Workplace Wisdom

Onboarding: Clarity Establishes Safety

Now that you’ve selected the right people, brought them into the organization, and let them know that they and their views matter, the next step is to help them shine in the jobs you’ve hired them to do.

All Aboard!

Don’t assume that your job is finished just because an employee seems to have made it through orientation and settled in at a desk. Think of your organization as a ship that’s going to take you, your team, and the new hire on a journey: Even after you’ve boarded the ship, there’s always a steward who’s responsible for your safety, first and foremost, as well as your comfort.

In the workplace, safety means making sure that everyone, especially the new hire, has an understanding of what’s going on and has the tools and support necessary to get the job done. If the new employee doesn’t understand the environment or can’t function within it, too many things can — and will — go wrong.

A new employee’s comfort has to do with feeling good about where the ship is going and whether they’re in the right seat. They need to know how they themselves and their contribution fit with the organization’s purpose and direction. Clarity of vision and mission — “Where are we going?” — as well as values and customs — “What is most valued here?” “How do we do things here and how do we treat each other?” — help provide that sense of security along with a consistency of perspective.

Full Steam Ahead!

Goal clarity is important too. Every employee should know the answers to these questions: “What do you want me to accomplish?” “What are my targets?” “What concrete work is expected?” Theoretically, your longstanding employees are well-informed on these matters. New employees need these things described and explained, often more than once.

If you want your new people to contribute actively, productively, and relatively soon, the organization’s structures, goals, and expectations need to be firmly and explicitly in place. It’s unrealistic to think that newcomers will figure them out either through clairvoyance (too unlikely) or by violating them (too painful and damaging). Having everything clearly stated also helps to minimize the friction that can otherwise occur as the organization tries to absorb a stranger.

Clarity Leads to Collaboration

Leadership clarity reduces the likelihood of conflict between the new person and the incumbents. It also helps ensure congruity about everyone’s roles and responsibilities. Perhaps most importantly, it helps everyone ascertain quickly whether the new employee is performing in ways that are acceptable to the organization’s culture and serve existing cultural norms, even as the new employee brings a fresh set of eyes and the possibility of some fresh air to enrich those same norms and customs.

A side benefit of this process is that as new employees become solid traveling companions, their experiences can become a travelogue that helps to guide future new hires.

Onward and upward,

LK

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