Employee engagement starts with structured inductions

2006

Organisations seeking ways to build a motivated, satisfied and engaged workforce should start by putting in place structured and well-planned orientation programmes for their new employees, new research has found.

Research by Jamie Gruman, a professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Guelph in Canada, suggests that employers who make the socialization of new recruits a priority and develop programmes to integrate them with differing levels of experience and responsibility can expect greater retention, productivity, commitment and initiative.

"The bottom line is the more structure there is around the socialization of new employees – informing them about the kind of training they'll receive and when training will take place — the more likely new employees are to seek information and feedback and view themselves as part of the organisation," he said.

Gruman, whose research appears in this month's issue of Journal of Vocational Behavior, surveyed 140 undergraduate-level education students four months after the completion of their work placements.

Those who received a structured introduction to the organisation and their jobs were more committed

What he discovered was that those who received a structured introduction to the organisation and their jobs were more committed and proactive in seeking feedback and information that helped them perform better on the job and identify ways to exceed their employer's expectations.

The extent to which newcomers engage in proactive behaviour is a combination of their personal desire for success and the socialization tactics used by the organisation they work for, he argued.

But while organisations clearly want new employees to succeed in the workplace, most don't know how to make this happen.

In some instances, an employer's weak approach to socialization may actually hinder the success of a person who was enthusiastic and self-motivated coming into his or her new job, Gruman said.

For many new employees, induction consists of a day of intense training that merely bombards them with information that they don't understand or remember. This leaves them feeling unprepared to do their jobs and as a result they perform poorly.

"More structure leads to more information seeking and feedback seeking on the part of the employees. Happy and satisfied employees give organisations a real competitive advantage," Gruman said.

The first step to developing a solid socialization method is for an organisation to identify the goals they have for their employees and carefully develop practices to achieve the desired results, he added.

"Early experiences have a profound impact on people, " he pointed out.

"If socialization is poorly managed it can have long-term repercussions, including high rates of staff turnover, low levels of productivity and negative attitudes among new employees," he said. "If the organisation invests in its employees, the employees are more likely to invest in themselves and in the organisation. The benefits for both sides are enormous."

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