Settling into a new organisation

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Written by Sarah Cook and Steve MacAulay on 15 April 2021 in Features
Features

In the first of a two-part article about onboarding, Sarah Cook and Steve Macaulay emphasise the importance of an induction process.

Many of us will remember our first day in an organisation, how unsettling and tiring it was meeting new people, trying to remember names and departments and roles, whilst not looking like a complete fool.

What seems commonplace now once you have settled into your organisation, was like a whole new world and a very anxious one for the new employee who often feels judged, inspected, and evaluated.

It may have faded in our memories is how long it took before we fully understood the unwritten rules, the underlying culture, who were the people we had to influence, who with the people who were receptive or unreceptive and who were people who needed to support us.

This is bound to have cost the organisation in lost contribution and missed opportunities. Now, induction is even more important in a world where most people are working from home and many new recruits may not physically meet their boss or their colleagues face to face for some time.

L&D and HR have such an important contribution to make in onboarding, getting people to feel comfortable and contributing to their maximum in an organisation irrespective of whether they are working from home or office based. It is almost a first principle of HR and L&D that induction is essential, yet somehow it is rarely done as effectively as it should be.

We were reminded of this when we saw the recent TV interview with Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex. She had said she was deeply unsettled and put off by her experience as a new member of the British royal family, which she called the Firm.

It is almost a first principle of HR and L&D that induction is essential, yet somehow it is rarely done as effectively as it should be

She painted her experience as unwelcoming and hostile, so bad that she and husband Prince Harry could no longer tolerate it. She departed to the United States with her family, to the horror and consternation of many.

Some blamed her, some the Royal family but many were united in feeling the loss of their contribution. We couldn’t help asking this question: How much of this problem was down to poor support and lack of welcoming processes?

To examine this process of induction and settling re-examine HR and L&D practices with fresh eyes and relate it back to your own organisation practices. To do so, first we need to remind ourselves of the benefits of a good induction and onboarding process.

This needs to cover the whole process right from the initial contacts with the organisation as well what L&D and HR in particular need to do to ensure a positive employee induction experience. It has become particularly important at a time when remote and home working can potentially isolate new employees.

The benefits of induction

Because it so often gets taken for granted, it is worth reminding ourselves that a carefully designed induction has substantial payoffs and that a well-designed onboarding and induction process results in:

  • People integrating and settling in more quickly
  • Taking on board the organisation's values and culture
  • Becoming a better and productive contributor more speedily
  • Reaching employee potential maximum contribution
  • Reducing the real risk of employee turnover and even damage to the overall employee brand in the wider recruitment market.

Best practice organisations begin the process of induction as and when a new employee accepts their new post. They send the employee helpful information about the organisation to help orientate them before Day 1. Many organisations have built-in induction programmes which may last a day or so.

This is a useful start but the real work goes on over the next weeks and months. Initially, induction should cover important practical information about procedures to follow, such as health and safety systems and policies, company services and important values and strategies.

Near the beginning people need job specific information, such as information about the department, what the job requires and what is required of them in the next few weeks.

Induction has taken on a more important role as remote working has taken over many office-based roles; because of the pandemic, it means that information and connections are more difficult to establish and maintain unless they are well thought through.

In some organisations, remote working has led to some teams rethinking and re-evaluating how they can keep in touch with each other, and this has increased the amount of support that is being given, all remotely.

Some organisations have set up a buddy system, where less formal means of colleague support are established so experienced people in the organisation can stay in touch with the individual, offering support, information and networks which could do much to establish the new individual.

For example, one London borough sought to recruit and retain a more representative employee population within its ageing workforce.

It saw that ongoing support was required for new recruits, especially those from BAME population. It set up initiatives to support employee retention: the appointment of buddies and mentors as well as regular progress feedback sessions with managers who also received mentoring skills training.

Part two of this article examines possible failure in the induction process and looks to the future of onboarding.

 

About the author 

Sarah Cook is MD of the Stairway Consultancy at sarah@thestairway.co.uk. Steve Macaulay is an associate at Cranfield Executive Development at s.macaulay@cranfield.ac.uk

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