The New Boy

So last week I changed jobs for the first time in 12 years. My first week went really well but I obviously experienced being “the new boy” and this blog is about that experience, and the process of socialisation into an organisation. 

How does a new employee move from being the new boy to being settled in and feeing comfortable? Who takes responsibility for this and how does it work?

In my experience, induction processes usually focus on the formal aspects of a new role, but I think the informal aspects are perhaps as important if not more so, and these are things that aren’t written down anywhere and which, often unless you ask, no one tells you. 

The process of socialisation is crucial in developing the high engagement levels linked to high performance. So why is so much left to chance, or to the employee?

In no particular order here are some of the things you could ensure a new employee finds out about in order to achieve early socialisation.

Can you park anywhere on the car park or are some places informally reserved? Will you upset someone by parking in “their” space they’ve parked in for years?

What does the dress code mean in practice? It may say what’s not allowed, but it doesn’t say what may be frowned upon and muttered about in corners even if it’s technically allowed. 

How does the organisation use and expect its employees to use social media? Are employees encouraged to promote the brand and use social media during the day to talk about work issues or not? Are employees encouraged to connect with each other or not? What about live tweeting a training session? Is that seen as active engagement or not paying attention?

Do you provide tea, coffee, milk etc for staff or do they need to bring their own or join an existing kitty arrangement? And if you have to grab a cup on the first day, how do you know you’re not using a cup belonging to someone else? Who washes up? Facilities staff or the employees? On my first day last week another staff member marched over to me to explain the “rules” around washing the tea towels but to be honest it was good they did because at my last place the facilities staff would wash these for you so I’d have just left it, and therefore upset people who’d have viewed me as lazy. 

Do people use Outlook to look at availability of people and rooms before booking meetings or not?

Is there a culture of copying people in using the Cc field on emails, and what happens if you “take out the Cc?”

Despite what the policies and staff handbook may say, what are the prevailing attitudes towards flexible working, reward and recognition and employee wellbeing?

How does important news get around the organisation? What are the main mechanisms for letting people know what’s happening, both in a business sense and from a personal perspective?

How easy or difficult is it for people to remember all the names of the new people and departments they will interact with in their first week? For example I’ve been introduced to over 100 staff and haven’t a chance of remembering all their names yet. And the department names, sometimes initials, don’t always make sense yet. They will, but should there be an easy guide to help you remember? The same  with room naming conventions – I had a meeting in a room that was identifiable only by three letters and two numbers. I didn’t have a clue where it was, but as soon as I asked someone told me where it was, how to get there and offered to accompany me. Could it be more easily explained or made simple?

Can you eat at your desk? In my new organisation, yes you can. But in my old organisation, no you couldn’t and in fact it was frowned upon. I’ve now eaten at my desk this last week and been furtively looking around for someone to tell me off about doing so. 

When you book leave on the self service system, do you need to book your bank holidays? In my old organisation no, in the new one yes.

If technology is used in the workplace, for example tablets, how is usage of these viewed? Many organisations encourage this type of flexible working and remote working possibilities but if only a minority have the technology it can be viewed as an elitist approach and be quite divisive instead of being viewed as a productivity aid. This leads to a different view being taken of the use of paper based processes and so on. 

Obviously as the new boy I’ve also had the same conversation dozens of times, been asked the same questions about me and my background and done the same to others. At my last place of work I remember this well and I’m not sure there is another way around it, but one difference this time around is the presence of social media which allows some knowledge about people to go ahead of actually meeting them. That’s both a good and a bad thing but in my case people have homed in on my triathlon training and that’s been a source of conversation with many people, enabling the ice to be broken.

But still, I wonder what organisations can do to make this easier for all concerned? Most people who met me last week will remember the HR Triathlete but how easy is it for me to remember the USPs of the hundred or so individuals I met?

I’ve been wondering how many of the people I met will become very good close friends outside work? It ought to happen, but how can you tell straight away? I wouldn’t have predicted the two closest friends I met at my last place would have become such good friends (to the extent that I got a bit sentimental about the two of them in my leaving speech), but thinking about it I didn’t meet one of them for a few weeks as he was on holiday when I started, and didn’t meet the other for around six months into my tenure. 

Weird how things go. 

But friendship is one of the things that make a new starter feel settled. Everyone I’ve met has been friendly and welcoming and that’s a good start, but organisations do often leave new starters to find out most of the above list on their own with or without friendly coworkers. 

What else makes you feel settled?

At the end of my first week I reflected on this. 

It is achieving something, something that makes a difference. And I did. 

It is finding answers to most or all of the list at the start of this blog. And I did. 

It’s also some other things, for example getting your furniture arranged in a way that makes the workspace yours and not your predecessors. It’s about setting up your software with all the settings you are used to. It’s about having someone laugh at a (bad) joke you make. It’s about having someone come to you for advice on something. It’s about being able to plan out what you need to do over the next few weeks and months and making a list of these. It’s about your connections, online and offline, checking in with you to find out how you’re getting on. It’s about finding the best route to and from work. It’s about people telling you how glad they are you’re working with them. And it’s about the feeling in your gut that you’re not just a new boy, but someone who will soon be an old hand. 

And that, at the end of any first week, is a good sign. 

What would help you settle in to a new job, and how can organisations make it easier for newbies?

Till next time…


Ps in other news, wedding dress purchased, grooms suit being researched, wedding menu selected, stag do booked and lots more things about to happen!

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