Why do we induct new staff so badly?

Do you remember the first date? Maybe it was a while ago, perhaps just last week? But that first impression mattered did it not? You brushed your teeth, maybe put on something that smelt nice, you may have even ironed what you were wearing, and you made sure you were on time, and the first thing you did was smile.

You knew that you had your little quirks. A cupboard at home full of stuff you could not throw away, making Sunday breakfast in your pants, and that secret love of Barry Manilow ballads, but that was not for sharing or discussion on that first date. 

What you didn’t do was turn up in your sweat pants, straight from the gym, smelling like a three day old Tshirt. You did not rush away, leaving the other person to organise the bill payment then find their way home. And then expect them to come to the same restaurant the following night, love the same experience all over again and eventually marry you and live happily ever after. You did not do that on your second date, or you’re third, or you’re fourth, especially if this person was ‘the’ special one. 

If you did, that’s why you still live in a bedsit eating pizza from a box. 

So why do we do this to new staff that join our organisations? 

We go through the interview process, and we meet the candidates, we shortlist them for skills, attitude, cultural fit (or at least we think we do). Sometimes we sell them our business. We tell them how great it is to work for us, ‘every day I walk in here. I feel like I get a big hug.’ and on it goes and finally our chosen person signed on the line. First date over. 

Sadly we are often not telling all the truth, why would we? We want to woo the best talent. We sometimes see this as an opportunity to replace John or Jane. Get someone better, someone, who ‘gets our business.’ or ‘Can bring something new.’ What we forget, and often do not even know is that John or Jane left for a reason, and more often than not, it was a divorce. Something happened eventually to make them say ‘I have had enough.’

Unless they were retiring, or maybe for family or health reasons, mostly they divorced your business because they were not happy. Maybe their career pathway had died with you? Maybe your culture was passively toxic? Perhaps you could not give them the remuneration they deserved? Maybe they were not being heard or listened to. Remember, people don’t leave jobs; they leave people

So you have gone through the divorce, and now you have your new love. They signed on the line, and we bring them into our business family, and they have expectations. They remember the words and promises you made on your first and second date with them. They remember the excitement of change but know absolutely nothing about how to work in your business. 

They expect you to guide them, support them, understand their needs, wants and desires and in return they will perform and perform and try to impress. They are nervous, a little scared and expected to have relationships with people they have never met before and just ‘know’ what they do and how they work.

What do we often do? 

Welcome to the business, have a morning tea, here’s your desk. IT will set up your computer for you. Meet the team, meet the boss, here is your log on, behind you are some folders, here are the toilets, here is your swipe card. You are a star. 

Now wow us! And we call this an induction. 

We just turned up in our sweat pants and our 3-day old t-shirt, and expect that new person to jump right in and start delivering. Sure we all know that you get nothing productive in the first three months because all the courses we have been on have been telling us that, but we don’t believe it. What does that new person know at the end of week one? 

They know where the toilets are, and how to use the passkey, and how to log on (if IT got it right) and they know that everyone is in a whirlpool of busyness, and often with full diaries so they actually can’t engage. They also see why the last person divorced your company to vacate the seat that they now sit in. 

Just alone

Maybe if we are three rungs up the culture ladder, we may have an HR department with some ‘learning solution’ that we can plonk them in front of to ‘teach’ them what we think they should know. The fact is that merely knowing something is not enough. We all ‘know’ things but knowing is not understanding, or being able to change that understanding into actions. That comes from hands-on support and a real induction that encourages questioning, conversation and empathy—your empathy towards them. 

Do we even ask them how they like to learn? Of course, we don’t. What we have done in the past has always worked for us, until the divorce, of course. 

And then the expectations and frustrations kick in for both parties. Did we make the right choice? I expected this person to ‘hit the ground running.’ Think about it. A person hanging under a helicopter with their legs moving fast and letting go. Do you think they will run off into the distance? Or collapse in a heap. Be real, no one, even you can enter into a new relationship and be perfect from the beginning. Everyone deserves support, training and encouragement and most of all, they must be allowed to ask questions and deserve answers.

Induction is far more than taking our new talent through policy and swipe cards. It has to be; if we want to nurture them and grow them into the being able to deliver all the fantastic skills and attributes we fell in love with, in the first place, then they deserve better. 

Induction is a learning experience and opportunity. They learn about us, and we learn about them. Like any healthy relationship, it takes time and can flourish into something fantastic. 

Do not forget, divorce is a messy, expensive, painful business and we if we keep on doing the same things we have always done, and our people keep leaving? Maybe its time to put the sweat pants away and stop expecting new hires to ‘hit the ground running’ when you do not support them in the relationship.

Paying lip service to leadership

A lightbulb moment.

