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Good staff induction is vital

9 April, 2010

Failure to get the first day right for a new starter and you could disadvantage them for days, months and possibly even the duration of their employment. New staff should ask questions but it’s inevitable that they will make some assumptions where you as an inductor (perhaps in the role of team leader or co-worker) fail to provide the information they need.

For some people who change jobs regularly (like me) we know the drill: there’s policies that need to be read and signed as having been understood, tax file number and superannuation paperwork … that’s not the sort of induction I’m talking about particularly here.

Think of it like taking someone to meet your family. You want everyone to feel comfortable with each other as soon as possible, facilitate the creation of relationships and understanding of each other’s preferences, culture and social norms.

As a superficial example, failing to introduce a new starter to everyone in a team on their first day can set them back months as they then have to on their own time and initiative go around and meet everyone individually. Much easier if you facilitate that and get it all over and done with in an hour.

People need to build a mental model about the complex web of relationships, politics, power and accepted behaviour and if you don’t provide them with that model then they’ll form their own, likely incorrect, one that can only cause inefficiencies and maybe even embarrassment.

I know my first day on a job is usually a bit overwhelming. I’m a sponge for information but being an introvert social interactions can be draining and I’m hopeless with names and faces.

Understand that people have different Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic (VAK) learning preferences and if you can’t ascertain what preference a new staff member has then cover your bases. I’m a visual learner so I prefer diagrams, lists etc especially things I can take away and study or use as prompts in future. In meetings with new people I’ll draw a diagram of the table on my notepad and put people’s names against each chair during introductions.

Organisational structures can be a nightmare. Firstly, because there are usually dozens of names to remember and secondly because such formal structures are rarely representative of the true political model. You can have non-executive staff who have more influence with senior management than managers, even their own. That’s the real sort of model people need to get their head around. Unfortunately you can’t really explicitly describe such models – some people would be furious if they found out such truths. Nonetheless it’s the sort of information people really need and can be useful straight up rather than leaving them to figure it out for themselves and miss out on opportunities.

What are your thoughts on this other important side of employee induction?

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