Tuesday, 2 May 2000

Socializing : A Career Development Strategy

On hrfolks.com

© Rajat Sinha
© Shirish Wadivakar
© Karishma Pais
© Supreet Singh

Introduction :

Socialisation is the process by which a new member learns and adapts to the value of system, the norms, and the required behavior pattern of an organisation, society or a group.

Socialisation is the process of "learning of ropes", the process of being indoctrinated and trained, the process of being taught what is important in an organisation or some unit thereof. It occurs in school. It occurs again and perhaps most dramatically, when the graduate enters an organisation on his first job. It occurs again when he switches within the organisation from one department to the another or from one rank level to another. It occurs all over again if he leaves one organisation and enters another.

Socialisation dose not include all the learning, but only include learning of norms values and behavior pattern that from an organisations point of view expected from an employee. This learning is defined as the price of membership.

Such a value system, norms and behavior pattern could include

  • The basic goal of an organisation.
  • The preferred means by which these goals should be attained.
  • The basic responsibilities of the member In the role granted to him by the organisation.
  • The behavior patterns required for effective performance in the role.
  • A set of rules or principles that pertain to the maintenance of the identity and integrity of the organisation.

Socialisation as a process is also found in colleges in the form of ragging, in schools in the form of rules, regulations and the models to emulate and in the society by confirm to the constitution of the land and the customs. Upending experiences are deliberately planned or accidentally created circumstances that dramatically and unequivocally upset or disconfirm some of the major assumptions new employees hold about themselves, their companies or jobs.

Socialisation can take place in various ways, for example;

To provide assignment so easy or trivial that they carry the clear that the new employee is not worthy of being given anything important to do. The assignment could be so tough that the failure is a certainty, thus proving that the new employee is not smart.

An interesting example would be of a company in which the manager would ask the new employees to examine and diagnose a particular circuit, which violated a number of text book principle but actually worked very well. The baffled new employee would check and re-check the circuit and pronounce the circuit as faulty. At this point the manger would confidently show the new employees that the circuit works

The speed and effectiveness of the Socialisation determine employee loyalty, commitment, productivity and turnover. The basic stability and effectiveness of the organisation therefore depends on their ability to socialize the new members.

The success of socialisation would depends on two factors,

  • Initial Motivation- If the initial motivation of the individual is high then he will tolerate all kinds of uncomfortable Socialisation experiences.
  • Interest generated- The degree to which the organisation can hold the new member captive during the period of Socialisation.

To invest much time and effort in the new member and thereby build up expectations of being repaid by loyalty, hard work, and rapid learning. To make a series of small behavioral commitment he can justify, that only through the acceptance and incorporation of company value.

In some instances socialisation is considered a negative process questions are raised as to if the company is on the ethical path to change the very behavior and values of an individual without his consent. The fact remains that Socialisation serves a very definite function in an organisation that of standardisation. As we see later on in this paper socialisation uniforms process and removes ambiguity. For example if an employee knows that promotion will be performance based he will spend more time in producing rather than politicking.

The information on how to conform to the accepted norms can be given through,

Official literature,
Examples set by key models,
Instructions given by trainers, coach or boss,
Example of seniors who have been in the organisation for much longer periods
Rewards or punishments given to the new employee for his efforts, and
Experimenting with new values and behavior.

How do organizations socialize

To facilitate the understanding process of Socialisation in as usually carried out in companies the process can be broken down into 7 steps. Each step is explained with suitable examples.

Step One: Careful selection of entry level candidates
Trained recruiters use standardised procedures & seek specific traits that tie to success in the business. It is at this point that a well-informed applicant would deselect himself if he feels that the organisation does not fit with his personal styles and values.

Entry into an organisation includes the period of preparation and training on the part of the individual, the recruitment & selection process that occurs prior to accepting a job, the actual hiring decision and the initial job placement.

The kind of education that an individual opts for goes a long way to the deselecting process. In the sense that if an individual opts for engineering after his 12th then he has effectively deselected himself from being a doctor, an accountant or a lawyer. This is deselecting at a very basic level.

In order to find the right job, it is necessary for a person to develop a realistic appraisal of his talents, needs and values. This self-concept also needs to be continuously reappraised because a persons map is always changing.

