Overcoming 'Job Shock' through adaptive onboarding

Individualising the welcoming process and training is just the start
Chibeza Agley
Chibeza alongside his fellow Cambridge graduate founders, Juergen Fink and Sarra Achour
Chibeza alongside his fellow Cambridge graduate founders, Juergen Fink and Sarra Achour

Starting a new job comes with challenges that go beyond those you would expect at face value. Once the intricate interview maze has been navigated, it’s time for the next chapter: onboarding. 

As a newcomer on the team, or ‘family’ as some businesses refer to themselves, there are standard expectations: a warm welcome, introductions to your colleagues and a run through of all the necessary resources to get started. It seems straightforward, doesn’t it? Yet, there may be instances where the day-to-day experiences that follow don’t quite align with initial impressions. 

It’s common to see new colleagues start their new role with excitement and vigour, with a heightened eagerness to contribute to the team, but find the initial fire dwindling by the end of the first month. This transition from enthusiasm at the prospect of a new start to falling into the same frustrations that likely drove the career change in the first place is what we refer to as ‘job shock’, and is a challenge that organisations must actively work to mitigate to ensure sustained employee satisfaction and engagement. 

So, how do we ensure that our onboarding and support processes not only meet but exceed the expectations of new team members? How can we provide all the necessary resources to ensure employees are equipped to succeed? How can we fuel the fire to keep it burning brightly beyond the first few weeks of employment? 

The answer lies in creating a more proactive onboarding experience. It’s about making this process more than a simple exchange of information, but rather an active engagement that helps new members quickly and effectively find their place in the team.  

So, what exactly is ‘job shock’ 

The term was coined by Kathryn Minshew, entrepreneur and founder of ‘The Muse’, to account for “that feeling when you start a job and realise, with either surprise or regret, that the position or company is very different from what you were led to believe”. 

‘Job shock’ is not uncommon according to research from The Muse. In fact, over 72% of employees have experienced it at some stage in their professional journey. This figure underscores the importance of considering the hiring process as a two-way street; while employers are on a mission to find the right fit for the role, it’s equally important for them to present an accurate, transparent image of their culture, the role’s expectations, and working environment to potential hires. Because, just as companies are evaluating their candidates, they too are assessing us, trying to discern if we are the right fit for them. 

The rules are changing 

In addition to the broader recognition of ‘job shock’, we’re also seeing a growing trend of swift resignations. The typical convention of sticking to a job for at least a year - seems to be fading. More and more, employees are ready to part ways if the company doesn’t live up to their expectations in the early stages. 

It seems the workforce today is less concerned about the old taboos associated with brief stints at companies. In fact, 41% of new hires would only stick around for two to six months before considering a move if the role isn’t suited for them. 

In many ways, the power balance is very much in the favour of the employees, especially given the skills gap crisis that is plaguing many organisations. 

Rethinking onboarding 

The crucial insight we’re gathering here is that a successful onboarding process is absolutely vital for businesses. As we’ve discussed, a significant part of welcoming a new team member is equipping them with the right resources to hit the ground running. For some companies, this might mean offering online courses that cover a wide range of topics from health and safety protocols, to compliance regulations. 

In the modern age, we are seeing more and more that individuals no longer remain in the industries that they began their careers in favour of a better work-life balance, or a new challenge altogether. Naturally, onboarding someone who has worked in the same field for a number of years will require a different approach than one where the individual is brand new to the industry. Bankers may look to reduce their workload and pursue their aspirations with a career in the public sector, or vice versa. 

Whatever the transition, having all necessary resources related to their specific role readily accessible is of utmost importance not just during the initial few months, but also as they continue their journey with the company. 

Every new role brings its own set of challenges and newcomers should feel adequately onboarded, rather than be left scrambling to find basic information needed to complete everyday tasks.

Embracing adaptive onboarding 

Feeling swamped is common among new starters in many roles, especially when there’s an expectation to get up to speed quickly. Take for example, the cybersecurity industry, where professionals like the Chief Information Security Officers are expected to understand the company’s infrastructure and threat landscape almost instantaneously. 

In light of this, it becomes crucial for organisations to strengthen their onboarding processes, ensuring that resources are constantly updated and readily accessible. Remember, each person stepping into a role carries a unique skill set and past experiences that will influence how they navigate their new position. There are many industry leading companies that put a strong emphasis on company culture during onboarding. New hires often undergo a cultural fit assessment along with their training, underscoring how each unique individual can contribute to and thrive in the company’s culture. 

Onboarding and subsequent training must be personalised, adapting to each individual to truly enhance its impact. Certain professional networking platforms, for example, have created segmented onboarding journeys based on role, department, and location. This enables new hires to receive specific and relevant information, training, and connections right from the start.

Unchecked 'job shock' can have detrimental effects on businesses across various industries, as new hires may decide to exit when the role's reality fails to align with their expectations or if they feel ill-equipped for the job. So, let's strive to prevent our organisations from becoming a facilitator of  'job shock'. Instead, let's commit to making onboarding adaptive. By learning from successful practices and tailoring the process to our specific needs and culture, we can make the transition smoother and more fulfilling for every new member of our team.

Written by
Chibeza Agley
Written by
June 12, 2023