An Onboarding Parable

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Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a girl named Susie.  Susie was starting a new job.  On Susie’s first day, she had to wait in the lobby for about 15 minutes until someone took her to the basement (yeah, the basement).  There, they had her clock in, and walk to a windowless, concrete-walled room, full of old filing cabinets, dusty boxes of old documents, and an uncomfortable-looking chair that faced a 13″ TV/VCR combo.

Susie was given a stack of standard, new hire paperwork and told to fill them out, and someone would be back to check on her in a few minutes.  Susie obliged, completed her paperwork, and sat there until someone returned…an hour later.

Sidenote:  This was long before the days of smartphones, where Susie could have amused herself while waiting.  Granted, she was in a dungeon in the basement, so she probably wouldn’t have had any signal anyway.

Anyway, when someone finally came back and took her paperwork, Susie was handed a cardboard box full of antiquated VHS tapes.  She was simply told, “Start watching these – take an hour for lunch – and finish watching them this afternoon.  Don’t forget to clock out when you leave.”

And with that, Susie put the first videotape in the VCR, and continued what was quite possibly the worst orientation experience of her life.  The videos were from the early 1980s, poorly acted (as many “dramatization” videos are), and covered a variety of topics — some of which had nothing to do with Susie’s new role.

After returning from her lunch (alone), and finishing the videos, Susie wandered out of the dungeon to find her manager.  Clearly ill-prepared for a new employee, Susie was pointed to a chair and told to sit next to a tenured employee and “observe” for the rest of the day.  And observe she did.  And that continued for the rest of the week, when Susie was deemed “trained” and ready to do her job.

Susie hated that job.  She stuck with it for much longer than she had planned…mostly because she had the opportunity to put her background to work and implement some sorely needed training.  But even given the chance to use her skills and experience, Susie never felt committed to that job…and jumped ship when a better opportunity presented itself.  A huge reason behind her leaving was because Susie never received a solid foundation on which to build her career with the company.

It’s a lesson so many companies need to learn.  First impressions mean so much, and an employee’s first day on the job is the perfect opportunity for an organization to truly roll out the proverbial red carpet for their newest team member.  Making a new employee feel welcome, rather than like an interruption, is the very least an organization can do to establish that new relationship.

Does your organization have a Susie starting soon?  What are you doing to welcome her to the team?

(Note: “Susie” asked that her name be changed.)

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