new hire onboarding strategies

In the first of our business aviation hiring series, my colleague Jim Lara and I examined the best approaches to take when making a great hire and ensuring that the candidate is the right fit.

As a follow up, we share post-hire onboarding strategies and tactics to help ensure that your newly acquired aviation professional survives (and prospers) during their first 90 days.

After the decision is made to hire the best candidate, and the offer has been accepted, an effective onboarding strategy is the next key. And it’s something that must be in place before the new hire arrives on day one.

Here are four ways to get started with your onboarding plan:

1.  Designate a Mentor

At the very onset in larger organizations, a mentor should be chosen to guide the new hire (mentee) through the corporate maze of paperwork and procedures.

This person will also introduce the new team member to everyone in the organization and help him/her to settle in during the onboarding process.

2.  Determine Training vs. Development

You will already have a very good idea as to what the new hire needs in terms of both training and development.

So the next step is to develop a calendar of major training and development milestones, as well as some specific role-related performance objectives for the first 30, 45, 60 and 90 days.

This approach will provide the new hire with a very clear road map, as well as setting the professional performance cadence expected by the business aviation organization.

3.  Communicate Effectively

There’s no such thing as over communication during this critical period. During the first two weeks of employment, the new hire and his/her mentor should talk daily, at minimum.

For the remainder of the onboarding period, meaningful weekly communications should transpire in order to assess the level of organizational assimilation as well as address issues quickly and thoroughly.

Direction and cadence must be set proactively, leaving as little to chance as possible.

4. Get the Family Onboard

When it comes to onboarding, don’t just stop with the new hire. Consider his or her family as well.

Often times, corporate flight departments will relocate an entire family to a new town and then send the Mom or Dad to an aircraft initial training course for as long as 3-4 weeks. This leaves a spouse fending for him/herself in a new community, perhaps with children at home and no support network to turn to.

One of the keys to the new hire’s success is the support of family members. If the new hire’s family transition isn’t going well at home, these issues may follow him or her back to the workplace.

Onboarding: The First 90 Days

Planning the course of the first 90 days is critical to ensuring long-term success of the newly hired candidate.

Don’t rely on your memory to make sure your bases are covered. Make a list of the most important action items that the new employee should cover in the first three months. These include:

  • An initial introductory meeting with key executives
  • Reviewing the most recent IS-BAO audit
  • Ensuring they read the SMS and then take a test to ensure the appropriate information was retained, including completion of the input forms
  • Spending a day at corporate headquarters
  • Shadowing each role in the department
  • Simulator training if certifications need to be updated
  • Safety training (e.g., MedAire medical, if not current)

The above to-do list associated with each new hire should be constructed on a customized basis.

Setting Expectations

Just as defining the new position as discussed in the first part of this series is a collaborative process, so is setting expectations after the new employee has been chosen.

During the hiring process, you will have already discussed with the candidate the definition of success, the requisite skills and experiences, as well as your perception of the candidate’s present position.

Alignment then needs to be developed between your assessment and that of the candidate. Once everyone is on the same page, then reasonable expectations can be established that are embraced by all stakeholders. There should be no surprises on anyone’s part.

Managing Expectations

A business aviation leader should be emotionally and professionally invested in each member of his/her flight department.

When it comes to you’re a new hire, use their “honeymoon period” as a way to not only set the expectations, but also manage those expectations by communicating often. Yes, even if it’s uncomfortable performance-related information. Because the less frank and honest you are in the beginning, the harder it is to be honest in the future.

By reviewing performance levels early on, you’ll be doing your new hire a favor. In fact, don’t limit honest feedback to just the new guy or gal. Make sure you’re talking to each of your team members on a regular, frequent and candidly honest basis to ensure that there are never any surprises.

“Houston, We Have a Problem”

If something feels awry during or after the honeymoon phase, everyone involved (including the underperformer) knows that there’s a problem.

All eyes will be upon you and how you handle the situation. Acting with courage, fairness, dignity and empathy is always the best approach.

If you handle the situation poorly, your reports may then question why they should follow you in the future. Remember that people chose who they follow, not the other way around.

Wrong Choices Can Happen

Sometimes, decisions made with the best of intentions, turn out to the wrong ones and sometimes the candidate you thought was ideal for the position, was not as perfect as originally perceived.

At the end of the day, the tragic mistake is not hiring the wrong person—it’s keeping them. When a mistake is made, cut your losses quickly, learn the lessons and move on. There is absolutely no justification for keeping the wrong person.

The impact of having a wrong person in an organization can be devastatingly negative. The employee is miserable; work is not getting done; others have to pick up the slack and everyone is “talking” about the situation.

So, when it’s clear that the situation cannot have a sustained, successful outcome, it’s incumbent upon you, as the leader, to make the change.

Hiring the right business aviation professional is critical for any flight department. Putting procedures into place to identify the ideal candidate for a vacant position is the first step.

Part one of this two-part blog series touched on best practices to ensure that person is the right fit. Just as crucial is to ensure that the new hire flourishes during their first 90 days and thereby reconfirming that your first choice to fill this new position was the right one!

About our Guest Blogger:

Jim Lara is the principal and founder of Gray Stone Advisors, a consulting firm that helps aircraft operators and executives simplify the business of business aviation. With more than 12,000 flight hours, he has led the turnaround of corporations as well as major flight departments. To read more blogs by Jim and his team, visit

Your Turn

What do you think? Which of these onboarding practices have you already experienced as a candidate or aviation hiring manager? What other suggestions do you have? Please leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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