New girl part 1

Five months ago I started a new job, working in an industry sector that is new to me.

Flora in the North York Moors

I can’t think of a relevant image. I’ve been on holiday since my last blog post. So here’s a holiday snap instead. I am hiking in the North York Moors. And it’s not raining!

It struck me this week that the first five or six months in a new job takes up a lot of energy.  Mostly mental and emotional energy.  It’s been really interesting, and I feel I’m getting there, in terms of doing what I set out to do.  However,  I think that it is important to acknowledge that at times the first months can be draining.

There is a lot written about adjusting to a new job, e.g. all that ‘first 100 days’ type literature.  Some of the most useful research I’ve come across is by two academics, Helena Cooper-Thomas and Neil Anderson.  Since one of the projects on my list is to deliver a new onboarding process for my company, I may as well kill two birds with one stone and reflect on my own experiences and kickstart my thinking process.

One size is not enough

Cooper-Thomas and Anderson have recently focussed on how experienced professional employees adjust to new jobs.  I’ve found that often our efforts in terms of induction and onboarding within organisations tends to be fairly one size fits all.  CT & A (I can’t keep typing out their full names), found that graduate new entrants and other less experienced employees benefit far more from structured approaches.  However, experienced newcomers tend to rely more on their own methods of adjusting.  Thus, CT & A write:

“HR induction and onboarding processes may be better off encouraging newcomers to use their own adjustment strategies that can be adapted according to the role and context.”

All mouth no ears?

I totally agree.  And I also think that in many organisations, and mine is no exception, our induction processes tend to be very one way, and rather transactional. For example, doing a lot of telling and not much listening.  This misses a trick, as there is also so much to be learned from the fresh perspective that a newcomer brings.

Social animals

And also, by focussing on task-y stuff like learning about the role and the company, we totally miss the incredibly important aspect of ‘socialisation’.  In other words, we humans are social animals, and when we start a new job we are transplanted from our old familiar social group, into a totally new group of people.  Sometimes there is almost a grieving process, as we miss those old colleagues.  It takes time to establish new relationships and feel a part of the new group.

How do you know when you’ve adjusted?

CT & A wrote that there are five indicators of a successful transition to a new job:

Social cohesion:  As I’ve stated above, this is when the newcomer fits in, socially. Sharing values, norms of behaving, feeling a part of the team.

Role Performance:  This is when the newcomer is succeeding in the job.  Of course the primary aim of any onboarding programme is to help the new start to perform at an acceptable level as soon as possible.  I once headed up L&D for a shoe retailer, and designed an induction programme for which one outcome was that new starters sold £17.40 per hour more shoes than people who hadn’t done the programme.  Result!

Extra-role performance:  This is when the person goes beyond the job spec with behaviours and contributions that helps the organisation, even in small ways.  For example a few days ago we started off some work to define our company values.  Several new entrants to our company volunteered to help with this work (along with many older hands).

Internal stability:  This is when the newcomer feels settled and intends to stay.  As opposed to feel unhappy or deciding to leave.  I think it is important to acknowledge that almost every new starter has at some point in their first weeks or months, an  “oh my god, what have I done?!’ moment.  If not several!

External representation:  When the newcomer is positive about his/her company to others outside the company.  Ideally, a newcomer will want to feel proud belonging to his/her new organisation and will therefore talk about it positively to others.  I’ve noticed that there is that tipping point when I stop saying ‘you’ and start saying ‘we’.  I try to force myself to say ‘we’ as soon as possible, but at the start it feels artificial.

In my next post I’ll write more about the newcomer strategies that CT & A identified. If you’ve started a new role recently, how have you found it and what methods have you used to make the adjustment?

Finally, I’d better try do the right thing and give some references. Dull as that is.

Cooper-Thomas, H., Anderson, N., & Cash, M. (2012). Investigating organizational socialization: a fresh look at newcomer adjustment strategies. Personnel Review,  Vol 41, Issue 1, p41-55

Cooper-Thomas, H., & Anderson, N. (2002). Newcomer adjustment: The relationship between organisational socialisation tactics, information acquisition and attitudes. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. Vol. 75 Issue 4, p423-437

Cooper-Thomas, H., & Anderson, N. (2006). Organizational socialisation. A new theoretical model and recommendations for future research and HRM practices in organisations. Journal of Managerial Psychology. Vol 21, Issue 5, p492-516

9 thoughts on “New girl part 1

  1. Good stuff Flora. I don’t like the broadcast nature of inductions, there is much to be learned from the new folks too I think, and I’ve been fortunate to work with clients who’ve let us get on and create very involving induction sessions.

    Re: the five transition thingies, I think the social one is very interesting. It’s a shame that many companies have values on the wall that rarely feel like the lived values in the company. If they were more closely aligned maybe that transition could be easier? For example, if I were to apply for a job with our mates at Zappos, I’d be confident I knew how the whole values thing would work before I even applied – let alone was a successful applicant.

    I look forward to part two and will ponder your question a while. Thanks – Doug

    • Thanks for commenting Doug. Yes, I agree that if one knew from the outset what the company really stood for and one had a clear-ish idea of its values and culture, it would make it a whole lot easier to know what one was getting into. As it is, it often can be a bit like feeling one’s way in the dark as one seeks to identify and diagnose how the new workplace ticks.
      Nb I have no idea why I have gone all RP and chosen to use ‘one’ instead of you.

  2. Love this blog Flora! 🙂

    I follow a number of football bloggers and one of them often uses the phrase ‘each game contains something from the last game’. Psychologically whatever happened in the last game casts a mental shadow over the next game…this is often used to explain losing runs, winning runs or continuing sequences of results.

    Over my years in recruitment, listening to people talk about how how well or badly they’ve settled in to a new job, it’s often crossed my mind that ‘each job contains something from the last job’.

    I definitely think that the ‘one size is not enough’ point has validity. People will invariably bring something of their last roles/companies/working culture with them…and it’s facilitating their adaptation to new working methods and processes that I think is often overlooked.

    • “each game always contains something from the last game”. Yes, that’s a brilliant way of looking at it. Thanks Mervyn. You are right. Unless it is our very first job, we certainly are none of us the blank slates that the standard one size fits all induction assumes.
      I can see that helping people recognise what they are bringing (both good and bad) from the last game, is important.
      The literature around the Pyschological Contract is helpful I guess, although again, it tends to concentrate on what happens within one company, and not on the state of mind of a person moving from one company to another.
      Btw I am a sucker for football analogies. 🙂 thank you!

  3. Pingback: New girl part 2 | Floraworks

  4. Hi Flora
    I absolutley agree the transactional nature of “induction” – it has always seemed to me to be all about hygene factors rather than about the organisation or the job. And very much a one-way process!
    It seems to me that this is all equally valid for joining a new team as well as actually starting a new job, too.
    Just a thought!

  5. Very interesting post for me at the moment. As well as bringing things from the past into a new job/organisation I often think it’s worth thinking about the things you actively don’t want to bring with you – it’s a fresh start after all and you have no history!

    • Bernadette, that’s a great point about thinking about the things you actively DON’T want to bring with you into a new role. I’m now scratching my head to think of some of my awful habits from my time working for you that I haven’t inflicted on my new employers :-)! Probably it would be that I have avoided scratching my fingers along the radiator outside my manager’s office just to drive her demented! Haha. Seriously though, it’s a great point. And I’m so very glad that this post is timely.

      Patrick – yes, I agree, it’s all valid for joining a new team. I’d focussed more on the external recruit, but you are so right. Typos – who cares?!

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