Socialization Key to New Hires' Success, Finds Researcher

November 05, 2010 - News Release

When it comes to increasing company productivity, supervisors should be inviting new employees to join the staff softball team instead of simply handing them a policy and procedures manual, according to new University of Guelph research.

To boost job performance, companies need to revolutionize how they orientate new employees by offering more resources, including opportunities for social networking, says Prof. Jamie Gruman, Hospitality and Tourism Management.

In a paper published recently in the Journal of Administrative Sciences, Gruman and University of Toronto professor Alan Saks examined existing research on organizational socialization as well as recent studies examining employees’ actual on-boarding experiences and found companies often focus on providing information to new hires but ignore key resources such as social networking.

Based on their findings, the two researchers have developed a new approach to on-boarding called “socialization resources theory,” which emphasizes providing numerous resources and places the interaction between new employees and their co-workers and supervisors as top priority.

“Typically during the first few days and weeks on the job, employees are inundated with information about their responsibilities and the company’s values and procedures in an attempt to get them up to speed,” says Gruman, who studies organizational behaviour. “But companies are failing tremendously when it comes to providing newcomers with the social resources that are vital to making the on-boarding process effective and ensuring employees are achieving their full potential.”

Employees in the growing knowledge and service sectors need different skill sets than those required in yesterday’s manufacturing economy, he adds.

Companies need to be building “psychological capital,” encouraging qualities such as optimism, hope, self-efficacy and resilience that improve employee performance, he says.

“Social resources can help build these characteristics and improve recruitment and retention.”

Relationships with co-workers are integral for rapid adjustment of new employees because co-workers can act as role models, provide encouragement and positive feedback, and help new hires cope with work demands and stress, says Gruman.

“Companies can facilitate relationship building through social events, planned introductions, networking assignments or even assigning a buddy to newcomers. Employers should also train co-workers and supervisors on how to provide social support to newcomers.”

In addition, employers should take a different approach to job training, he says. To build psychological capital among newcomers, companies should allow them to try various tasks during their first few days on the job instead of narrowing their responsibilities.

“Currently most companies will only give someone limited functions when they first start a job to cut down on potential mistakes. This idea is short-sighted. What they should be doing is allowing new employees to take on a wide range of tasks so they can learn from their mistakes, broaden their skills and build confidence, hope, optimism and resilience.”

Gruman says employers should also allow newcomers to practise the job under supervision so they can get feedback and should give new hires the opportunity to watch others on the job who can act as role models.

“It’s a more labour-intensive approach, but it will produce more effective employees faster.”

Finally, new employees should be informed about potential disappointments and possible adjustment problems they may encounter as well as coping skills for the major stressors they will experience.

Research shows that most newcomers find their expectations aren't met, so including realistic information in the on-boarding process will help them develop hope and optimism, says Gruman.

“Ultimately, I recommend that companies conduct a socialization resource audit. This might lead to changes in orientation training programs, the tasks and jobs that newcomers are assigned, the amount and type of social support available for newcomers, and the actions and involvement of supervisors.”

Prof. Jamie Gruman
School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
519-824-4120, Ext. 58730

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