New hires may fail because of unrealistic expectations. But there’s another big reason some don’t make the grade: They just can’t grasp your organization’s culture, so they never learn to operate successfully in it.

That shouldn’t happen, you may say: We fully explain our culture and how we do things during our orientation/onboarding process.

Sure you do. But that’s not enough. Culture is a complex set of norms, practices and behaviors that must be experienced, not just explained. So, given that new hires must experience the organization’s culture for themselves, and you can’t do it for them, what can you do to help them decode that experience, and eventually succeed?

Teachable moments
An effective technique is the “teachable moment.” This is a time when new hires will be particularly receptive to a smart intervention from HR or their line manager.

There are at least three kinds of teachable moments:

The crisis intervention. New hires’ lack of understanding may embroil them in a conflict with a co-worker, or block them from completing an important task. The manager can use this situation to drive home any organizational value that’s at issue.

The opportunistic moment. A manager can simply sit down with the new hire informally and comment on something the person did – or didn’t do. Of course, this requires the manager be paying attention!

The routine check-in. Here, the manager sets up a regular time for a “how’s it going” meeting with the new hire. The manager may ask questions like “What are you struggling with?” or “How are things with your colleagues?” or “Are your expectations being met?”

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