Wednesday, September 16, 2009

They Won't Stop

New employee orientation doesn't typically cover the issue of whether you should bring wild animals to the workplace.

Now that I think about it, this might make a certain degree of sense - at least vis-a-vis some divisions of my current employer, where many of the staff might be classified as wild animals - if not for their qualities of ferocity, or survivalism, or adaptation to the world around them, then at least for their smell.

I still should probably have known better than to bring a turtle to work on Monday.

But it had to be done. There he was (or she!), barely larger than a quarter, tucked tightly into himself in the middle of a 20-foot-wide gravel swath of downtown hike-and-bike. To my left, a 10-foot drop led to the lake; to my right, meticulously mowed lawns spread out as far as the eye could see - or to Cesar Chavez, which is over the top of the slope, so it's pretty much the same thing. Clearly this was no place for a naive reptile. So I brought him back to my office.

Not having an aquarium, and feeling somewhat uncertain of my coworkers' reaction were I to co-opt the office coffeemaker carafe for this purpose, I put the little guy in a potted aloe on my desk. The aloe is the only plant in a large, wide pot, the sides of which rise more than four inches from the surface of the soil. It seemed like a safe enough place to put a baby turtle. I gave him some iceberg lettuce, sprinkled with fish flakes, and left for the day.

But yesterday morning? No turtle. I freaked. Within five minutes, everyone in my office knew that a turtle was running amok in cubicle-land, and it goes without saying that everyone knew who was responsible. We had a staff meeting yesterday from 8:30-11; and while not on the agenda, the issue of unrestrained reptiles took up a good chunk of the proceedings.

The funny thing is, after our staff meeting was over and I got back to my desk, the turtle was right there in the potted plant where I'd left him (or her). It turns out turtles burrow. Who knew?! Well, I told everyone of course, and I took the turtle home yesterday, and gave him to a turtle-aquarium-keeping friend today. No one is the worse for wear. Only my professional reputation is slightly besmirched, though not really in a bad way - only an odd, vaguely age-inappropriate one - as if I had a smiley "Good Job!" star affixed to my business card.

New employee orientation did not prepare me for this at all.

So it's fortuitous that I received an email today from a speaker mill with whom my boss and I have worked, in the past, to hire trainers for our big annual conference. Apparently "new employee orientation" is out. You know how brown is the new black, and 50 is the new 30, and chopped liver is the new caviar? Well, the latest and greatest thing in corporate new-employee training, my friends, is "onboarding."

Since you're not subversive pinko commie scum, I'm sure that term didn't immediately bring associations of "waterboarding" to mind, much less cause you to reflect that - though not at all inhumane when you consider the depths to which any organization's treatment of its subject creatures has been known to descend - new employee orientation cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered pleasant; and that while new employees from the dawn of time have been aware of this, new employers have been historically (not to mention indulgently) regarded as being innocently, if perhaps rather obliviously, unaware of this fact, which is somewhat endearing if not necessarily prone to engender respect; and that therefore it is insensitive at best, and sadistic at worst, for management organizations to adopt a term so immediately evocative of the most shameful violations of human rights in the civilized world during the last 50 years at least.

Subclauses get me excited sometimes. Corporate marketing people are complete morons, that's all I'm trying to say here.

Read for yourself:
Start your new employees off on the right track so they stay around for the long haul.

You invest tons of time and money recruiting and hiring the best. Why waste it all on ineffective orientation practices? Keep your new employees around for the long haul by giving them the best start possible — a personalized onboarding experience.

What's wrong with just letting your new employees - the best and brightest minds available, apparently - pick up the corporate culture and expectations from their supervisors and coworkers? Unless there's something wrong with the existing corporate culture. Do you have something to hide? More importantly, do you actually believe that what you present to new employees during training will override their own observations of the way things are done at your organization? Hah!
Onboarding is a new approach to employee orientation that goes beyond just settling your employees in. It engages, integrates, and gets your new hires productive quicker — directly improving retention rates and the overall success of your organization.

You know, there are lots of turtles around the hike-and-bike trail. There are also squirrels, grackles, mourning doves, the occasional snake, pigeons, and a naked cyclist.

Guess what I'm keeping in my potted aloe next?

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