Imagine for a moment what it’s like to join a new organization, particularly a large one spread across locations. Don’t worry if it’s been a while since you started a new job. Things haven’t changed that much.
You go through an orientation process, largely about rules, tools, and values. You get access and accounts, a desk. You meet the people on your team and a few others sitting around you.
Then, over a period of many years, you slowly build your network and learn how to navigate the organization. The more connected you become, the easier it is to find who and what you need to get things done. The richer your network, the more valuable you are to the organization.
Here’s a way to significantly speed up this process.
As part of the orientation process, you form people into Working Out Loud Circles, peer support groups of 4-5 people. They can be in different locations or different divisions, depending on your process and on the kind of connectivity you’d like to develop.
Normally, in your very first meeting, you start by picking a goal and listing people related to that goal. These Circles for new joiners will be even simpler, since each person already has a goal of getting to know people in their new organization. To make it easy for them, you provide a curated list of relationships that would be helpful for them given their particular job. This list will include relevant groups and influencers, as well as management.
Over the coming 12 weeks, each Circle will follow simple steps in the Circle Guides customized to include your organization’s examples and technology. So the exercises each week will refer to specific people and specific channels, making it straightforward to start building meaningful relationships at work.
By the second meeting, the Circle members have already bonded as a group. They’re all going through the same process together, helping each other, and they feel it’s safe and confidential. It’s rare that anyone at work has a trusted mentor, so being part of a trusted group of peers can be quite powerful.
Together, they're already making small contributions to people in their relationship lists. It might be as simple as offering recognition by pressing a Follow button on the intranet. Or they might offer appreciation with a comment thanking someone for work they’ve done or a resource they’ve shared. They’re using a range of tools, not for the sake of digital transformation but to build relationships that matter.
After the second meeting, their network is already bigger than it would have been using a traditional on-boarding process.
Week after week, following the steps the Circle process, the group continues to do a wider range of things in the service of building relationships. They’re joining communities, asking questions, helping other new joiners, finding and sharing useful resources.
While they further expand their network and deepen relationships with the people in it, they are developing a new mindset and new set of habits: working in an open, collaborative way.
By their last meeting, they're able to Work Out Loud towards any goal. That’s a capability recently described as “perhaps the most fundamental digital workplace skill.” For their next project or problem, whatever it is, they’ll be able to find people that can help them and build relationships so they’re more likely to collaborate.
When you welcome employees this way, you increase engagement and connectivity, and you reduce the time it takes to be productive. Instead of learning from binders in classrooms, new joiners learn by doing and collaborating in peer support groups.
Now imagine if all your new joiners, in their first few months, developed the habit of working in a more agile, visible, networked way. Imagine the positive change in your culture, the improved effectiveness of your people, and the greater return on your technology investments.
When you change how you welcome people to your organization, you have the chance to create sustainable change that feels good. But only if you imagine a better way, and take a step.