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Monday, October 11, 2010

Shhh... Listen to the Secret of Onboarding Success

I followed with great interest a recent LinkedIn HR discussion thread where the question posed was: In one word, what would you like to show/teach a new employee on his/her first day of work with you? More than 1,000 people shared their opinions. Many provided much more than the requested “one word.” In essence, they didn’t listen to the request. They were so absorbed with dishing out their advice that they didn’t tune in to what was being asked of them. This provides interesting insight into why people struggle in their roles: they fail to listen. “Listen” might be the most important word of advice you offer to every new hire.

Listening is key to help new employees ramp up quickly, acclimate to the company’s culture and kick start their contribution to the team and the organization. It involves not only hearing the spoken word or comprehending the written word, but also involves the ability to understand and observe actions and behaviors. When onboarding an employee, it is essential to provide coaching and guidance, including stressing the importance of listening. Too often, new employees – anxious to prove their value – fail to listen closely and don’t clearly understand expectations. Listening helps to trigger important questions new employees need to ask to gain further insights. Careful listening can level-set and establish clarity – ensuring a new hire meets objectives most important and relevant to his or her immediate manager, the team and the organization.

Careful listening helps new employees better understand the organization’s culture and climate, management styles, business issues, team dynamics, expectations and concerns. It creates the foundation for the new working relationships. Once the new employee fully understands the work environment and goals, she or he is better positioned to take action with confidence and bring value and achieve results that are aligned with the needs of the team and the organization.

No matter how well we listen, for most of us there likely is room for improvement. Next time you are onboarding an employee, help them to understand the importance of listening as a skill to level-set all stakeholders and set priority expectations.

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