Fast-track Teambuilding for New Associates

By Jean Marie Johnson

How quickly can you prepare a new associate to be a contributing member of your team? As the world of work and the pace of change continue to accelerate, many of us scratch our heads in dismay when asked, “How quickly can you get Rhonda up to speed on...?”  You know the rest.
 

The First Few Weeks Make All the Difference

Over the years, we have seen many organizations place greater emphasis on the first few weeks of a new associate's employment. This emphasis is well-placed, as studies confirm the importance of a well-planned, well-executed process of orientation, or “on-boarding.” The best and most effective orientations are designed to attend to both the task and relational aspects of their new job. Too often, the relational dimension is overlooked.

Your organization's culture strongly influences the time and attention paid to the relational dimension. There is no “one size fits all” approach to acclimating new associates to the individuals within your organization and the collective culture those individuals share. However, including a relational orientation is a good place to start and will allow new members to feel more comfortable and welcomed into the culture.
 

A Memorable Orientation Experience - "Quirks and Lore"

As apart of our relational orientation, we here at Communico have evolved two approaches to introducing new associates to our culture:

  • A one-on-one "getting to know you" session with each team member
  • A process we call "Quirks and Lore"
Let's begin with a few simple definitions:

A "quirk" is a peculiarity of behavior-an idiosyncrasy. "Quirks" can be the particular expression of an individual, or of a whole group.

"Lore" refers to accumulated traditions or beliefs. When we think of the word lore, we often think of storytelling. That's exactly the method that our “Quirks and Lore" invokes. We share with the new associate the stories we love to tell.
 

Getting Started with "Quirks and Lore"

Below are six steps to setting up a "Quirks and Lore" orientation at your organization. This process can be adapted depending on the size of your team, schedules, coverage issues and other factors, but will give you a baseline to begin.

1.  Communicate the Purpose: Tell your team that you would like their input/help on a specific part of “Rhonda's” orientation. Explain that their input will help Rhonda feel more comfortable by understanding the team culture better and more quickly.

2.  Communicate the Process: Ask each person to submit two lists in writing, by a specific date. The first should include organizational or team “Quirks.” Explain that a quirk is a unique or unusual characteristic of daily life on your team or in your organization. Include an example or two such as, “When you use the sink in the break room, be forewarned that the hot and cold faucets are reversed." Or, "When a bell is rung, please don't think that it's recess. It means that someone has just won the contest of the week."

The second list should include organizational or team "Lore." These are the traditions or stories that make us unique and that we love to tell. Examples to get them thinking include; "We post a tide chart so that you can run out and move your car before it gets flooded. JUST ASK SAMANTHA!" Or, "Beware of bird droppings when you use the North Exit. Walk quickly or cover your head!"

3.  Assign someone to be the "Scribe": Designate one person to collect and organize the lists. You may choose to do this yourself. Either way, be sure that there is nothing confidential or sarcastic on the list. Delete duplicates. Strive for a balance of useful tips and humorous tidbits.

4.  Announce a "Quirks and Lore" Meeting: We recommend the meeting to be no longer than one hour. Maybe bring some "coffee and," or other special treat. The point is to create an environment where people can feel at ease and relational sharing can occur.

5.  Hold the Meeting: There are several ways you can present the list of entries. You might go around the room and ask team members to speak to an item in a round robin fashion. Or the new associate might select 10 items from the list and ask team members to elaborate on these. Be creative.

6.  Make your "Quirks and Lore" a Living Document: Periodically, send out the document to all team members for updating. Add new stories and names and delete old ones.

Teams are continuously weaving their shared stories through the experiences they have together. As a result, the relational benefit extends to every team member as they feel a part of both capturing and telling about their unique "Quirks and Lore." In addition, new associates do not feel like they are outsiders when everyone is talking about the legendary "North Exit".

So the next time you are asked, "How quickly can you get Rhonda up to speed on…?" you can answer, "Right after she learns all of our little quirks."

If you choose to initiate a "Quirks and Lore" session in your team, please let us know. We'd  would love to hear your story.

Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.
 
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