Inductions – A Missed Leadership Opportunity
Guest Post by Paul Nieuwoudt – First published here: www.leadership-observer.com
The first introduction people often have to our companies is when they attend the workplace induction, and for that reason inductions hold great potential in ensuring a lasting impact is made on inductees. That being the case, it is interesting to consider who is normally responsible for providing the typical induction. In most companies it’s usually a safety person, a contract supervisor or some other staff member. The process typically begins with the inductees sitting down at the start of the shift and staying awake during a tedious session containing a myriad of power point slides. At the end of this process, inductees complete a token test to ensure they are “competent”, after which they are granted access to the workplace.
As with all first impressions, we should want to use this opportunity to make a significant impact in the hearts and minds of inductees. For this reason, both the content and the method of delivering the content needs to be “first-class”. Much has been written highlighting typical shortcomings in both the induction material, and the way in which it is delivered. For this reason I will not dwell on those aspects, other than refer you to a few great articles for your further reference:
Learning Design in Tackling Risk and Safety – Inductions
Simple Tips on How to Improve Your Safety Inductions
There is however a related aspect which is usually not considered and which is conspicuous by its absence i.e. the role of Leadership in inductions. How many leaders take the time to show their face at inductions, even if it is just for a brief “token appearance”? However I am arguing for more than just a “token appearance”; I’m suggesting that leaders actually get involved, even to the point of conducting the first part of the induction themselves. Just imagine the impact that inductions could have if leaders chose to get involved, rather than delegating the whole process to someone else. The leader’s attendance, or non-attendance, sends a number of subtle messages to those involved. The leader’s presence clearly conveys a personal interest in the people and sends a clear signal of how important the induction process is in the leader’s estimation. The fact that a leader would prioritise their time in this way sends the signal that they have a keen interest in the process and want the foundation provided by inductions to be solidly built. It also sends a signal that their message is so important that leaders choose to deliver it in person.
Inductions are an ideal opportunity for the leader meet the inductees, and “set the scene” for things to come. Just imagine the impact it could have on visitors and inductees if the most senior leader at the workplace chose to lead the first part of every single induction in a manner similar to some of the following:
· As inductees arrive the leader greets every single person, getting to know their names and learning a bit about them as individuals before the induction discussion commences.
· The leader could welcome the group to the worksite, stressing that the company’s aim is to provide a safe, enjoyable and productive work environment, where growth and learning are by-products.
· The leader could “set the tone” for interactions to come by “talking with” inductees and engaging them in discussion, rather than “telling” them.
· The leader may stress the importance of learning through mistakes and the need for having free and open discussion as essential for learning and improvement.
· The leader may choose to balance the desire for an incident-free workplace while acknowledging the reality of imperfection and human fallibility.
· After the leader has completed a brief introduction they can hand over the process to the usual person to continue with the induction.
You may have experienced in general that the quality we use to start anything sets the benchmark for the rest of the process. This applies to every task and process, and inductions are no exception. If we as leaders fail to set a sound benchmark for new arrivals, then we deserve what we get. I realise that leaders are busy people who juggle competing priorities on a daily basis. However leadership is primarily about people and interacting with them; for this reason people-related matters, including inductions, should be given a high-priority.
In conclusion – Every opportunity leaders have to meet people is an opportunity to have an impact on them that is lasting and uplifting. Everything we do as a leader sends out signals; what we focus on shows what is important to us and shows where our priorities are. The question is whether you as a leader see inductions as a priority, whether you will take that opportunity to get involved, and whether your influence will be a positive one. Do you see inductions as a great Leadership Opportunity?
Any related thoughts or comments would be appreciated …..