The word "socialization" always seems to evoke images of having drinks at the local pub or enjoying a BBQ on the patio with friends. However, a socialization process takes place in the workplace too. It has an element of meeting people and internalizing a feeling of belonging in a group, but the workplace socialization process encompasses much more, like acclimation to organizational culture and learning acceptable job behaviors.
Socialization is called a process because it takes time for a person to feel comfortable and to learn the ropes, so to speak. This process was originally thought to begin when the person is a new hire, but now it is understood that a new hire socialization process actually begins during the recruitment and interviewing process, and once a person is on the job, continues through onboarding and immersion. Pre-hire assessments can make significant contributions to successful socialization.
Hard to Say Goodbye
Getting the socialization process right is important because employee attrition is expensive. Most people do not suddenly decide to leave one day, meaning turnover is a process too. Someone decides there is a reason to think about leaving and their thoughts are seldom fully focused on work from that point on. It is human nature that when an employee begins disengaging, their productivity declines.
There are many reasons people decide to change jobs. One survey found that millennials are the most likely to voluntarily leave, and they do so for reasons that include:
- Personal/family issues
- Promotion opportunity
- Career change
- Base salary
- Job satisfaction
- Benefits issues
- Fit with the organization
- Fit with the job
- Relationship problems with supervisors or managers
Socialization, usually called onboarding, is critical to lowering turnover rates. An easy mistake to make is assuming that onboarding begins on the first day of employment when it really began before the person was hired.
Moving Through The Stages
Fred Jablin introduced the three stages of employee socialization in his Organizational Assimilation Theory:
- Anticipatory (pre-hire) – candidate learns the values and standards of the workforce he/she is interested in joining; employer gains an understanding of the person's skills, abilities and competencies gained in the past
- Encounter – early stages of employment during which the employee gets familiar enough with the organizational culture, systems, procedures and colleagues to individualize their role
- Metamorphosis – employee is fully engaged, trained, productive, shares the organizational values and feels like a good fit
New employee formal onboarding is often started at the second stage. Yet, it is at the first stage of socialization where you have already presented your brand, culture, job requirements, hierarchy and expectations. How you present that information determines how well the job candidate manages the Anticipatory Socialization process in preparation for moving to the Encounter Stage.
Many Roles of Assessments
One of the prime benefits of using simulations to assess job candidates is they get to experience typical situations or responsibilities. This delivers invaluable information to the candidate and the employer, while also presenting the brand and creating a sense of excitement about the job. As one author on Gallup said, "The transition from candidate to employee should feel like a natural hand-off that continues the momentum and fuels the excitement for the new job."
Doing pre-hire assessments, including simulations, creates the candidate's first impression. Before starting the job, the person has formed an impression of the job, organizational culture and performance expectations. The new hire already believes he or she shares the employer's values, crucial to engagement and retention. Pre-hire assessments also give managers guidance on how to best assist the employee with the second and third stages of socialization.
For example, a Field Sales Audition simulation indicates the person gets high scores on thinking strategically, communication and relationship building, and an average score on navigating computers. During the Encounter stage of socialization, the manager can give the new employee plenty of opportunities to network and add extra focus on improving computer navigation through targeted training. The benefits of this approach include:
- Reduced time for employee to reach full productivity
- Efficient use of development time by focusing on employee's weaknesses
- Employee recognition the employer has an interest in his or her success
- Reinforcement of the organization's culture
- Reduced training and development expenses
During the Encounter stage, the employer can give new-hires access to tools like on-demand development courses and self-paced learning programs. Assessment results conducted before someone is hired will once again provide the insights the manager needs to design training and development opportunities that strengthen the new-hire's skills and confidence, and that in turn strengthens engagement.
Engaged Employee Now and Into The Future
Once a person goes through the Metamorphosis stage, the employee is solidly engaged. It is still important to conduct regular engagement surveys, stay knowledgeable of the new skills the person needs to stay current over time, and regularly assess employee needs and match them with appropriate development opportunities.
When the employee is ready for a promotion to a supervisor position, there are simulations available for measuring supervisor potential. Assessments are excellent tools for reducing turnover because they smooth the socialization process from pre-hire to full immersion as an engaged employee and beyond.