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Management for the masses: New employee socialization

Indiana University Kelley School of Business  8.31.10Your company puts significant effort into recruiting and hiring the best employees you can find. But for too many organizations, the effort stops there. Organizational research confirms that most of the time, the task of making employees most productive in their new roles begins once they are hired, and continues for at least the first 90 days of their employment. What happens during this important time can set the tone for an employee’s overall perception of their job and their employer.

Certainly some of the responsibility for settling comfortably and productively into a new position is on the employee. He or she needs to ask questions and seek information to learn about their job responsibilities, the company culture, and standards for good performance.

A comprehensive study of new employee socialization suggests the following for companies looking to make the best impression on their newcomers:

  1. Don’t focus only on the supervisor. While the new employee’s interactions with their new boss are important, they are far from the only information that forms an overall first impression of the company. In fact, the study found that the quality of interaction with both co-workers and supervisors contribute relatively equally to employees’ perceptions of the company.
  2. Provide support for about 90 days. While new workers may understand the mechanics of their jobs earlier than that, learning about the company’s culture and their place in it can take a little longer. Since “fit” in the organization is often as important to performance as technical skill, spending a little more time ensuring that employees understand workplace norms is a valuable effort.
  3. Continue to hire well. You still want to identify and hire the best possible employees, and focus in particular on those who appear enthusiastic and positive about the job. The best newcomer socialization happens when the employee is proactive about seeking information while the company provides a supportive situation in which they can thrive.

A new employees’ first weeks at work are likely to affect their long-term job performance. Supervisors need to take a proactive role during this time, both in working with the employee individually and facilitating positive interactions with his/her new colleagues. This needs to be a focus for the first 90 days of employment – beyond the typical 2-3 weeks when someone is considered “new”.

Kammeyer-Mueller, J., Wanberg, C., Rubenstein, A., & Song, Z. (2013).  Support, undermining, and newcomer socialization: Fitting in during the first 90 days.  Academy of Management Journal, 56, 1104-1124.

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