5 key reasons why inductions fail

Introduction

The benefits of induction in terms of retention, productivity and job satisfaction are well documented, yet employers often fall short when it comes to ensuring positive adjustment of newcomers to the workplace.

Central to an effective induction is the development and implementation of a well-structured plan, which focuses on introducing new employees to the organisation and their co-workers, ensuring compliance with policies, regulations and standards of practice as well as getting to grips with aspects of the job.

Over the years I have seen induction plans, which on the surface, appear thorough with the intent of developing new starters to be valuable and productive team members. However, it’s not enough to simply have a plan; successful implementation relies upon an integrated approach. Key aspects that make a fundamental difference are often overlooked. Consequently, the outcome is likely to be the same as if there was no plan at all. For a new employee this is where disenchantment can begin, which can have a big impact on employee motivation, development and ultimately business growth! Inductions fail because there is:

1. Failure to link induction plans the employment cycle.

Induction should be viewed as a process that occurs over time and not as a single ‘one off’ event. It should be a schedule of activities that go far beyond the initial first few weeks of employment with clearly defined and communicated objectives. An online article by Alex Reeve from the Brightwave Group who explores the ‘5 I’s’ of onboarding; taking account of the following 5 stages:

  1. Impression – where the focus is on engaging employees with your organisation before their start date.
  2. Induction – getting employees ready for work, building knowledge of systems and procedures in preparation to initial work-related tasks, roles and responsibilities. 
  3. Integration – providing an introduction of newcomers to co-workers and encouraging them to settle in as a team member
  4. Immersion – understanding the complexity and intricacies of work, enhancing skills, advancing performance and productivity through a supported process of ‘learning by doing’
  5. Independence – bringing people to a point they can perform duties autonomously and be self-directed in their subsequent learning and development.

From experience very few induction programmes incorporate all these elements. There is a tendency to predominately focus on stages 2 and 3, and without detailed consideration and understanding of the goals and priorities at each stage, employers leave a lot to chance.

The time between acceptance of employment and starting is a critical and formative time. The apprehension associated with starting a new job is often underestimated. Initial impression affects perceptions and attitude, and if negative, people are likely to become quickly demotivated. Induction plans need to build in ways of engaging employees in the preceding weeks to ensure they create positive impression of their organisation and alleviate anxieties around expectations.

In order to lay the right foundations, plans need to be sufficiently long term. Employers often focus on getting employees ‘up and running’ with immediate work. It takes the best part of a year for employees to fully experience and get to grips with the multitude of organisational processes, procedures, the organisations culture and the more challenging aspects of the role.  Plans that end prematurely, leave employees floundering and adrift.  Without a long-term induction plan, employers run the risk of lower levels of attainment, performance and motivation. A lack of on-going guided support is a missed opportunity to get the best from staff; a critical resource that is fundamental to building and sustaining business growth.

2. Failure to ensure induction plans are flexible enough to accommodate individual needs.

Every new employee is unique, as individuals they come with their own employment history and diverse range of experience. Each employee will have different expectations, knowledge and skill sets, each at a different stage of their career and driven by different motivations and interests.  Despite these known variables employers often adopt a one size fits all model of induction, with plans that lack the flexibility to accommodate to the needs of the individual.

Induction should not be a passive activity and plans need to treat employees as an active participant in the induction process. There is a tendency for employers to set out defined objectives without considering the need to monitor and adjust to meet the learning and ongoing development needs of each newcomer.

Induction plans need to incorporate a series of meetings that encourage new employees to take ownership of their own orientation and ongoing development. This benefits all parties; it builds rapport and mitigates against an employee being over or under-utilized. Flexibility is key to managing newcomers and induction needs to be a dynamic process. Without scheduling two-way conversations employers are risking a mismatch between personal growth, work-related assignments and expected levels of responsibility. What employers are doing is forgoing the opportunity to accommodate and make appropriate changes that would enhance staff members personal progress in line with overall business objectives. 

3. Failure to ensure newcomers are connected to the right people with the right attitudes at the right time.

In order to build commitment, generate engagement, enhance learning and development, and heighten productivity, it is important to reinforce positive perceptions. Too often not enough consideration is given to who new employees initially work alongside. Positive and energetic role models are central to success since contact with cynical employees with a pessimistic outlook are unlikely to impassion or inspire new employees. 

As a new employee ‘finding your feet’ can be stressful, with so many unknowns about expectations and a multitude of questions that require answers it’s important the right people are on hand to help newcomers adjust appropriately.

Positive adjustment requires positive people who propagate positive messages and bring out the best in people. There is a need to be calculated and incorporate primary interactions with those whose attitudes and behaviours you want to encourage in others. It’s crucial to connect newcomers with those who can build rapport, foster trust, nurture development, engender team spirit, and share insight into their experiences.

