Staff induction – it’s just learning

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —May 27, 2007
Filed in Culture, Employee Engagement

The way you enter an organisation has a big impact on how you perceive the place you work. The recruitment process (really part of staff induction) creates a range of expectations and if these expectations are unmet a subtle erosion of trust occurs—not what you want on day 1. A common view of staff induction is that it all happens the day you start and mostly over within a week. A typical induction involves being taken around the floor by you manager to meet your new colleagues and shown the places to eat, then the new employee sits through a session with a group of other new starters where senior people tell what they think you should know—strategy, policies, who’s who in the zoo. Invariably there is too much information to take in on day 1.

I have been asking people, “How long after starting here did you feel you really knew the organisation and job you were doing?” Most people said it took them 12-18 months in a large organisation to really feel on top on things. Staff induction, therefore, needs to be more gradual and unfold over time as we experience the organisation we’ve joined. We need a slower and longer-term approach, one that better balances intellectual and emotional learning.

Here’s how I reckon this might work.

Day 1—the basics of survival, security passes, floor plan, toilets, colleagues, managers, colleagues sitting down for coffee to let you know of the gotchas to avoid

Week 1—why you are here and how your work fits into the big picture, cycles of activities, people you need to know, show how to elicit stories from people, meet some of the people you need to know and get them to tell a story or two, where to find information such as policies and processes and the staff directory, team lunch

Month 1—how to get your expenses paid, stuff about pays, people you need to know, conversation about how to get ahead around here, know what managers to avoid, conversation with your manager about what you need to do to make a good contribution, understand the wider network (check out the social network charts)

Quarter 1—reflect of what you have achieved so far and discuss with your manager, ask “where do things happen here?”, understand your purpose and how it links to what the organisation is trying achieve, know who you can trust, have lunch and coffees with people, ask questions and stay curious.

Year 1—sit back and think about what you learnt, help a new employee get up and running, tell them your stories of how you started, wonder what you don’t know,

Staff induction is simply learning how you fit in and learning is social. Each step of the way conversations are necessary. Here are some more things I believe about learning. If you think about staff induction as a learning process we immediately understand why relying solely on a classroom approach is ineffective.

The job of HR professionals is to provide the formal induction activities and then support the informal methods in the full knowledge that induction occurs primarily informally over a period of a year of so.

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About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Sharlene says:

    This induction process seems like a dream to me. In my previous jobs I was shown around and after week one they expected me know a lot of job information. I am a need for affiliation person and the people I worked with were more need for power and achievment. So I didnt really “fit” the company. I want more communication with my manager or supervisor. But I found it diffcult to speak to them when they didnt seem that easy to appraoch.

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