Get Onboard with Empathy

The first day of high school is an interesting mix of anxious excitement and nervous self-consciousness. Perhaps you were already popular and didn’t have to go through the awkward “get to know everyone and learn where to sit in the cafeteria“ phase–I did though! So, what got me through the early days of high school? The same things that are going to get your new hires through their first days at the new gig!

Empathy in onboarding

That thing that means other people felt my pain (and awkwardness) and understood it? Yeah, it helps a lot.

Soon-to-be friends, older than I, in the clubs I joined sat with me at lunch, laughed at my jokes, and toured the coolest spots in school with me. They essentially paved the way for my good experience at high school with their empathy (because they’d gone through it themselves.)

What’s the connection to employee onboarding you might ask? Well, it’s as simple as my story! New employees join your organization ready to dig in, take advantage of their cool new digs, and strut their stuff. The catch? They don’t speak the same language…yet.

Helping your new employees “speak the same language” is essentially what orientation and onboarding is. It’s a nicer way of bringing people into your company, as opposed to the unfortunately normal way that companies bring new people in: without training, support, or even a nod toward how to use the printer. You can change all that by adding a little bit of empathy to your training program.

But how?

Putting empathy into your training program isn’t as hard as you might think.

When you’re planning an orientation or an onboarding system for your new hires, take a step back and think about what it was like for you when you joined the company. What didn’t you know? What do you wish someone had told you?

A second thing you can do is ask your current employees about their experience. The key to this is being open and humble – you might get some answers that make you feel a bit weird (perhaps an employee’s experience wasn’t as great as you’d hoped) but that’s not a problem – learn from it and build a better training for the next hire.

The third way to bring empathy into your training program is to think – and ask – about how your hires learn. Once you extend an offer to your new soon-to-be employee, you can ask them how they prefer to receive information.

For example, say a new developer at a software company really prefers not to sit through three hour orientations. They learn much better from being given the material, listening to a few key points from HR, and then being given a chance to explore their new digs. Others may learn better with a click-through online course; some may prefer a group presentation and discussion. Use a variety of teaching methods to deliver your key information, and you’ll connect better with your new hires.

Remember, being the new kid doesn’t have to be scary!

Image source: Giphy

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