LinkedIn greets all new hires with a card that says: “You’re In!”
Those three little words can mean a lot more than just landing a job. It means being an insider. Joining the in-crowd. Pulling back the curtain. Being in fashion and in demand. Being chosen. And being where you belong.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
Was this the way you felt on the first day of your job? Is it how you feel now?
Unfortunately, for many of us, the answer is “no.” We get the job, but we never get to feel like a member of an exclusive club. Maybe management had too many closed-door meetings. Maybe the long-term employees didn’t invite us to join their clique. Maybe we felt that the salespeople were treated like gods—but our job was expendable.
We often think “inclusion” means something like women in tech or a black CEO. The truth is, you don’t need to be an under-represented minority to feel like a redheaded stepchild around your coworkers. If you’re a manager, that’s the last thing you want your people to feel, especially if you count on their loyalty and good faith to get the job done.
It’s human nature to want to feel special. And because deep down we already believe we are, it doesn’t take much to keep that feeling alive. Try these ideas and see for yourself.
Use the ”Buddy” System to Mentor New Hires
It’s common for entry-level hires to shadow a more experienced employee who helps them learn the ropes. The “buddy” system builds on this commonsense step to merge the new hire into the team. A “buddy” is more than a trainer. He or she is a mentor and a trusted friend. The close relationship with the “buddy” becomes the first emotional tie between the company and the new employee,
Have you ever watched the reality show “Undercover Boss” on CNBC? You might have noticed that the boss, posing as a trainee at one of his businesses, invariably befriends his trainer. At the end of the episode, the trainer—usually a busy frontline employee—gets a bear hug from the boss along with a generous reward for dedicated service. Then both of them cry.
The talented crew of “Undercover Boss” works hard to find new businesses, bring out interesting personalities, and present unique angles. Yet episode after episode, the same thing happens: a moving friendship, tears of gratitude, a bear hug.
It’s a natural way for people to respond to spending a lot of time together helping and being helped. What’s more, the relationship doesn’t end after the new hire is fully trained and the formal part of the “buddy’s” job is done. For as long as both of them stay at their jobs, each has a close friend and confidant at work.
The bosses on the show have better-than-average people skills, and part of the credit for the wonderful relationship unfolding during their training goes to them. Your typical new hire may not possess the patience, curiosity, and goodwill required to bring his trainer out of his shell. It will be up to the trainer to create the rapport. If you use the buddy system at your company, be sure that the “buddies” enjoy training and mentoring their peers, have warm and welcoming personalities, and know how to put a new employee at ease.
Share Social Tips
Learning how to behave around your coworkers can be as (or more) important than learning technical skills. I will never forget my first mentor at the first IT job I ever had. Back then, I was a college intern earning my stripes at the IT help desk of a large corporate office.
It wasn’t long before I realized that what I learned in school wasn’t enough to do my job. My first assignment was to install security patches on some of the office PCs. The problem was none of my coworkers would let me anywhere near their computers. One of the managers saw my plight and explained the unwritten office code to me. It turned out that most departments would cooperate as long as you brought food with you. But some, like HR, required advance notice.
This manager and his thoughtful advice completely changed the way I felt about my job. I no longer dreaded coming to work. My confidence shot up, and pretty soon I was looking forward to spending time with him and getting to know my coworkers over some cookies and doughnuts.
Tell a Secret
Being trusted with privileged information is the ultimate sign that you’re “in.” That’s why HR-led corporate branding sessions put employees to sleep, but new product roadmaps fill them with instant pride. One is about the company. The other is about you, the employee. You are great enough to participate in something the rest of the world is not allowed to see. Both your company and its secrets rise in your eyes simply because of what they mean to your self-esteem.
This is one reason I like to tell my employees what I’m working on. I’m also secretly hoping for breathless awe at my innovative thinking, but it never works. Instead of oohs and ahhs, I get constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement. But that doesn’t keep me from trying again.
The other day, I showed my new code to one of our recent hires. He is a support guy, and he will have his hands full with routine customer complaints. But I can tell he wants to get into code. It doesn’t hurt to show him that there’s more to the job and give him something to look forward to. If yours is a company that operates on a strict need-to-know basis, think about your employees’ need to be trusted and inspired.
To raise morale at your workplace, don’t lecture your people—or worse—don’t hide the news from them, good or bad. Think about how you could make them feel included. If you like my ideas, do me a personal favor: don’t put “inclusion” as one of your corporate values. Instead, see to it that managers treat every employee as an undercover boss.
If you like inclusion, you might like my book, because it includes you and your biggest challenge at work.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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