How organizational socialization impacts employee onboarding – Part One



Upon acquiring talent, most organizations initiate onboarding programs designed to acclimate new hires to their day-to-day operations and values. But familiarizing new employees with specific processes and workflows is just the beginning. 

That’s one reason we have HR departments. According to Professor Robbie Field of the Eastern Institute of Technology School of Business and Professor Alan Coetzer of the College of Business at Massey University, one of the objectives of any HR department is to transform newcomers into valued, active participants in an organization’s business processes. This is true whether we’re talking about a large corporation or a large government agency.

To foster this transition, HR professionals in both the public and private sector are introducing organizational socialization (OS) into their strategic onboarding practices

What is organizational socialization? 

OS is the practice of quickly familiarizing new employees with an organization’s practices, culture and values in order to help them become effective, recognized members of a particular community. Academics and HR experts have expanded on this definition considerably. 

Alan Saks of the University of Toronto Scarborough and Jamie Gruman of the University of Guelph identified OS as a key part of strategic human resource management. They argued that OS is a series of instances during which employees get a sense of where they’ll fit in within an organization.

Onboarding experiences that new hires want to have 

Field and Coetzer noted that OS tactics are implemented to relieve many of the pressures new hires face when entering positions. Within a modest amount of time, they are expected to adjust to new situations. If this transition proves too arduous, it may prompt newcomers to seek other opportunities.  However, applying talent management methods may allay this apprehension.

According to a survey of 1,000 new hires by Bamboo HR, respondents expressed a desire for extensive onboarding programs that quickly turn them into key contributors. Furthermore, study participants maintained that their direct managers had the largest impact on whether an organization’s new-hire orientation process is effective or not. 

In fact, if an employee deems an onboarding program ineffective, he or she might leave the organization. The study revealed the following sentiments among workers: 

‰Ñ      Lackluster new-hire orientation processes were one of the reasons respondents left previous positions. 

‰Ñ      More than half (52 per cent) of study participants said that receiving applicable, organized content is the most important part of onboarding. 

‰Ñ      Fifty-three per cent of employees who quit jobs within the first six months asserted it was due to a lack of “review and feedback of early contributions.” 

The latter point insists that new hires want to know how they’re performing. Furthermore, they wish to receive guidance on how they can improve.

Theories for organizational application 

All of these concerns point to poorly developed OS practices. To achieve a better understanding as to why OS strategies are important components of the onboarding experience, HR professionals must review some of the key theories behind them. Doing so allows them to develop strategies conducive to supporting the onboarding process. 

As suggested earlier, there are a number of theories associated with OS. The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psychology maintains that the need to belong, social exchange theory, uncertainty reduction theory and social identity theory serve as the foundations of OS strategies.

‰Ñ      Social exchange theory describes how people feel about their relationships, specifically the contributions they make toward maintaining specific human connections.

‰Ñ      The need to belong focuses on wanting to develop and sustain robust interpersonal relationships.

‰Ñ      Social identity theory refers to a person’s perception of who they are within a specific group or community. 

‰Ñ      Uncertainty reduction theory supposes that people have the need to decrease unfamiliarity regarding a person or situation by learning about it. 

Holistically, it’s clear to see how these principles can be applied to OS, and in turn, to developing new employees. In Part Two, I’ll discuss various OS tactics and the manner in which these principles may be implemented.



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