This was originally posted on eLearning Industry on February 4, 2020
Individual Vs. Organizational Socialization
While sitting in my new cubicle at a former job, I looked up from the stack of employee onboarding documents and saw an assembly line of other people clicking in that day’s work. I’d read what to wear, how to behave, and all the reasons I should be proud to work for the organization. At most, I was proud to have a job, and it paid the bills while writing. Still, looking around, I became uncomfortable with the uniformity of my workspace and the people in it. I stayed with the company for some time, but, during that onboarding moment, I had implicitly set my intention to leave.
Organizations hope to find employees that already reflect the established business culture, but a perfect match is unlikely, so implementing socialization during employee onboarding is key. Unfortunately, the tradition of organizational socialization—enculturating new employees to develop pride in the organization and internalize its values—is proving to be the less effective option.
Research in organizational psychology has taken a closer look at new-hire orientation and socialization processes and found some startling results. Most employee onboarding programs focus on bringing new hires into a newfound group identity. However, this collective socialization process has been found to stifle creativity, reduce creative self-efficacy and is significantly correlated with feelings of ostracism.
4 Tips For Individualized Socialization
Entering any new environment is stressful for our established view of self. Encouraging authentic self-expression helps identify and leverage previously developed skills while alleviating stress to encourage creative, productive work.
Forward-thinking companies are utilizing research to develop and implement adaptive onboarding and training programs that reflect individualistic socialization. Encouraging new hires’ authentic self-expression throughout onboarding has been found to increase productivity, efficiency, work/life satisfaction, and retention.
Here are a few simple changes to increase individualized socialization in your employee onboarding strategy:
1. Offer New Hires Individualized Experiences
During introductions, ask each new hire to come up with a few words that describe their personal values, strengths, and weaknesses. Then, bring the cohort together to share with one another. There will surely be similarities between the responses but discovering those similarities will help create group cohesion. You can also let them design their workspace with personal items. Even name tags and badges can go a long way to making employees feel integrated while also individual. Rather than offering branded swag, try giving new hires something with their name and the company logo on it.
2. Recognize And Utilize Their Signature Strengths
Reinforce individual strengths and the unique benefits new hires offer. If they have confidence in their abilities, then your new hires will be more inclined to bring their own invaluable creative skills and ideas to their teams. Research has shown that a disregard of individuals’ unique values will lead them to feel alienated. Consider using activities that prompt individual self-reflection. For instance, one IT consulting company had new hires walk through a decision-making “survival” exercise and think critically about how their individual skills would contribute to their success.
3. Use Adaptive Learning To Modify Corporate Training Based On An Employee’s Prior Knowledge
This method will allow the learner journey to evolve as they explore training content. Adaptive learning creates a transformative learning experience that is tailored to the individual, adding relevance and increasing engagement as a result. Afterward, have learners share their personalized learning experiences within their training cohort. The differences in their learning experiences will reinforce feelings of individuality.
4. Avoid Giving So Much Freedom That Culture Fails To Mutually Integrate With The Organization
The goal is to champion individuality while creating a learning environment where all employees harmoniously work together toward a common purpose. Emphasizing and reinforcing individuality is the key to creativity, but new hires still have to follow an established process for the organization to be effective. That’s why framing is important. Show them how their skills will make their job easier and how they can better contribute to the organizational goals.
Organizational onboarding is what most of us are used to; it ensures a controllable organizational culture and can be effective, but it also usurps creativity and the chance for mutual integration, so you end up losing employees who value their authentic selves. Developing your socialization tactics around authenticity has long-lasting effects on employees’ commitment and satisfaction while better ensuring critical organizational outcomes: productivity, quality of work, and retention.