This article was first published on the HR Leader website.
Introducing new employees into an organisation is an exciting time – it signals both progress and change, writes Dean Anderson.
Induction is one of the most important components of talent acquisition. As they say, first impressions count and this rings true for employees during their first days and few weeks on the job. In fact, according to recent research by MYOB, almost three-quarters of Australians (71 per cent) would be put off staying in a business if they had a bad onboarding experience.
A well-thought-out induction process ensures new team members experience a smooth transition and feel welcomed and supported while they adjust to their new roles.
Formal v informal inductions
There are both formal and informal parts to any induction. As most know well, formal induction includes things like internal systems training, the new starter checklists, and induction sessions. It’s when you learn where to assemble if there’s a fire alarm, and the mechanics required to complete the role.
However, fewer companies are across the intricacies of the informal inductions that take place in the background between new starters and their colleagues – and the impact these can have.
Informal induction includes what a new team member sees, hears, is told, and feels on their first day, week or month; outside the formal induction. They might see colleagues gossiping in the kitchen, on phones distracted during meetings, or be told things contrary to what they were in the formal induction.
This sends a strong message that despite what you might have heard in the formal induction, this is how we “really do things around here”. These can be subtle moments that have a significant impact on new team members and provide them with a guide on how to behave in their team.
While many employers treat these informal interactions as “outside of their control”, there are ways in which they can positively influence informal inductions to increase retention and build high-performing cultures and teams.
How to influence informal inductions
To establish a successful informal induction process, employers must place time and effort into creating a culture that supports strong relationships between team members.
When a new staff member joins a team, all existing employees play a role in demonstrating what the business stands for. Focusing on developing a culture that is underpinned by support, collaboration, and comradery will shape a team who are eager to engage, demonstrate desirable work traits, and act as positive role models to new staff. Critical to the induction process is having employees who are willing to establish quality relationships with new recruits as quickly as possible.
But how can leaders help foster good relationships between colleagues and, in the process, support informal inductions?
Leaders should model good relationship-building efforts. By making time and effort to connect with team members, leaders can show they genuinely care – the more leaders are prepared to put into the culture, the more they will get in return. The key here is for leaders to be genuine in relationship-building conversations.
Team members who exhibit behaviours that drive a positive culture should be rewarded. These behaviours may include showing genuine care for teammates, taking responsibility, or finding ways to collaborate. It’s equally important that a workplace culture enables genuine conversations to be had between colleagues around behaviour that doesn’t meet the standards expected.
Design an office environment that encourages employees to interact and connect. For example, open-plan offices and kitchens, mixed-use spaces, lounge areas, etc., make it easier for employees to mingle.
Create social opportunities during work time for employees to develop relationships. Just giving people time to get together is an important step to fostering strong relationships.
Develop occasions for new starters to have positive interactions with existing staff. Organising activities that encourage natural social integration to help new starters ease into their new environment will go a long way. And organising a welcome lunch should be a part of every induction.
Set up a shadowing or mentoring system or match new starters with a buddy. This can be especially effective for younger staff members as it allows them to find out more about the organisation, ask questions, and settle into the role.
Helping new hires establish their roots and place within the team is key to ensuring they adapt to their role and achieve long-term success in the organisation. By using the existing culture to establish a smooth and successful informal induction, new starters can transition quickly and sooner contribute to the wellbeing and performance of the business.