In business, the formal term for the time following offer and acceptance of a job is called onboarding. Formally defined by Webster as “the action or process of integrating a new employee into an organization,” the reality is that it is more of an adoption. Adoption has a legal definition and a simple definition, which is “to take by choice into a relationship.”

If a family decides to formally adopt an older child, that family has to go through a process, including training for what could happen based on the child’s DNA and life experience to date and preparing for and adjusting to the new family member. After all, whether a family of two or more is welcoming a child, the parents are making that commitment both legally and financially, whether the extended family has been involved in the premeetings and discussions or not. This is similar when onboarding a new employee. Despite who is involved in the process, hiring managers ultimately decide who to hire, and ownership is responsible for the legal and financial obligations associated with the choice. In both cases, you can plan for the worst and hope for the best. Inevitably it will not be predictable as there are no two people alike, and dynamics between groups of people can have identifiable characteristics. There are no guarantees of how well everyone involved will relate to one another.

In their toolkit for adopting older children, CCAI Family says, “Education and preparation are the best tools in adopting a child of any age, especially an older child who is bringing with them their own life experiences, their own ‘baggage.’ These children are not demons, nor are they intentionally manipulative, disrespectful, or aggressive. They are survivors.”

Tip #1: Education into the new employee’s background, work history, communication style, and what they choose to share for life experiences helps others gain perspective into whether that person is intentionally manipulative, disrespectful, aggressive, or unappreciative during the onboarding process.

HR Profiles has an article with causes, signs, and releases of stressors based on someone’s communication style. A common one we hear of a lot is a C Style—someone who often asks a lot of questions at first to understand. Others may think this indicates they are having difficulty grasping the training. This can often discourage or frustrate other communication styles. If the trainer engages them and stays patient, they will see that unlike the D Style, who learns by trial and error, the C Style learns to avoid all chances for error—two different approaches to learning the job. 

Take time to prepare an introductory email and encourage those training and interacting with the new employee to take some time to get to know them and review their assessments and learning style. The training will go much smoother.

Tip #2: Recognize that stress is involved in the process for all parties involved. Providing a channel of communication and open discussion if someone needs more attention or explanation than another is critical.

New employees are not only adjusting to new processes and people and meeting business expectations but also potentially navigating new logistics at home. This is especially true when returning to the workforce after a sabbatical or a recent relocation. Most often, in construction, there is not a dedicated training person or department. The trainer may be responsible for training along with keeping up with their other responsibilities, both professional and personal. Whenever others are available to back up an employee, as they do with PTO, coverage to allow the employer the ability to provide uninterrupted attention to the new employee for training is less stressful for all. 

Tip #3: Growing pains are to be expected.

When a child is with you since birth, you tend to forget struggles through different stages of life with them. This is the same with long-term employees compared to newer ones. Relationships are built through working together in good times and bad with mutual respect for one another. If you remember that the employer chose you and you chose the employer, then you both have something to not only be thankful for but also to be mutually committed to. Doing your best to adjust to the rest of the team that accompanies the employment choice and communicating through growing pains are what make it work early on and throughout the years.

The adoption toolkit goes onto say, “Having an open mind and a willingness to ‘stick with it’ are likely to be your best traits for this stage of the adoption. Be prepared to be surprised every day and ready to fight through and persevere during the moments of frustration, annoyance, or other difficulties that can happen along the way. Most importantly, be open-minded, and make sure your expectations of your child are realistic.”

Translating that to adopting a new employee, Tip #4 is Have an open mind, a willingness to stick with it and recognizing that, depending on your style, you will see something differently. A day to a dominant personality is like a month to someone who is a conscientious communication style. Different learning styles and perspectives are involved with both the new hire and the trainer. Dominants are not typically worried about making a mistake whereas Conscientious styles try to prevent making mistakes. Both can be detriments to a company if the expectation is not set for the result desired, which is usually the balance of meeting a deadline with accuracy. This holds true for an I or S Style also. Setting expectations for the result will go a long way. There is no style better than another.  Understanding the trainer and trainees communication styles provides insight for onboarding success.

Other helpful items in the onboarding process are written instructions, often referred to as SOPs, and a program where someone watches how to do it, is watched while doing it, and then, once they seem to have it, is left to do it on their own. Many individuals do not retain simply by watching someone; they do better in a hands-on scenario. That is why the three steps in training are important. 

Skill can be taught—attitude and aptitude can’t. With the right attitude, few trainers will throw in the towel on their trainees.

To Bonding with Your Teammates!

Suzanne Breistol 

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