The Onboarding Ritual: What To Avoid

TEAM topThe bullet ant—Paraponera clavata—or lesser giant hunting ant, has a sting that is ranked the most painful according to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. It is described as causing “waves of burning, throbbing, all-consuming pain that continues unabated for up to 24 hours.” These ants are sedated and woven into a pair of gloves made from leaves, with their stingers facing inward. Young boys will thrust their hands inside these gloves for a full five minutes or more, with no relief from the pain but the singing and dancing going on around them. This is the onboarding process for young men of the Sateré-Mawé tribe in Amazonas, Brazil.

Becoming a new member of a group doesn’t have to be difficult, scary, or painful. Unfortunately, misguided ideas of what onboarding should be, tends to make the process uncomfortable. These are three common mistakes that, if not addressed, can make your onboarding process almost as bad as the Sateré-Mawés’.

  • Overloading: Trying to cover an extensive amount of company information in a day is not only ambitious, but also ineffective. Like a swarm of ants, all this new information will bombard the new hire with HR policies, roles and responsibilities, details of the company’s mission, etc. There’s a lot of pressure placed on these new employees already, and by the end of the day, odds are they will have failed to retain most of the information.
  • Onboarding in a day: Programs that fail to extend the onboarding training beyond a couple of workshops might hurt the employees’ chances of properly assimilating into the company. Like the boy who stuck his hand in the glove, the pain and swelling continues long after the initiation ritual is over. Make sure to be there to offer support past the first day.
  • One-size-fits-all approach: Having a one-size-fits-all learning approach might seem to be the most cost-efficient way of transferring knowledge to new employees; however, it’s a critical mistake when the diversity of new hires is not taken into account. There may be only one glove, but that doesn’t mean everyone can handle the fit.

The first day on the job is scary enough—there’s a lot to learn and a lot to remember— but onboarding doesn’t have to be painful or scary. Too much, too soon, too unsuited, is a bad combination of onboarding mistakes; like sticking your hand in a glove made of bullet ants.