Which Way Do I Go?

Think back to a time when you were starting a new job.  Remember how it felt to not know anything about the new place where you'd be spending a great deal of time?  We've all been there -- excited about what is to come but apprehensive not knowing much at all about a totally new environment.

My colleague and co-author, Cornelia Gamlem, and her husband Carl recently visited New Bern, NC.  Carl had been stationed nearby at MCAS Cherry Point when serving in the Marine Corps and they had a great time revisiting places they remembered.

Cornelia came back from that trip with a brief article from New Bern Magazine which started out like this:  "You're in the middle of a beautiful vacation town with no idea how to get where you're going.  It's a blistering hot summer day, the kids are screaming for an ice cold Pepsi and a ride on that old fire truck and you have no idea where you are.  You're lost.  What an uncomfortable feeling.  A moment before panic sets in, you notice there's a sign overhead pointing you gently toward the New Bern Firemen's Museum and two blocks away is the Pepsi Store."

The article goes on to say that the signs overhead are part of a "wayfinding" system.  What is "wayfinding, you say?  Well, it is the art and science of helping people find their way!

I understand that helping tourists find their way around a new location is important but it occurs to me that even more important in our busy world is helping new hires find their way at work.  This is why it is critical to have a well-planned on-boarding process so that your new hires are not wandering the halls looking for the rest rooms or the coffee machine.

The quicker your new hires get acclimated to their new environment, the quicker they will be productive -- and isn't that why you hired them?  The best way to design an on-boarding process is to gather a group of people together -- employees who have been with you a year or less -- and ask them what they would have liked to know when they started.  You'll be amazed at how simple some of this is.  You probably already share important things like organizational history and leadership's bios, but have you considered some of the more practical items new hires need to know such as where the conference rooms are and how to book one, or places to go for lunch in your neighborhood, or the best dry cleaner close by?

Thinking of on-boarding as wayfinding opens up an entirely new way to think about assimilating your new employees and it's never too late to tweak your process -- the benefit will be to have new hires more productive faster and that is the very good thing!

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