The Dating Game
Peter Altschul, MS Copyright 2021
July 13, 2021
In my memoir Breaking Barriers: Working and Loving While Blind, I described how, during the first several days at my first two jobs, I became tense and disconnected while sitting through programs designed to bond me first with a large federal government agency and later with a stodgy Wall Street bank. During these onboarding programs, my fellow new hires and I completed a mind-numbing amount of paperwork and listened to endless presentations about the glories of the organizations from faceless bureaucrats who we never heard from again. In my next three jobs, I was spared from going through similar experiences … and I was much happier.
I hadn’t thought much about the connection between my first few days on a job and my level of happiness until reading an article on FastCompany entitled “How to Solve Onboarding’s Awkward Alienation Problem.” (1) In the article, Drake Baer wrote about how employers want to absorb new hires into their organization as quickly as possible while new hires want who they are to be aligned with what they do.
Mr. Baer also wrote about research conducted at a large call center in India where one group went through the usual “here’s-why-you-should-love-us” dance during which each member received a fleece sweatshirt with the company logo printed on each one. Members of the other group were guided through more contemporary dance steps to assist each member to focus on their strengths and uniqueness. Members also received fleece sweatshirts, but with each of their names printed on them instead of the company logo. After six months, members of the former group were about twice as likely to bow out, and customers were more satisfied with their interactions with members of the latter group.
But what really grabbed my attention was the connection made in the article between hiring and dating. In both, each of us is trying to figure out how our strengths and quirks connect with others.
What did you do during your first date with someone you successfully bonded with?
A. Sit in a large, stuffy room to listen to a stranger explain the glorious history of the family you would be joining soon; or:
B. Spend time getting to know your partner, perhaps with the help of a meal, music, and a bottle of wine.
In my memoir, I described how my boss left me with a can-do spirit after engaging my guide dog and me in a spirited conversation about the project I would be managing on my first morning of my third job. I spent my first week of my next job on the road in Glendale, Arizona laying the groundwork for my future work there addressing teen pregnancy prevention. I began learning about the culture of my next organization with the assistance of my boss and another employee. These interactions conveyed confidence in my abilities and a far clearer sense of the cultures of each organization than viewing those we’re-awesome presentations those faceless bureaucrats performed.
Five days ago, I came across a list of five onboarding tips that Google created for their managers. (2)
1. Match the new hire with a peer buddy;
2. Help the new hire build a social network;
3. Set up employee onboarding check-ins once a month for the new hire’s first six months;
4. Encourage open dialogue; and
5. Meet your new hires on their first day.
Onboarding is all about supporting new hires enhance relationships with themselves and others.