By Adam Turteltaub
The photo of the street sign is one I took while in Munich for a conference. I would suppose that most everyone in Munich has long-since figured out that it means that bicycles and pedestrians can proceed.
I figured it out quickly, but a part of my brain thought, “I guess that means it’s okay to stand on your bike here.”
What the picture demonstrates is that we’re all used to certain shorthand ways of communicating. For a Munich resident, the humor of the image is long since gone. It just indicates whether you can go or not. They don’t think twice about it, or at least any more than an American would think of a typical US-style walk/don’t walk sign.
But for a freshly-hired employee, it’s something different and new to be puzzled through.
For someone new in an organization, there are countless such puzzles. There are buzzwords that established employees already know the meaning of. There are ways that “we do things around here” that everyone is used to. And, there are subtle bits of office etiquette that the veterans don’t even think about.
But for someone new, they have to figure it all out, including not just where the signs are but also what the signs mean.
In the case of compliance, it makes for particularly risky times. With a set of expectations for behavior that may not match the company’s, there’s the opportunity for wrongdoing and simple misunderstandings that could escalate into serious matters. More, there’s a need to overcome the persistent belief that “everyone knows that.”
So in addition to the onboarding process for a new employee in which you teach him or her about the company’s code of conduct, it’s worth considering “onboarding” the new hire’s manager. It may be good to stop and remind him or her that the new person doesn’t know how we do things here, not just from a business systems approach, but also from an ethics and compliance perspective. That means that the supervisor needs to pay attention to missteps and also speak more about values and policies than normal.
Only then, can a new hire know when to walk, when to stop and when it’s okay to stand on your bike.
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