It seems to me that everybody is trying to fix Company Induction. I hear this from contacts, clients and it’s often a topic of conversation on LinkedIn:
“Has anybody got any ideas on modernising induction?”
I remember this perpetual cycle of fixing induction myself from my in-house days. In fact, it was what I was hired to do in my first L&D job back in the late 1990s. And here we are 20 years later…
From the moment you sign off on your immaculate new induction slide deck, the rest of the organisation wants to put more ‘stuff’ into your already crammed session. Legal, Facilities, HR, everybody sees the initial new starter experience as the place to add the stuff they’ve been charged to let everybody know.
Whether you have an hour, a half day, a full day or even a week with new starters (sometimes even more), it’s generally the same: Sessions crammed full of ‘stuff’ the organisation needs you to know before we set you free into the big wide-world of working at the company. So much content. So much to remember: Histories, structures, hierarchies, culture, strategies, objectives, products, services, departments, systems, legislation, benefits, and sometimes even the job itself! So much to say and so little time to cram it all in. Fortunately, we also have e-learning as a platform to cram it in as well.
“I don’t care if you’re struggling to remember the names of colleagues and where the toilets are… WE NEED TO TELL YOU ALL OF THIS!”
The cycle starts again the moment we’ve fixed our induction, having found new and novel ways to cram the same stuff into anxious and already overwhelmed new starters. And that’s where it’s broken. We need to stop assuming induction is: We need you to know this. And turn it around to be user-centric not content-centric.
How Do We Create User-Centric Induction?
When we start with the new starter we realise that by asking them questions we will find out what’s needed and when. And guess what? No-one will say: “I don’t mind, throw it all at me in my first hour of joining. I have a photographic memory and relate brand new information to brand new situations as they arise.”
We need to find out from recent new starters:
- What would have been helpful from us before their first day?
- What would have been helpful to know on day one?
- What they needed help with to start getting things done when they joined?
- How could we relate the regulatory stuff to their job so that it’s helpful?
Collect the answers to these and see what you’ve got. Then stop.
As L&D, the next natural inclination is to ask: How do we get all that into a course?
But the last thing a new starter needs is an event in which everything that may (or may not) be helpful to them, just as they join, is delivered at them when they are just getting their bearings.
Fix Company Induction By Thinking Digital
Park the idea of a rehashed programme, for a moment and get a task force of HR / L&D colleagues together alongside recent new starters and design the ideal user-journey, from before you all joined the company to passing your probation. Remember what is was like to be new and what you needed to know – and know how to do.
What was driving you back then? It was likely to be:
- To prove yourself quickly
- To understand where you fitted in to your team, the department and the organisation
- Not to mess things up
- To get up and running as quickly as possible
- To be adding value
- To not feel like the new person for too long
- To know who the important people are and how stuff gets done
- To get the awkwardness out of the way
Then, get out the post-it notes and write down all the things you wanted or needed to know and stick them to a continuum from ‘offer accepted’ to ‘passed probation’.
Discuss and decide the ideal means of receiving or accessing that information. Be really idealistic. Think BIG… and then think practical. You are representing every new starter to your organisation from here on in.
Examples could be:
- After accepting the offer, you receive a video text message from your new manager/team congratulating you on getting the job
- If it’s a while between when the offer is made and when you join, you receive an invitation for coffee with your new manager
- If coffee isn’t practical, schedule a video call – and even invite the rest of the team. It’s more formal but gives everyone the opportunity to meet.
- You receive some company ‘swag’.
- There’s a summer / Christmas party coming up and you receive an invitation to attend.
- A week before joining you receive a link to resources that let you know what to expect when you join; what the company does; what to wear; and how to get to the office.
- The last working day before you join, you get a quick call from your new manager to see if you’re all set and ready.
- On day one, some short video stories are made available to you of what other new starters did that really worked for them when they joined.
- You’re matched with a buddy from inside your team to help guide you through your first few weeks and to answer all your questions.
- Technology system ‘how-to’ guides – with screen-recordings that demonstrate how to complete particular transactions – are available when you need them. I.e. Accessing internal platforms; requesting holiday; processing expenses; any system set-ups you need to do.
- You have information available on how stuff gets done in your organisation. All the things you’ll only know with experience of working at the company.
- You get together with other new starters. Not just once on your first day but regularly. And this is done to help you make connections across the business, to introduce you to key figure in the business, to engage in conversations and to ask questions – and not to overload you with information. In fact, there is no content and no slides. Just people from within the business (leaders, recent new starters) telling their stories and mingling. It feels genuine and as if you’re being welcomed into the wider team.
Being User-Centric Means That You Will Never Be Fixing Your Induction Again
If it’s what your new starters want and need, you’ll only ever be tweaking it in the future. It’ll also mean that you’re not tucked away in classrooms every week, delivering far too much information than human beings can possibly retain. And this will free you up to fix your new manager training (ensuring they’re supported before they take over the team!) and all manner of other priorities.
Of course, this doesn’t mean: Build it and they will come. Quite the opposite. But like the modern world we live in, notifications can be created in process flows so that the right resources and invitations are sent out when they’re needed and campaigns can be set-up and automated to draw new starters to the collective know-how of their colleagues in digital form.
But What About The Stuff We Have To Tell Them?
This is where we need to question ourselves.
“Is it more important to have said it or for it to be useful, remembered and put into action?”
It’s not about us. It’s about them and we need to be more creative and practical in how we support new starters in assimilating to their new surroundings and being able to perform with confidence, competence, whilst compliant, in the roles they’ve been recruited for.
David James is Digital Learning Strategist with Looop and was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region until 2014.
Now an authority in contemporary L&D practices, David works with businesses, globally, to develop and implement social, agile and digital learning strategies that make learning work, with Looop.
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