Leadership: a word thrown around our world very loosely today with good intention, supported by a raft of articles, memes, videos and commentary that is never-ending. Don’t just be a manager, be a leader! The new rock stars of business hold court while the world of social media fawns over their names hoping to gain the clicks that support their relentless advertising placement but to what end?

What is the actual value of this torrential outpouring of words and images if the business machine continues to talk the talk but walk a different direction? Words like agile, lean, wellbeing, people first, flexible and more are rolled out over and over around the walls of the empire and yet are we honestly seeing a culture change? Amongst those yellow stickers plastered across meeting rooms throughout the world, what difference do they make if the business does not support actual change by supporting its leaders ‘to’ change?

Often the focus of changing a business culture is lead from the top. Decisions made in executive meetings using phrases such as ‘we must remove the silos’ ‘our biggest asset is our people’ ‘wellbeing matters’ ‘let us move to flexible working environments’ and yet time and time again nothing really changes. Oh, its all with good intention no doubt, and on that day in the meeting room may be the heart of some in the right place, while others smiled and agreed (so as not to be seen as the odd one out).

Still, the staff continue to come and go with the ‘leaders’ confused as to why their ‘new’ initiatives have not worked, why those new ‘statements’ spread around the walls and emails of our offices have delivered very little in the way of actual change. ‘Why are they not getting it, why are the staff not changing’ the minutes of our meetings reflect.

Why in this time of unlimited access to learning, knowledge and that flurry of ‘be the best leader’ communique that bombard our senses does this lack of change continue to be seen around the world?

In my opinion, the leaders of today often lack empathy and the support actually to change themselves.

Large Hannah LIght Bulb Wellington

Indeed, they want to be the next ‘uber-cool’ manager, oh yes the intention was there in that meeting, surrounded by the same group of peers that also paid lip service to this new bright ideal. Yes, they signed off on the ‘brave new world.’ The problem is often; they do not know how to change themselves, and often the business does not know how to assist them in doing that. Yes, they attend expensive courses, watch more videos and read more and more ‘uber-cool’ articles, and yet they continue to act in a way that only they know how to act and that has worked for them in a bygone age.

Often they expect their ‘people’ to change and then wonder why they don’t. ‘But we told them we were moving to agile’ (or whatever new term has coined) we say, and wonder why it’s not working? We even give the modern world a name ‘The XY way’ ‘The ABC vision, putting people first.’

It is not working because ‘you’ the leader have not changed yourself. 

Change is difficult, in fact altering your very being, your beliefs, your style, the actions and behaviours that have not only supported you along your pathway in life but have got you to this position today, is a huge ask. The older you get, the harder it is to change. It has been a proven fact for time and memoriam. We don’t like change; it scares us; it makes us uncomfortable primarily when it may involve self-reflection and having to build emotional skills that have never ‘fitted’ our needs or core personalities.

We have become very quick to ‘farm out’ the emotional support of our staff to the world of external councilling organisations, none of whom have any real understanding, background or experience in the environments we work. For some, they say to the individual ‘here are some tools to help YOU cope’ and yet the root of the problem, often a lousy leader never changes. And this brings me to the reason for writing this article and the words I wrote earlier.

Surely, as leaders, we have some fundamental responsibilities to the people we say we lead? How about starting with empathy? And if your not the type of person or organisation that truly understands what this means (or pays lip service to this may be to look good in some media article) or attract new staff because you’re not even noticing the turnover of your people?

It is about time you put away your yellow stickers outlining new processes and procedures and how ‘cool’ you want to be and start to learn what genuine human empathy and interaction is. Its time to eat your dog food and stop just paying lip service to the word leadership.

Start to learn, model and ‘do’ and trust me when I say this is not just a ‘pale male stale’ trait as we often hear or a ‘boomer’ issue. Empathy is a 21st-century social issue and is not focused on any gender or age bias. We are becoming detached while we tell ourselves we are more engaged than ever before, and as leaders, this is the rock that our organisations, and we perish.

Before you send people off to expensive third-party support organisations to clip some ticket around how you support ‘wellbeing’ in the workplace, maybe you have to start to ‘listen’ instead of just hearing? Listening is that first stage of empathy. Comprehend what that other person is saying to you, between the lines, about themselves and heaven forbid you may find out how they feel. Remember we ‘all’ feel and we all deserve to matter, especially in the workplace and especially by our leaders. Don’t forget that your leader should be doing the same for you.

Senior leaders, step out of that old fashioned hierarchy of expecting your other leaders to feed up the intel to you about how it’s all working out in their teams. Open your door, make yourself available, model your leadership skills to other leaders and all staff. Oh yes, you’re essential, and yes your busy and yes it may make your other leaders feel uncomfortable, but then if you show them empathy, it may start to change for everyone along with your bottom line.