The concept of "anticipatory socialisation" is well worth looking into at this point. This when an individual prepares himself for his early career by developing what he considers to be the attitudes and values necessary for succeeding in his chosen occupation. A businessman would be committed to a profit motive, a social worker to a service motive and so on. It would be therefore better for an individual with a Holland score of artistic to go in for an organisation, which holds premium on creativity such as Advertising agencies. It is when an organisation or an individual makes a misinformed choice and is not able to fit in the culture and the process of the organisation do problems like turnover frustration etc. arise

From the organisations point of view this step would be a failure if any of the following occurs:

  • A high-potential recruit does not accept a job offer.
  • A high-potential recruit joins the organisation but leaves soon after because of disillusionment or disappointment.
  • A high-potential recruit joins the organisation but loses motivation & becomes a marginal performer.
  • A seemingly high-potential recruit joins the organisation but turns out to have low talent, low motivation or values incompatible with those of the organisation.

In order to avoid these kind of failures, an organisation should have self-insight. Which would mean that the recruiters should have a very clear idea of what jobs need to be filled, what the characteristics of those jobs are, how those jobs would change over time. In short the selection process should be designed in the same way as the organisation works. If it is then, in screening interviews there is a greater possibility of accurately describing to the recruits what they will be doing both in the short & in the long run.

The recruitment/selection system must be able to diagnose long range growth potential in a person as well as short range potential. Its selection procedure should be congruent with the requirements and the organisations value system.

This selection process is one of the primary bases on which a candidate forms his impression of the company. The organisation should therefore be careful not to project something that they are not, because this could cause a candidate to deselect himself. This would be a loss to the organisation esp. if the candidate is a high-potential performer.

Finally, organisations must make more of an effort to integrate the recruitment/selection activities with those of job placement and early supervision. Because, lack of congruence at this interface, would run the risk of producing early disillusionment & turnover.

Involving line mangers, the new recruits’ immediate boss, in the process, can do this. If the number of people to be recruited is too high to involve all the line managers, then there should be frequent contact between the recruiters and the line managers.

P&G has a lengthy form that all aspirants have to fill. Based on this form they shortlist people. The shortlist candidates then have to go through 3~4 sessions of interviews, which are mostly "Behavioral Event Interviews". Suppose an MBA student has done his summer project at P&G, then after he has completed his summers, his guide, other people in the department and the VP sit together and discuss whether the concerned person would fit into the organisation or not. The emphasis is not on the persons’ work but on whether he will fit in. P&G focus a lot on minute details and this is evident in its application form. We have live examples of students in XL who have not applied to P&G because their form was very long & meticulous, this is a good example of deselecting.

Until now HLL used to have two Group Discussions. One would be case based and the second would involve a 1 minute presentation by each shortlist candidate followed by a GD on the same topic. This would culminate in a 30-min interview. People who have done their summers at HLL would all be called to a major city for a long drawn interview, where there would be atleast 2 directors on the panel. The questions asked are mainly theoretical or academic. This year HLL has introduced the component of the written test which checks for theoretical knowledge as well as application skills. The questions span all areas of management.

Step 2: Humility -Inducing experiences:

Consider this- A management graduate from XLRI joins ICI and on landing there declares-"I would like to formulate the new IR policy of ICI" This happens most of the time. Management graduates with their new found knowledge think that they can change an organisation overnight. Considering the ground realities their ideas being implemented is hardly practical.

A new trainee has much to learn not only will his idea be thrown out of the window if he is not accepted in the organisation but also has the new trainee learn how the organisation operates such as the political wheeling dealing, the power-centre how to sell his idea to a group etc. To learn all this way adopted by the organisation is to make a trainee on jobs, which they would perceive as unimportant. This has repercussion as the new inductee learning the ropes of the organisation, getting a feel that they for the organization and not the organisation for them.

Step 3: In the trenches training

Companies would ideally want that a MT should be able to put his theory into practice for the benefit of the organization. But for this the MT has to know the ground realities. To get the trainee in place most of the companies follow a rigorous one to two year training probation period. This would ideally consist of short stints in all the functional areas and a longer stint in the MT's specialization area.

For example as Pepsi's probation period for their marketing department trainees consists of the trainees not sitting and formulating strategy for a product but going with the delivery trucks to the vendors and taking stock of the situation. Going to small vendors such as paanshops in small town and cities and convincing them to keep Pepsi at an observable position in the shop for the ease of the consumers.

