In “New Employee Acculturation: Measure, Engage, Immerse” (link to article on hr.com), Jay Torrence and I establish the 3 aspects of an acculturation onboarding system: measure, engage, and immerse.  In this 2nd of 3 blogs I’m going to dive more into the “engage” aspect of acculturation.  Forgive me a moment of complete geekness as I admit that every time I think of the word “engage” I think of Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard at the end of a Star Trek, The Next Generation episode.

Having thrown that out there, I can’t proceed without drawing some sort of analogy.  So, just like Picard was instructing LaForge to take the starship Enterprise from wherever they were to wherever they needed to be in the final frontier, engaging a new employee is the process of taking them from their first day at work to full productivity.  While there are great systems out there that utilize BPM to take an employee through the rote processes associated with onboarding (namely, ours), far fewer offer an engagement process.  While the former, conventional transactional onboarding systems, push the employee through the process, an engagement process is designed to pull the employee through the process.

Don’t get me wrong: there are some tasks that must be completed at a precise moment of time, and this should be clearly communicated to the employee.  Accepting the offer letter and completing their tax forms is an example, and these are tasks that are served well by conventional transactional onboarding systems (again, like ours).  But there are also tasks that, while it’s usually preferable they be completed as soon as possible, they aren’t pegged to a particular date; tasks like taking an online course, passing a test, or creating a profile on the company’s social network.  Some of these tasks, however, might become critical to complete as time passes, such as passing the company’s network security exam: company policy might state that it has to be passed within the first 60 days.

First and foremost, then, we mean enage to describe a process of pulling an employee along the process moreso than pushing them.  In our article, we liken engagement in the acculturation process to suggestive selling: the process will engage a new employee by suggesting (in some form or fashion) what the organization would like them to do, perhaps with increasing forcefulness, until the point where it becomes transactional and must be done.  These objectives, of course, are those measurable objectives we establish for determining employee effectiveness (remember our first aspect of new employee acculturation: measure).  For example, let’s assume the company’s policy is that within 60 days of employment the new employee must take and pass the company’s network security exam.  For the first few weeks the system suggests that the new employee review the various policies and procedures.  After another few weeks the system begins suggesting that the new employee sign up for online security training.  As the 60 day deadline approaches, the system suggests the new employee take the test, but if they haven’t as day 55 passes, the system assigns them the task to take the exam.

Engagement is subtely different (but very important) from the black-and-white, cut-and-dried assignment of tasks typically accomplished by process management (workflow) systems, but it’s quite effective.  We’re all familiar with these techniques: Amazon gets us to buy more books this way, and Facebook helps us find more friends.  Engagement in the context of new employee acculturation should serve to achieve company goals more rapidly.

In my last part of this blog series I’ll talk about the “immerse” aspect of new employee acculturation.  Until then, Number One, set a course for full employee acculturation, warp factor 1, and … Engage!

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