Onboarding: The Three Teachable Moments
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Onboarding: The Three Teachable Moments

If you’ve ever spent time in a foreign country, you know that even if you know the language, it can be difficult to assimilate into the culture – and until you do, you won’t really feel at home.

It’s the same when an employee joins a new company. While the person may have all the skills required for the new job, absorbing the company’s culture is another challenge entirely. It’s one reason why 46% of newly hired executives wash out in the first 18 months.

Their failure is yours
As a manager, you are largely responsible for your employees’ success. If they fail, you fail.

So, it’s essential that as part of your “onboarding” process, you acclimate your new hires to your organization’s unique culture as quickly and completely as possible. One of the best methods for doing this — the Three Teachable Moments:

Teachable Moment #1 is the Crisis Intervention. This Moment is triggered when the new hire gets into a conflict with another employee. These kinds of disagreements usually occur when your new person pushes back against an established practice with which they may not be familiar, or which they may deem unwise or inefficient compared with the way things were done at their former company. In this case, it is essential that the manager clearly explain the company’s practice, why it’s done this way and how it relates to the company’s specific culture.

Teachable Moment #2 is the Opportunistic Coaching Session. It’s “opportunistic” because it can occur at any time – at a meeting, during lunch, even while walking through the parking lot. You may tell the new hire, “you know, I really liked the way you handled that brochure,” and then explain why you liked it and even more important, how that behavior illustrated understanding of the company culture (“it was a lot less corporate and more entrepreneurial. Much more the way we do things here.”). One of the best features of this Moment is that it rises organically from the workday and is often seamless. Sometimes, the employee might not even know she’s being coached.

Teachable Moment #3 is the Routine Check In. This is the most structured of the three Moments and includes a scheduled weekly meeting with the new hire – a “listening session”- in which you ask basic questions. How’s it going? What are you struggling with? How are things with your colleagues? Are your expectations of the job being met? After hearing the employee’s responses, it’s essential that you again relate your answers to the company’s culture and how your new hire can best adapt to it.

When using any of the Three Teachable Moments, it’s important to be encouraging (“Don’t worry. In time you’ll figure it all out”), and above all, patient. Most successful onboarding efforts take six months to a year.

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