Step 4: Adherence to values

The new trainees have to perhaps go through a lot disillusionment , personal sacrifices( missed occasions with family and friends over the week end) and adjusting to the vagaries of the organization by changing the labile self. This is compensated to a certain extent when the organization gives something in return. A quid pro quo of sorts. For example the employees of Delta airlines accept the fact that during hard times the company will stand by them even if the industry is laying of their employees, the employees of Sony, Mitsubishi accepts the fact that for his dedication he has got life long employment. This gives a sense of security to the MTs in a New World. And even they then try to give their best to the organization.

Step 5: Rewards & Control Systems

Rewards and control systems are meticulously refined to reinforce behavior that is deemed pivotal to succession the market place. The employees who don’t adhere to the Cultural and Behavioral Norms of the Organisation, due to the dissonance between the Values of the Individual and the Values of the organisation; are given a clear warning to either shape up or ship out.

The IBM way of a Penalty Box, is a very apt example. In India, the PSU’s have a habit of shunting away their "mis-fits" to assignments and other jobs which take them away form the organisation’s mainstream. These are the Siberian Postings in the companies.

Step 6/7: Reinforcing Folklore, Consistent role models

Folklore is used as a reinforcer to make the employees behave in a certain way that helps the organisation. This creates a culture in the organisation.

Take the example of 3M. The culture of 3M articulates thus—

Our corporate culture encourages a lively exchange of concepts and information across different areas and functions. You're expected to be creative. To share your knowledge, freely and often. And to demonstrate a ready willingness to solve problems, act on your initiative and motivate others.

In 3M the legend of Founder member like Francis G. Okie still lives on. His ideas like using sand paper instead of razor to rub a man's face smooth is taken as an example of thinking wild. Or if we take the story of how the scotch tape was invented to service only one customer and for which alternate uses were found and which finally grown into a $750 Million business. The story is reinforced in 3M to force its employees to think creatively. Folklore reinforces the culture of an organisation. It is often seen that the culture of the organisation is influenced to a great extent by the personality of its founders. Nearer home could take the example of the TATA empire which is influenced by J R D Tata’s (not its founder) personality of being a highly ethical and caring organisation or the case of Reliance which carries Dihrubahi’s mark. OF being aggressive and a workaholic organisation in the competitive world. Legends and folklore in the organisation reinforce the culture in the minds of the new recruit as he acclimates to the culture.

Why do companies socialize:

Why do the companies go to such extents of molding their employees in a mould and run the risk of making them robots, killing creativity, risk making them into administrators rather than entrepreneurs. There is a good reason for this. The reason being that Socialisation creates order and consistency. To control and bring about order to the organisation there are two ways either we have formal controls such as rules for every move an individual makes Or we impose informal controls which can be imposed through organisational culture which is build through ages and is passed on to the next generation through Socialisation.

Companies, which have a strong culture and socialise effectively eliminate a lot of ambiguity and free up time for the executives to do more of productive work. For example in 3M it is assumed that you will not be punished for your failures if you are trying out a new idea or a concept so one can go ahead and take risks. You can afford to have a Nelson’s eye to the boss. Because the organisation reinforces that culture. On the other hand you try something like this in a PSU the employee will be shown the door.

But companies should realise the fact that Socialisation should only be carried to a particular extent after Socialisation will be counterproductive.

Negative Effects of Socialization

The new inductee’s stable and labile self are the two things that are likely to get affected by the induction program. On can imagine The Labile self as a flexible covering and the Stable self as the strong core, around which the covering exists.

Normal Induction of the company can be described as a mesh. The individual’s flexible covering has to be adjusted to the shape of the meshed holes yet the holes must be significantly larger that the stronger core inside the flexible layer. This is the process of induction happening correctly. At some times the Induction process may not be as self-controlled and can be compared to forceful pressing of the labile self into the shape as desired by the company. But shaping as to not touch the strong inner Rewards and control systems are meticulously refined to reinforce behavior that is deemed pivotal to succession the market place. The employees who don’t adhere to the Cultural and Behavioral Norms of the Organisation, due to the dissonance between the Values of the Individual and the Values of the organisation; are given a clear warning to either shape up or ship out.

