The end of year has turned out to be surprisingly busy for us (despite the doom and gloom of the media and all the talk about the “Great Recession”), so my apologies first for this blog–the 3rd in my 3 part series on acculturation–taking so long.  Since part 2 I’ve been to Europe to visit with our principle partner there, we’ve been doing some recruiting, and preparing for a very large project scheduled to begin just after the new year, not to mention preparing our 2009 product strategy (some very cool stuff is coming soon).

In this final installment of the series, I want to discuss the 3rd aspect that Jay Torrence and I advocate for a systematic approach to acculturation onboarding: immersion.  You’ll recall from my first 2 blogs that we call for any acculturation onboarding (AO) system to start with a basis of measuring the accomplishment of onboarding objectives, and that the best way to achieve AO objectives is through a process that actively engages the new employee.  Immersion speaks not only to the environment in which the new employee is engaged to achieve objectives, but also to the principle objective of moving the new employee from candidate to fully productive employee.

In our original article, we have this ridiculously simple “A to B” diagram, that admittedly we’ve taken some ribbing on (for it being so simple).  But we think it’s important to point out the simple goal of moving a new employee to effectiveness along a straight line is often elusive in many of the so-called “socialization” onboarding systems on the market.  We believe-and advocate-that the best way of achieving this goal is to immerse the new employee in the communications strategy that the organization has embraced as part of the onboarding process.  It’s such an obvious statement that it seems like it shouldn’t have to be made, just like our simple A to B diagram, but the truth is that most socialization systems try to achieve this by providing a special, proprietary onboarding portal (we like to call this approach the “Yet Another Portal”, or YAP, approach).  A dedicated onboarding portal is like trying to get from point A to point B by introducing a point C (which isn’t on the line between A and B).

Which is why we don’t like to use the term “socialize” because the YAP approach has become so pervasive as to be intricately associated with new employee “socialization”.

We believe the best approach is to acculturate the new employee, as I said a moment ago, within the organization’s existing employee communications strategy.  I cannot imagine an employee communication strategy, be it the company intranet, proprietary portal, or employee self service (ESS) as part of the HRMS, that is worth its salt that could not be configured to provide a new employee with specialized information of interest (learning about the company, etc.); if whatever tool you are using does not have this capability, you should probably take a step back and rethink your communications strategy long before you attempt to implement an AO system.

While many onboarding technologies–such as ours–are modern, open, and modular and can be deployed in practically any portal and intranet environment, many are not.  Even many of the onboarding technologies offered by the HRMS and ATS vendors and touted as integrated aren’t truly integrated, with either their communications stratetgy or their core applications (I know that may be hard to believe).

Increasingly the strategic employee communications tool is Microsoft SharePoint.  In one very informal poll I saw recently at one research firm’s trade show (a show of hands in a room of about 200 people), about 80% of firms in the U.S. have embraced SharePoint as their principle employee communications tool (which, by the way, tracks well with the data I’ve seen from the same research firm).  If SharePoint is the organization’s strategic tool for employee communications, doesn’t it make sense to acculturation a new employee by immersing them in this environment?  Does it make any sense to “socialize” them in a dedicated onboarding portal?  Jeff Hayden, our VP of Product Management, wrote a very popular article on using SharePoint as an acculturation onboarding platform; click here to check it out.

So to summarize, in addition to objectively establishing and measuring acculturation objectives, and in addition to actively engaging new employees through the process of acculturation, we advocate that an AO system immerse new employees in the organization’s strategic employee communications tool.  It seems so simple as to be hardly worth mentioning, but in fact it’s a revolutionary concept.

This is likely to be my last blog of 2008, so I wish you a very happy new year in 2009!