Should an organization’s approach change as it approaches hiring new employees?

Resistance to change is a natural response. People fear the unknown. They may feel a sense of loss. They may feel that the values they have held are being challenged. Indeed, it is when our values are challenged that resistance is at its strongest. You vote Republican or Democrat because of your personal values. To do otherwise is alien. To change your organization, put your people before the process.

Can socialization be used to manage resistance to change?

If we accept that resistance to change is normal, it is our response to it that matters most. Perhaps we can learn from the process of socialization in HRM. Instead of seeking to break down resistance to change by pointing out the benefits and describing the new vision in personalized tones, should we seek to affect change by hiring people with shared values?

In HRM, the process of socialization has three stages:

1. The selection process (anticipatory socialization)

This is the process by which the hiring organization hires people who can perform the job. However, the process is not only task-oriented, but also personality-oriented. The organization actively seeks to hire people it feels will fit in well with the organization’s culture.

This process also provides information to the candidate about the organization. In the same way that an organization should remove candidates who do not share its values, candidates who feel that their values do not match those of the organization should remove themselves.

On the organization’s side, much of this initial vetting is done by HRM when sorting through application forms and resumé. Candidates who appear to be a good fit are invited for interview.

In the interview, the candidate is told more about the culture of the organization. The organization’s values and beliefs are discussed, as the interviewer attempts to ascertain if the candidate will be a good fit. At this stage, candidates may already be altering their behavior to reflect the organization’s values.

2. The encounter

The candidate is hired, and now encounters the organizational culture, and its values and beliefs in the real world of work. The new hire has not yet been accepted by new colleagues. This stage of the socialization process provides the new employee with opportunities to seek and receive information that helps them become acquainted with the dynamics of the organization.

The new hire may use tactics such as asking questions, observing, conversations, and testing of rules and boundaries to gain the knowledge they seek.

The organization can help in this process by using formal socialization tactics. These may include induction training and mentorship. Such tactics enable more senior employees to communicate the skills, values and behaviors that are expected of the new employee, and that are considered prized by the organization.

3. Metamorphosis

Starting a new job is always an uncertain time for a new employee. New colleagues, new processes and new practices must all be introduced and assimilated. Managing this uncertainty is a major objective of the socialization process in HRM. The employee gradually alters his or her behaviors so that they fall in line with the organization’s core values. The employee undergoes a metamorphosis from outsider to trusted colleague. His or her opinions are sought and included in decision-making processes.

Why socialization aids organizational change

Socialization in HRM provides continuity within an organization. As new employees are socialized, they integrate with the values, beliefs, history and culture of the organization. They feel like they belong. Once fully socialized, employees help to socialize new employees, retaining the values and behavioral norms of the organization.

Organizations undertaking transformational change may find it useful to employ socialization processes. By ‘hiring’ employees with matching values, enabling learning through informal and formal strategies, and recognizing and appreciating expected behaviors, the organization smooths the path to metamorphosis. Instead of confronting resistance, manage it like a socialization process in HRM.

Contact us today, and discover how we could help your leaders and managers lead more effectively and authentically through periods of change.

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