Study: How You Orient New Employees Makes a Difference

New research indicates employers shouldn’t ignore new hires’ individuality by focusing too much on organizational culture.

When orienting new employees, how much time do you spend explaining your organization’s culture and mission? And how much do you spend getting to know your new employees?

New research suggests that when onboarding new hires, employers may want to focus more on the employee than the company.

In a study of Indian call center employees, researchers found that emphasizing individuality during the orientation process could significantly cut employee turnover rates. To test this, the researchers divided new employees into three groups:

  • a control group that received the standard company orientation—an informational session and training
  • an individual-identity group, which received an extra presentation focused on rating and sharing their personal strengths, as well as personalized name badges and sweatshirts embroidered with their names
  • an organizational-identity group, which received a promotional speech about the company and a sweatshirt with the company’s name embroidered on it

After seven months, the employee turnover rate among the control group was almost 50 percent higher than the individual-identity group and 16 percent higher than the organizational-identity group. The turnover rate of the organizational-identity group was 27 percent higher than the group that emphasized employees’ individual attributes.

“Organizations will talk about recruiting from outside the company because they need new ideas and new blood, but then there is this tendency to shut off the new and basically transfer the corporate culture over to the new employee,” Francesca Gino, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and one of the study’s coauthors, told HBS’ Working Knowledge website. “It was interesting for us to think about how part of your identity seems to go away as you go through that process.”

One association personalizing its new-employee orientation is the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, which uses a quiz-type game to help current and new staff members get to know each other better. Everyone submits a personal fact about themselves to be compiled into a quiz, which then asks participants to match the facts to the correct people.

“It’s a fun way to learn new things about each other that we didn’t know before, and it’s a fun little ice breaker,” said Carrie Corona, ASSH accounting and administration manager. “Even some of us oldie-moldies learn something new.”

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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