On-boarding new employees is not just about new hire training. In fact, new employee training may be the least important part of on-boarding new people. As more evidence piles up linking employee engagement to performance, organizations need to take the entire on-boarding process much more seriously.
One important way organizations can do this is to help new people “adjust” or “socialize” into the new organization. Organizational socialization goes back a long way, and includes fundamentals like helping new employees with role clarity, confidence in their ability to perform the work, social acceptance, and knowledge of how to navigate the organization. Traditional new hire training programs do not address these issues of organizational socialization.
However, with the emergence of enterprise social networks, organizations can greatly help new employees get the “lay of the land” and increase the speed at which they socialize into the organization and develop the confidence that they can fit in and perform well in their new role. Enterprise social networks can also solve the critical problem of on-boarding new employees who are remote and otherwise scattered all over the world by bringing these people together in a common place and connecting them to each other and to the entire organization in a way that conference calls and email quite simply cannot.
People want to, even need to, feel connected to the organization in which they work to make a meaningful, valuable contribution and help the organization perform well. Enterprise social networks are certainly not a silver bullet. However, they can be used to improve how organizations on-board new employees and improve performance. Here are a few ways you can use enterprise social networks to improve employee on-boarding:
Assign a New Employee Community Manager: Assign someone in your organization the job of facilitating the on-boarding process for new employees. This person could be an HR generalist, learning specialist, or a high performing individual contributor in the business who is looking for a special project. The New Employee Community Manager would facilitate participation, organizational socialization, and otherwise, help new employees get to know the people and the organization so they know how to navigate social norms. The purpose of this role is to help people feel comfortable as soon as possible in their new job so they can perform effectively. Consider measuring the success of the New Employee Community Manager with a metric called “Time to Proficiency.”
Create a New Employee Group: In your enterprise social network, create a new employee group and add all new employees to that group on their first day on the job. Provide guidance and create a sense of group identity and purpose. Help new employees participate and engage in discussion about their on-boarding experience. It is wise to go so far as to encourage commiserating. After all, talking about the goods and the bads and the difficulties of socializing into the organization can be effective learning experience. Plus, other new employees could see these conversations and intervene by sharing solutions and experiences of their own that could benefit the entire group.
Encourage New Employees to Reach Out Beyond the Group: You want new employees to be as proactive as possible to reach out to experienced people in the organization. Learning how to navigate an organization is key to getting things done. But don't just say, “Reach out.” Give the new employees assignments to aid the process. For example:
1. Provide new employees a list of people to interview and give them an interview guide with sample questions.
2. Set up a scavenger hunt to help people find the who and the what in your organization.
3. Recognize participation. Award prizes for most interviews completed and even “best” interviews. Bring a group of new employees back together in a room to share those interview stories. This can be done in person or in virtual meetings.
Ask Public Questions: Encourage new employees to post a question to the entire organization. New people might be shy about doing this for fear of violating social norms. Provide a list of possible questions a new employee could ask, and then encourage them to post it. You never know who in the organization will respond, and this is a great way for new employees to discover people not on their list of people to interview.
Access to Self-paced Learning Content: – New employees cannot learn everything from informal or social learning, so it is important that they have access to self-paced learning content. These can be in the form of power point presentation, e-learning modules, job aids, Jing recordings, a knowledge base, recorded meetings, etc. You can provide links to these resources in your enterprise social network.
It's About Socializing Into the Organization
Notice that most of these ideas are not as much about training new employees on job skills as they are about helping people socialize into the organization by meeting people, finding out who does what, and how things are done in your organization. Yes, new hire training is vital, but if you conduct a new hire training program that ends definitively, and then send people to their silo-ed jobs, you risk a disorientation period during which new employees feel like they have to start over. By helping people socialize into your organization, navigate the landscape, and providing them the tools to do so, you are providing them skills that will enable them to feel confident about working with anyone in your organization. Their performance will improve.