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Someone Tainted the Watering Hole

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Wed May 29 2019

Someone Tainted the Watering Hole
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I have been designing and delivering onboarding programs for many years and am always surprised by how quickly the new-hire experience can be undermined by well-meaning staff. It takes just one person to taint the watering hole with confusion, uncertainty, and doubt.

Employers work hard to create exceptional new-hire experiences. They plot each element of the onboarding process to ensure their new hire has the information they need to be successful in their new job.

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Then, a different employee sabotages those efforts.

Here is how that happens: Employers spend time and energy preparing for the new hires. They agonize over how much information is too much on the first day or during the first week. They review the materials being presented to ensure the business is portrayed in the right way. These are important concerns for a good new-hire experience; but what employers often fail to do to is adequately prepare their onboarding staff for what and how much to share with new hires.

I’ve sat in the back of the room on day one of an onboarding program where Presenter One tells the group what a great place Company X is to work for and, for example, tells the group that Fridays are “jeans day.” Presenter Two then shares the same information. At the end of the day, no fewer than five people have told the new hires about Friday being jeans day.

All that time crafting a great new-hire experience . . . and the main message that came through was that employees are allowed to wear jeans on Fridays. I’m sure that is not what the employer envisioned when putting together their new-hire program. In addition, the new hires are likely wondering if being allowed to wear jeans on Fridays is the best thing this company has to offer.

Even more damaging is when new hires gets conflicting information. In this case, multiple staff are sharing important, must-know information—incorrectly. Now your new hires are getting the message that the staff doesn’t know how the company operates.

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For example, let’s say a question is asked on day one about time off. Over the next few days your new hire gets all kinds of advice about how to handle the request but the advice is inconsistent. Your staff don’t really know what the policy is for new hires to take time off; however, they want to seem knowledgeable and be helpful, so, they guess. As a result, your new hire is confused and your company image suffers.

The antidote to these situations is to ensure staff who interface with your new hires are exposed to the onboarding process and understand their roles. Staff who deliver information or programs to new hires should be periodically monitored to ensure consistent messages throughout the onboarding process.

Generally, staff mean well and are eager to offer assistance. They need to be reminded that the onboarding process has been carefully crafted so that new hires can get the information and resources they need at the appropriate time in their tenure. Informal additions and changes to the program subvert the structure and can undermine the onboarding process.

Caution your onboarding staff about being too casual with a new hire. Overly casual conduct and language before the new hire starts to feel safe in their new job adds another element of stress to a person who just wants to feel successful. Your staff should treat the new hire like a new business associate, not a new friend.

The feel of your onboarding process should match your company culture, with a little extra formality to ensure the new employees feels welcome and respected. If you have taken the time to build a great onboarding experience for your new hires, take the extra step to ensure that your staff know how to effectively execute it without tainting the water hole.

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