The beginning is the most important part of the work, said Plato, the famous Greek philosopher.
Truly said, we have to ensure a solid foundation for anything new. To build a grand structure, we need a robust foundation. Onboarding a new employee is no less of a challenge than laying the right kind of foundation, especially in the current context of hybrid work.
Millions of people started new jobs when the pandemic struck. People realised that there are several occasions when employees need not be under the same roof to deliver the desired levels of productivity. As a consequence, many organisations have encouraged the work-from-anywhere policy; many people have not only started their new job without entering the physical premises of their organisation but also they have been working remotely for years. Many organisations are happy with the results of this model though an opinion against this permanent arrangement of remote work has been rising.
The real question is if we are inducting a new employee properly. The objective of the induction process is to enthuse the new joiner about the purpose of the organisation, talk about the goals, show the path towards achieving those goals and align the new person with the way of working. This programme is akin to laying the foundation of a megastructure. Are we laying the foundation correctly?
Take the first step!
Many organisations and their leaders have suddenly started believing in the adage, “Just take the first step in faith! You don’t have to see the whole staircase.”
They believe that the new joiner must take the first step faithfully and so should the manager and team members while bringing him or her on board. The business has been moving through uncertain times and the leaders are undoubtedly facing the tough challenge of navigating through the volatility and complexity. They expect everyone to be agile and adapt to the situations as they develop. However, a new joiner has no grounding in the organisation, and lacks the network of colleagues he or she can trust, lean on and share; hence, one finds it hard to take the second and third steps on the staircase. A large number of people in our workforce have grown up in a socio-cultural backdrop where they seek clarity of purpose, surefooted direction and quick feedback.
Given the current mode of hybrid work, new employees do not visit the workplace and hence, do not build strong relationships with colleagues and other stakeholders in the business. Most of them do not connect with the organisation’s vision in a meaningful manner. Their relationship with work turns out to be that of earning wages and delivering on a few tasks assigned to them.
Surely, they take the first step in faith and then stand still there; often get off the staircase to climb one more!
Laying the foundation right: The onboarding process
Hybrid work is not going to go away. We have to learn new ways of laying the foundation rather than complaining about the new reality.
Managers have to find ways of building relationships with peers and team members in a virtual environment. They have to change their old habits and develop new ones. They should be able to explain to a new joiner about the company’s purpose, its vision and its way of working. They have to learn ways of giving meaningful, detailed and periodic feedback to the new joiner.
Company culture has to flow down to the new joiner and a sense of belonging has to be developed. Managers have to learn to involve their team members in crucial conversations such as the plans, development opportunities and possible innovations. They must remember to cascade important updates to their team working in a hybrid manner. A new joiner eventually gets mainstreamed in the process and starts owning the team’s and the organisation’s goals.