Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, April 26, 2013.
I am an HR head of a leading IT services MNC. We hire close to 400 new employees every year. And by now we have a well oiled process for every part of hiring and on-boarding. But I believe that the induction programs that we currently have gives the new hires an immersion in our culture and values but they don’t really engage them. My challenge is how do we get our new hires to engage with the company more meaningfully? If the beginning of the relationship is good, I guess the better the chances he will stick around for a longer time. The process is very mechanised now.
Let us ask a fundamental question: why do we need induction? Why do we need new recruits? Is induction for the benefit of the corporation or the inductees? Yes, they need to know you, but you also need to know them. Failure to recognize this is the root cause of disengagement.
Induction can be equated to the first week of the bride in the new house. She is nervous and afraid. The ritual of inducting the bride involves making her comfortable with the new surrounding — new relatives, new house, new customs and new habits. The ritual conducted with empathy enables her to adjust quickly and avoids too much awkwardness and embarrassment.
But the ritual of welcoming the bride is as much for the husband’s household as it is for the bride. She carries with her new ideas and new thoughts that will revitalize the family. We want her to think like us; but very likely we need to also think like her, see the world with a fresh pair of eyes. It is a two-way traffic, not a one-way street. Failure to realize this does not help the marriage, or in the case of induction, the organization.
Ideally induction should be managed by a senior leader, perhaps a member of the management committee, or even the CEO or MD, and the managers who will actually deal with the new recruits. Their engagement will reveal that the new recruits matter; they are not simply fresh meat for the factory. It will show how serious the organization is about new talent. Who knows the future leader, the future innovator, sits amongst these newbees?
Corporate inductions at best can make the new employees more familiar, and even comfortable, with the new organization. So it is good to focus on data — what is the vision of the company, its history, its many branches, its structure, its goals, its way forward. It is also of value to show the trainees what the future can be for them — maybe success stories of long-term employees, those who get long-service awards. It is also of value to give them a kit that enables them to find their way around the new office (where is the toilet and lunch room), and the rules of the new set up (how to submit bills).
Some corporate create the ‘buddy’ system where a person who is a year or two into the system hand holds the new guy. Another key method is to eat food together. With meals come informal conversations that help us know each other more emotionally. Of course, these conversations cannot be choreographed; there will be negative views also expressed. The point is not to create a mechanical process — outsourced to the HR department — but to get the stakeholders who benefit from the new trainee to form the early bonds of a relationship