Maintain communication, feedback, and support until the new hire gets comfortable with the firm’s processes. Harness the new hire’s energy to push the model forward, and use their enthusiasm to motivate and reinvigorate the existing ranks.

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Integrating a senior experienced hire is like assisting one of your clients on post-merger management. You create value when your client successfully integrates the business—not at the moment they acquire it. Make the effort to smooth the integration process, and you will significantly increase the likelihood that the candidate will succeed—allowing you to reap the rewards as a firm for years to come.

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