Business thrives when employees are passionate and emotionally connected with their work. Negativity leads to misgivings and loss of good quality employees. It’s not enough to favour connections with those who are simply familiar with the job, employers need to be sure positive messages are reinforced early on; offering some reassurance that newcomers have made the right choice.

4. Failure to ensure staff responsible for delivering induction are adequately trained

Induction is a two-way social learning and development process that relies heavily upon on the working community to expediate assimilation and integration and develop practice in line with organisational and professional standards. All too often employers overlook the need to develop their current workforce to support the development of newcomers, opting to delegate responsibility without any training or structure.

People can be knowledgeable about their own practice without necessarily having the right skills to develop and build confidence in others. New starters often experience poor on-the-job training because staff lack insight into training methods and are inadequately equipped to competently share their knowledge and expertise, assess or give feedback on performance.

Employers make lot of assumptions; not everyone shares the same vision of what a good induction and orientation looks like. So, plans need to include regular staff briefings and updates, that generate shared insight into the expected outcomes for newcomers in terms of required standards of performance at various stages, and how existing staff can effectively facilitate this. 

The development of a company’s future workforce depends on the capabilities of existing staff. An induction plan delivered by those lacking the right knowledge skills and attitudes is pointless. Ineffective training can be detrimental to relationships and quality of work. It lengthens the time it takes for newcomers to settle in, adjust and assume responsibility, in addition it increases the potential for non-compliance, errors and underperformance. Without well trained and informed trainers’ induction becomes an exercise without meaning and one that’s relatively unproductive.

5. Failure to effectively evaluate the induction process and gain feedback directly from newcomers and existing employees.

Induction plans and the activities which form part of the process of induction need to be continuously monitored and evaluated in order to understand if intentions and objectives are being achieved. Moreover, to establish its value, what could be done better and how the quality of experience could be improved for future employees.

Rarely is gaining feedback integral to induction planning, and if considered, it’s frequently superficial in nature. All too often the process of gaining feedback is haphazard, with a tendency to focus on establishing levels of satisfaction and the immediate effects of the induction process via a brief questionnaire.

Evaluation needs to be approached in a systematic way with a clear sense of purpose; establishing through a variety of methods, the effectiveness and impact over time. Induction is a multifaceted process designed to ensure employees are swiftly orientated and transition quickly to become productive team members. This brings the need to gain feedback from the perspective of newcomers and current employees who implement induction.

Measuring levels of satisfaction amongst new employees does not equate to establishing effectiveness of process. This information alone is of limited value in terms of evaluating impact. The potential to make meaningful changes and improvements to the quality and overall experience of induction comes by gaining feedback more specifically on personal growth, the learning and development that’s taken place, how performance has improved and how the organisation has benefited. 

Undoubtedly having an induction plan is the right thing to do, but it’s worth and value are questionable if the outcomes of its implementation are not evaluated from a range of perspectives. Doing the right thing, is very different to doing the right thing right. Failure to incorporate methods to capture the effectiveness and impact of induction leaves employers with a false impression of success; unmindful as to whether induction plans and processes are fit for purpose.

Conclusion

Induction is a mechanism for personal development facilitated through shared learning experiences and one of the first experiences newcomers have. Few organisations get it right, not necessarily because they dismiss the need for induction per se, but because aspects essential to creating a positive and purposeful experience are overlooked. Unfortunately, this serves to counteract the good intentions to smooth newcomers’ transition into work.

An induction that overlooks these 5 points forsakes the opportunity to develop an employee centered approach to induction; reducing the likelihood of shared ownership and commitment. Moreover, the chance to make quality improvements and further develop existing staff (as part of the process) is lost. These aspects are key to establishing the right foundations for a positive experience that benefits all parties. Consequently, induction becomes ineffective; limiting performance and undermining the needs of individuals, which can lead to a dispirited and dysfunctional organisation.

Veda Education can help and support you

Veda Education and Training helps businesses structure and implement successful orientation plans; supporting the transition into the workplace, helping your new starters settle into their role, assume responsibility and integrate quickly.

We offer a range of services and levels of support depending on your needs. We design induction programmes, orientation materials and training guides and evaluate their impact. In addition, we deliver workshops that help new starters gain familiarity with your organisation enabling them to learn more about its practices and culture. We can also train existing employees, developing the right knowledge, skills and attitudes required to actively support new staff and implement the induction training programme effectively.

For more information or to arrange an initial consultation conversation, please email us at info@vedaconsultancy.co.uk

Comments in relation to the content and debates presented within the blog are welcome too via the contact page


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