Working with a school at the moment on hiring staff and culture building has given me cause to pull together some ideas on features of effective induction:
- Model the organisation’s values: if you believe in lifelong learning, have people learn things; if you value collaboration, have people learn something together; if you value choice, let people have options. At the very least this gives you a chance to talk about what your values are; at most it allows people to see that practising what we preach is the way things are done around here.
- Allow coherence: let people align their values with the organisation’s. This requires lots of talking, listening, stories, metaphors and pictures. What people need is to develop a sense that they are heading for roughly the same quadrant as the mothership. But let them write their own story as they go.
- Recognise strengths: give people the chance to become known for what they bring and what they are good at. We’re always more at home (and up for taking risks) when we know that people value us and what it is we bring.
- Take care of people: remember that change is emotional, tiring and unsettling. People will need to talk and to be listened to, but they will also need solitude, space and a chance to ask good questions. Let them be concerned, worried, anxious, but also let them be reassured. Use food as a way of recognising people’s physical selves as well as emotional selves. Food reaches parts of the soul that words don’t.
- Pay attention to rituals. They might seem simple, but don’t underestimate the power of symbolically planting a tree, making a mark on the world, weaving strands together or placing a thumbprint on a work of art. These things will remain with people for years. Give lots of thought to how people cross the threshold, are welcomed through powhiri, unite as one, or are recognised with gifts. Investing in getting this right will pay handsome dividends.