Helping people tell stories of belonging

June 5, 2007

The way you enter an organisation has a big impact on how you perceive the place you work. The recruitment process (really part of staff induction) creates a range of expectations and if these expectations are unmet a subtle erosion of trust occurs—not what you want on day 1. A common view of staff induction is that it all happens the day you start and mostly over within a week. A typical induction involves being taken around the floor by you manager to meet your new colleagues and shown the places to eat, then the new employee sits through a session with a group of other new starters where senior people tell what they think you should know—strategy, policies, who’s who in the zoo. Invariably there is too much information to take in on day 1.

That’s from a great post from Shawn over at Anecdote and he goes on to outline a model of staff induction and learning that might roll out over a year. At the heart of his post is the idea that induction is a learning process – learning how to enter, how to belong, how to reflect on the learning and how to pass it on to someone else entering. It’s a balance between formal and informal learning and also creating spaces for people to share their stories and experiences of belonging.
I think this is so important because very often people like me are called in to work with people about not belonging – perhaps it’s because a team isn’t functioning as well as it might; or there’s a disjoin between theory and practice or someone isn’t “fitting in” in all the creative ways that we don’t “fit in”. Shawn’s model is an ongoing one where reflection is a critical part of creating the active story of belonging. I wonder what might happen if spaces were created to tell stories of belonging instead of creating mechanisms for helping people fit in?

3 People reacted on this

  1. Wondering about stories of belonging is an important point. I think I’ve noticed that an important belonging story are those ones about how ‘we’ got started. I remember being a peripheral participant in CPSquare (a community of practice for CoP practitioners) for years. Then I went to Florence for one of their meetings and got to hear the foundation stories. I went from the periphery to closer to the core group. The space was created.

  2. Yes – that’s so true Shawn. I liken it to the moment when children find out how their parents met..that foundation for how they come to be part of the family is so important. I see children of friends ask their parents all the time to recount that foundation story because it makes sense of their own belonging…And then there’s the mythology of beginning and foundation that builds up and changes as the generations of business leaders evolve…This is such a rich vein!

  3. More On Belonging In Organizations

    In a terrific example of synchronicity, it seems that Annette Clancy, Shawn Callahan, and I were all thinking about the importance of belonging in organizations last week.
    Shawn offers the perspective that belonging is, at it’s core, an act of s…

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