As important it is to recruit the best talent to your company, you also want to leverage that talent by having as strong an on-boarding process as your recruiting process. Last year, I wrote about how central good recruiting is to creating a successful game company. An article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, Reinventing Employee Onboarding, provides great advice on how to make your new hires more engaged, more connected with their colleagues and, most importantly, likely to stay.
The weakness of traditional on-boarding
Typically, on-boarding is focused on indoctrinating new employees into the organizational culture. The article explains that HR often believes to build and retain talent it is important to get employees to understand and commit to the companies’ values starting the first day. In their research, the articles authors found several weaknesses in this approach:
- They assume that organizational values are something to be taught to and adopted by new hires, which creates a tension. New talent is expected to downplay their own identities to accept an organization’s identity
- New hires may not internalize the organizational values even if they appear to comply through external behaviors. If you want employees to contribute on their own and in ways that are not programmed, typical on-boarding will not be the solution as it will only lead to superficial compliance.
- Socialization practices that get new hires to behave inauthentically might not be sustainable because they do not fully engage the employee and they do not address broader issues concerning emotional exhaustion and work dissatisfaction.
Many psychologists believe that people have a deep desire to behave authentically and to have others acknowledge the true attributes of their identities. They want others to see them as they see themselves. There is significant research that shows authentic self-expression is the key component of self-esteem. The traditional approach to on-boarding, which focuses on enculturating newcomers, might lead to conflicts with authentic self-expression and sustainable on-boarding.
Four principles to optimal on-boarding
The article’s authors propose a four step process for much more effective on-boarding:
- Break out of the traditional employment trap. Leaders should remember that a company is made up of people, and that people have a desire to use their signature strengths, whether those strengths are connecting to others, being organized and prepared, or helping others understand technology. This places organizations in a fundamentally different role than with traditional on-boarding: The role of helping employees to achieve their basic human desires as opposed to providing paid employment that funds people’s authentic side.
- Help newcomers identify their authentic strengths. Before introducing new hires to the rest of your team or even describing a specific job, it is helpful to provide them with dedicated time to pinpoint and describe their unique strengths and best selves. Help them evaluate their strengths and understand how others think of them (maybe have them ask their friends and family), so they can understand how they are “born to act.”
- Facilitate introductions to other company employees. When introducing new hires to each other and to their new colleagues, it is important to structure those introductions so that the person has the opportunity to introduce themselves in a way that is consistent with their authentic strengths. By talking about what they are like when they are at their best (which they should have determined in the previous step), people affirm their selves in a new setting and construct their social identity around their authentic strengths.
- Ask new hires to consider how their authentic strengths can be applied to the job. After explaining your company’s needs and the job requirements, Invite new hires to reflect on their signature strengths and how they could actively put them to use as part of the new job.
Making your company stronger
When I wrote about the importance of recruiting, I reflected that bringing on the right talent could be the difference between success and failure. This post shows how you can take that talent and ensure it contributes to that success. In addition to the immediate gains from reductions in turnover and improved performance, personal-identity socialization can help your company remain adaptable and agile.