If Your Onboarding Doesn’t Address Milestone Transitions, You’re Doing It Wrong

Posted in Best Practice Research Thoughts & Culture

by alicia

Starting a new job is a huge transition in your new hire's life, but few onboarding journeys address it well...or even address it at all.

The Importance of Transitions

Memories aren't a minute-by-minute replay of our entire lives. Chances are you wouldn't be able to tell us exactly what you did at 10.52am and 2.27pm yesterday.

But you would be able to recall certain moments from your day:

  • When you realized you slept through your alarm and were running late
  • Reaching your bus stop just as the bus pulled in
  • Discovering a great new eatery on your lunch break


Ever wondered why some moments embed themselves in your memory while others are seemingly lost forever?

Psychologists have discovered that when it comes to retaining memories we tend to focus on a few particular moments: the peaks, the pits and the transitions.

Pit: The anxiety of being late for work

Transition: When the stars aligned and you didn't have to spend any time waiting for the bus – transitioning you from being late to being on time!

Peak: Discovering a new (and delicious) lunch spot close to work

If that was just a regular day, imagine how much more weight a milestone transition (like starting a new job) carries.

 

Why Transitions Matter in Onboarding

Career transitions are a milestone moment in everyone's lives. But if handled poorly that negative experience is going to be virtually impossible to forget and the relationship damage between your organization and your new hire may be irreparable.

Not only does this mean a terrible experience for the new hire, it also leads to detrimental impacts for the organization. Gallup studies have shown employee turnover rate is 50% in the first four months at a job.

So how do you prevent new employees from wanting to leave?

It all starts at the beginning: the first impressions, the first interactions and the first months.

Build an empathy-based onboarding program that addresses the human aspect of your new hire's career transition.

 

The New Hire's Perspective

This new job has changed (almost) everything for your new hire. They have a new commute, a new office, new colleagues, a new company, new structures, new processes and a brand-new shiny role.

With so much unfamiliar territory to navigate, it's easy for new employees to get lost in the uncertainty, and uncertainty breeds doubt.

Your secret weapon? A psychological phenomenon known as the Pygmalion Effect.

 

The Pygmalion Effect

Psychologists discovered that we can nudge others to success with our expectations.

"If a teacher believes a child is slow, the child will come to believe that, too, and will indeed learn slowly. The lucky child who strikes a teacher as bright also picks up on that expectation and will rise to fulfil it. This finding has been confirmed so many times, and in such varied settings, that it's no longer even debated," explained J. Sterling Livingston.

Sounds easy enough, right? Expect your new employee to do a good job...and they'll do a good job. If only it was that simple.

Unfortunately creating positive expectations can be incredibly difficult.

 

Mastering Positive Expectations

Simply expecting all of your employees to be rockstars won't automatically transform them into stars overnight.

Remember: you aren't just searching for amazing employees, you're setting them up for success!

This is why onboarding deserves special attention, it's the time when expectations are set.

In Livingston's example, the bright child wasn't bright simply because their teacher believed them to be – but also because their teacher trusted them to be bright.

It all boils down to trust.

Ensuring your new hire feels like a trusted member of the team from the get-go sets your organization up for a massive advantage.

 

Trust: A Case Study

It's a sentiment that Buurtzorg, a Dutch healthcare organization with thousands of employed nurses, has reaped the benefits of.

CEO Jos De Blok says, "People don't go into the nursing profession to cause harm; they come into the profession because they care deeply and passionately about people's welfare."

"If you trust people to do their job, they will take responsibility and be accountable."

From Day One Buurtzorg's nurses work in self-managing teams where they are in charge of their own clients and financial results, a move that has seen the organization's numbers reach staggering heights. Absenteeism is 60% lower and turnover is 33% lower than other traditional nursing organizations.

Buurtzorg started with just 10 nurses in 2006 and today they employ two-thirds of all neighborhood nurses (that's 14,000 nurses!) in the Netherlands and hold 70% of the market share.

Just like Buurtzorg, you hired these people because they proved to be the most capable candidate for the role. Make sure your onboarding demonstrates that you trust your new hire to fulfil (and even exceed!) the expectations of their new role.

Put people before paperwork by switching to experience-driven onboarding.

READY TO ROCK ONBOARDING?