Onboarding that Feels Weird

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I want to get ahead of how new hires might feel, from day 1 and beyond.

How would the new hire feel?

Anxious, nervous, excited, cautious, “Is this the right place for me”, “I made this significant move, and I want it to be the right one”, “Everyone is judging me and see if I deserve the promotion”, ” I have got this”, “They tell me to take my time but no way they are evaluating me I better perform asap.”

Or, how do we want them to feel?

Appreciated? Welcomed? Oriented? That they belong? Fun? Challenged? On their toes but hopeful? “Okay, this is where I get to play, woohoo”? “Wow, this feels different yet familiar”? “Man I want to find out more, and I feel it is okay to explore”? “I like these guys, and I want to be part of this team yesterday”? “I better keep up”?

And to go deeper, what does feeling appreciated really mean? Perhaps what they value, what they think they are great at, are being noticed and acknowledged?

How about “oriented”, what does that really mean? Maybe they know what to do, what good looks like, how the teams work, what does the boss expect? Or what they value is similar to what they are asked to do?

Do we want them to feel off balanced/out of their comfort zone yet not scared but vulnerable enough to want to learn and grow?

What about humility? How do we get people to feel humbled but not frightened? How do we make someone feel they can be authentic and themselves sooner/quicker/more thoroughly?

There were a few things that stood out when I looked back at my career. There were a few things that potentially were some of the reasons why I was able to be part of a team sooner, and get to perform sooner, better, more consistently, and sustainably.

1, the line manager appeared invested. Nope, not HR, the line manager. To be more specific, I felt the manager was invested when he/she appeared to be very focused, thoughtful and adaptive around my onboarding journey. I typically would feel this when I got to understand:

You were hired because … and my team is currently … hence I want you to be able to … and I am going to help you with …

2, there were behaviors around being curious in me: Listening, and probing. Or to be more specific, patience and skills in probing as a team around thoughts and people.

3, there were behaviors of being courageously agile in how they work with me: prioritizing (ruthlessly), diagnosing/probing (again), adjusting.

4, perhaps what’s most interesting, were the behaviors around self-awareness and personal disclosure. These include line managers sharing their stories, values, and specifically, failures and weaknesses; the team, top to bottom, genuinely asking for gut-wrenching feedback, being almost fearless in understanding how they are perceived; and of course, the expectation and support for me to open up and to feel safe enough to learn more about myself. This one is perhaps the hardest because it is such a fine line between being authentic and … “Gosh, that’s weird”.

I hope by thinking through the emotions of a new hire, I would be able to crystalize how the culture of our teams/company would be able to be communicated and felt early on. I also hope by displaying and articulating some of these behaviors, the teams could onboard their new hires in a similar fashion.

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