Problems start occurring when the company’s induction program puts so much of pressure on the self that not only does the Labile (Flexible) gets distorted, but the stable self is also pressed and tried to put into shape.

This kind of induction program kills the individuality of the person. This can be very dangerous for the organisation as the personal creative talent dies out. More personality and mis-fit problems are seen to arise form this effectively.

The Future

We believe that a company should have a strong culture and also must be reflected throughout its ranks. These cultures should also help the company to remain flexible and keep up with today’s rapidly changing business environment. This can only be done if the culture promotes creativity and innovation, full and duplex, yet informal communication throughout the organisation, enough autonomy to the employees and other such things.

In line with what we were saying: these are some of the Induction Practices of some new and progressive MNC’s, in India for entry level inductees. These companies are trying hard to build cultures that promote openness and innovation. The data has been made available through Eicher Consultancy Services, who have developed and implemented these strategies, hence the client names are not disclosed.

Treasure Hunt:

Here the inductee team is broken up into small groups of five ~ six inductees. They are put at different parts of the city (in this case Mumbai), and like a treasure hunt, they are left with a set of clues to try and reach the "treasure". Each group has a co-ordinator, who is a employee, he/she sticks along and travels with the group as a city guide. The set of exiting clues sends them to the corners of the city (they are given enough mobility), and also tests their ability to "think on their feet", besides providing them with lots of fun and excitement.

The hunt "successfully" ends at the company HQ building where they are welcomed and then introduced around. The team members have already learnt enough about each other and the company during the Hunt as the clues also keeps informing them about the company’s who’s who and other information.

This organisation is a very young firm and even most of the senior executives would fall in the 30~35 age group.

With the Boss: at his home

This is a company, which is a basically deals with Corporate Finance Management. During the induction of their new Treasury Officers; one weekend is left free for this special program.

Here their immediate boss (Sr. Treasury Officer) invites the team of the new junior traders the weekend to his home. Where the new team of four ~ five inductees spend the entire weekend with him and his family, talking, going-out and doing a host of other activities with the boss and his family.

This leads to a very different way of "learning the ropes", and a very unique and "close" way of socialising.

The Lonavla Retreat

Here the company is a fast up-coming FMCG, based in Pune. The new inductees are taken to Lonavla a hill station very close on the Mumbai – Pune Highway. The company has its training division based at a farmhouse near Lonavla.

A weeklong induction program, covers the company specific information and a host of aptitude assessments. Some days are spent with their immediate bosses for half-day hikes, and over night adventure camps.

These activities are basically directed towards the building of camaraderie between the boss and his future team. The week at Lonavna (generally in the rains) is enjoyed buy employees and inductees alike.

The Boss-a-Day Experience

This company deals with Financial and Business Consulting. Here the inductees are previously given six months of lecture-room induction ad training. But after that the difference is seen in the way the conclusion of the induction is done.

This company deals with Financial and Business Consulting. Here the inductees are previously given six months of lecture-room induction ad training. But after that the difference is seen in the way the conclusion of the induction is done.

In the last week, the inductees are assigned to the various Consultants and Sr. Consultants and they are made to take over the superior’s role. They do all the activities their boss does in those days. And it’s really serious, they are to make independent decisions. The Boss stays with them but he can only suggest if the inductee asks for advice, or is stuck up with some contact.

This is done pretty seriously in the organisation and at the end of a week a rigorous review is done jointly between the inductee and his/her boss.

The Mud Fights of this Company

This is an upcoming IT Company in the Western region of the Country. They have an equity partnership with a world-wide IT Company based in Germany.This is an upcoming IT Company in the Western region of the Country. They have an equity partnership with a world-wide IT Company based in Germany.

Here the inductees, during their initial days of the 24-week induction process, have a mud and water fight. The company books an amusement park space for a day. The inductees and their immediate intended superiors engage in battle. The different groups protect their space in the park using water pistols, water balloons and mud balls as the only weapons. There is an actual "war – planning" that goes on before the fights take place.

The fight works out very messy and loud, but the results of the socialisation are very easily tackled.


  1. H. Schein Edgar pg.83 Sloan mgmt review, Organisation socialisation and the profession of management.
  2. H. Schein Edgar The individual , the organisation, and the career : A conceptual scheme.
  3. Richard Pascale "The paradox of corporate culture ": reconciling ourselves to socialisation.

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