The mindset of a new starter

Sophie Doust /

Wherever you work and whatever your role there are common experiences that we all share. One of the most significant is the experience of being a new starter, of arriving at a new workplace, taking on new responsibilities, working with new colleagues and delivering to new customers.

Take a moment to think about your own experience as a new starter. How did you feel? What worried you? What questions did you really need answered?

How you feel will often depend on how you ended up in this new job, but most people would feel some combination of nervousness, excitement and anticipation.

The things that you want to know right away are probably mostly practical and largely about things that effect you directly. Things like:

  • Where do I get lunch?
  • Where are the toilets?
  • Who do I give my bank details to ensure I get paid?
  • Where will I be working?
  • Who are my colleagues?
  • How do I get access to the necessary tools?

Now think about the support you actually received when you arrived in your new workplace. Did it answer all of those questions? It may have done, but I’m willing to bet that in most cases it focussed far less on the specific and much more on the general. It probably covered the history and structure of the organisation, may have introduced various procedures in a general way and is bound to have been illustrated with the occasional organisation chart.

The new starter’s needs are almost entirely about feeling but the training is focussed on knowing.

Failing to address new starter needs from day one is a mistake – and not just because it fails to address their hopes and fears. It fails to capitalise on the positive aspects of an audience that is excited, full of nervous energy, eager to learn and (more than anything else) keen to get started, be productive and make a contribution.

Let’s revisit that list of new starter needs.

Lunch, toilets, pay and other immediate needs

As L&D professionals we know that meeting people’s physiological and safety requirements are the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and yet they are frequently ignored dur-ing the induction and onboarding process.

We can’t expect to engage people if we don’t meet their most basic needs first.

Who will I be working with and where?

Moving up the hierarchy, the next step is belonging – new starters want to feel part of the organisation and that’s exactly what we need – what could go wrong?

Without exception, every induction programme that I’ve seen or experienced attempts to address this need for belonging and engagement by telling people all about the organisation

– from the very beginning. It could be a video, or a piece of elearning or a presentation, but it always goes something like this…

The organisation was founded in (a date decades in the past) at a building (which we grew out of years ago) by these people (who are long dead or retired). We started out doing (something that we no longer do) using (tools and techniques we’ve long since replaced) in order to satisfy the needs of (a different set of customers).

The history, mission, purpose and values of the organisation are important, but it’s the peo-ple around the new starter that are the most important. It is those who they will work with every day that create the environment in which they will be working. We also know that the majority of workplace learning occurs through interactions with other people, not through formal training.

The new starter’s workplace colleagues have a key role in engaging with them and are the most likely to make them feel engaged and involved. We need to get them involved and make them part of the onboarding process.

Access to work related tools

It’s reasonable to assume that our recruits are excited about coming to work with us and they want to be productive and make a constructive contribution as quickly as possible. If we think again about Maslow, this is part of the next level – esteem (and ultimately self actuali-sation too).

Our onboarding should ensure that each new starter has access to the necessary tools as quickly possible. This will include appropriate security permissions and passes to move freely around the workplace, access to IT systems, uniforms and protective equipment, physical tools – anything and everything they need in order to do work that is valued by the organisa-tion, their colleagues and themselves.

No regrets

What if you could watch two contrasting learning journeys from two new starters as they join their respective companies?

Let Digits solve your induction problems with our built-in learning journey customised for onboarding new starters. We specialise in making company inductions engaging, fun and “brilliantly simple”, letting your employees know you care and helping them succeed.  Enabling you to get on with growing your business.

About the Author

Barry Sampson is a consultant focusing on the use of technology to improve workplace performance. In 2009 he co-founded Onlignment, a consultancy specialising in organisational communication and learning. Previously he worked in a range of delivery and management roles in HR and Learning & Development before becoming Learning Technology Manager at B&Q where he led a number of award-winning elearning and blended learning programmes.

Want to find out more? Tweet Barry now!

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The mindset of a new starter