03 Lost Where I Belong

I’m sure that at some point in your life you’ve been completely lost. Not just ‘oh, which road do I go down here?’ lost but proper ‘I have absolutely no idea where I am or how to get out of here’ lost.

I know it has happened to me on a number of occasions, most frequently a couple of jobs back when I did a lot of cross-country driving in the days before sat nav. I’ve been utterly lost in Runcorn’s extravagant ‘expressway’ system. I’ve driven in ever decreasing circles around the Yorkshire countryside. I even once resorted to stopping and asking someone for directions in Wolverhampton.

The feeling of complete desperation that accompanies being comprehensively lost with no point of reference to get back on track is very powerful.

It’s something we don’t get quite so often these days as we almost all have a sat nav or access to Google maps, which incidentally may just be the best invention of all time for a business traveller with a terrible sense of direction who is on foot in a strange city (especially when running late for a Connecting HR Manchester tweet up!).

It is, however, likely to be a familiar sensation to anyone who has started a new job recently.

Suddenly, everything you know about how to get stuff done is irrelevant. On your first day, you probably can’t even turn on your PC, send a letter or pop down the corridor to see Sam in Accounts. Of course, it doesn’t take long before you start unlearning what you did at your previous employers and getting to grips with your new reality. But, for a while at least, you are like me in Milton Keynes: floundering around on foot in an underpass or skirting parked cars in a very pedestrian-unfriendly car park.

Which leads me to the HR-related point I want to make out of all this (you were wondering when I’d get to that, weren’t you?). We talk about induction or, hideously, ‘onboarding’ as just another HR/business process that is essential to get your new starter ‘up to speed’ or ‘contributing to the bottom line’. I’d ask you: have you really thought about it enough? How ‘human’ is your induction process? Does it quickly give the nervous and disorientated new person joining your organisation some clear directions to help them find their way around, both literally and metaphorically? Or does it dump them in the middle of a maze of one way streets with no Google maps and reliant on pulling over frequently to ask people along the way?

That feeling of disorientation is so powerful it could take quite a while to get over if it is left to fester – so you don’t have very long to offer a suitable pathway. People remember clearly delivered, well thought-through directions with good landmarks along the way. How easy is it to forget ‘go left, down that road a bit, right, right again, through those lights and it’s on the left there’? Before long you’re just as lost as you were before and contemplating who else you can turn to for help…

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