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.