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Talya Bauer
Talya Bauer

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Training and retaining new employees

From Google to Daimler Trucks North America, major companies are implementing the work of business professor Talya Bauer, a pioneer in new employee socialization. Bauer’s studies have shown how successful “onboarding” in the first year improves worker effectiveness, satisfaction and retention. Giving new employees the inside scoop on workplace culture can help reduce turnover and improve productivity.

When Talya Bauer was growing up, her family moved every year until high school. Far from being a traumatic experience, she says, adjusting to a new school each year fed her curiosity about learning social dynamics.

Today, Bauer, the Gerry & Marilyn Cameron Professor of Management in PSU’s School of Business Administration, is a research pioneer in the importance of training new employees about workplace culture, socialization, and expectations. Called “new employee onboarding,” this process during the first year of employment gives newcomers the inside scoop on how an organization works, both formally and informally. According to Bauer’s research, socializing new employees this way directly impacts employee effectiveness, satisfaction and retention.

The message is increasingly important in an age when 25 percent of the workforce is switching careers and half of all senior hires leave within 18 months. The news is more glaring for hourly workers, half of whom quit within the first 120 days.

The message behind Bauer’s research may seem counterintuitive at first: go slow to go fast. 
“A lot of times people want to jump in right away,” Bauer says. Go-getters sometimes skip important aspects of building relationships and learning the norms of a new organization. “Actually going to lunch the first week can make a big difference.” That holds true across competitive high-tech companies, pharmaceutical executives, and research scientists, she says.

While organizations have long done some version of new employee orientation, Bauer pushes for a more structured, cohesive approach that includes specific follow-up from managers. It’s up to managers to make the company’s culture transparent, says Bauer. Check in with every new employee every 30 days and “a lot of problems can be nipped in the bud.”

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