One of the key tenets of our new hire onboarding philosophy is the importance of context before content. While many orientation programs take a “drinking out of a fire hose” approach of inundating new hires during their first days / weeks with all of the information they will need to become oriented, we subscribe to a very different school of thought.
We recommend that onboarding programs deliver information and resources to new hires over time, with the content distributed over the full course of year one but ideally with the greater majority of the content delivery and associated discussion occurring 3-4 months after entry, when the new hires have the context to absorb and truly understand the content. The additional benefit of reserving rich content for closer to the end of the first year is that it provides you with a wonderful opportunity to re-engage your new hires and regain their energy and commitment during these exchanges.
Provocative business author Dan Pink (DRiVE, his most recent book) shares a similar sentiment. He says in a recent article for The Telegraph: “It’s often difficult to do something well if we don’t know the reasons we’re doing it to begin with. People at work are thirsting for context.” Dan also calls for greater disclosure of the “why” piece when you provide direction to employees – an association that is central to our Strategy Immersion and Direction pillar.
Context allows new hires to properly interpret and ultimately act in concert with the strategy associated with the content they are receiving as part of the onboarding experience. The focus on context before content is less about time to productivity and more about driving level of productivity. The context is the missing ingredient that allows the content to have far greater impact.
You can see the differences in impact on employee value contribution of varying content delivery approaches in the graphic below. The column on the far left illustrates the less effective, “fire hose” early content delivery approach employed by many organizations today. Meanwhile, the column on the right reveals the value of deferred content delivery.
We agree with Pink’s comments about context, particularly when it comes to new hire onboarding. As such, we recommend giving hiring supervisors (as well as peers) at all levels, the tools and support to help new hires understand the value and importance of their role and how their role fits into the strategy and direction of the broader organization.
To read more on Dan Pink’s recent thoughts, click here.