Last week, a member of the Support Driven community tapped the #leadership channel for help with an interesting question. This community member asked:

“A lot of companies/HR departments go off the assumption that it takes an employee 6 months to become fully proficient in their role. Do you find this to be true? Any data to back this assumption up?”

Several community members jumped in to share their thoughts and experiences. The basic consensus was: it depends, but six months is generally about right.

Six months seemed generally about right to me, too, but to be honest, I hadn’t really thought very hard about this before. I did a cursory scan of the interwebs to try to find some data to support this six-month “rule” and didn’t run across anything particularly clear or compelling. Womp womp.

But while I was poking around, I did find a great article from the Harvard Business Review from 2015 called “How to Get a New Employee Up to Speed.” I particularly like that the article makes a number of points about how critical it is to onboard new employees to the company and team culture, and warns against focusing too narrowly on task-based training. Here’s some advice from the piece, which is aimed managers and other folks who are responsible for onboarding new employees:

“Talk honestly about how things work and answer questions…Take the extra time to translate for him. Help him understand meeting dynamics by debriefing afterwards, addressing some of the finer points of relationships between people that an outsider would have no way of knowing.”

To my mind, this is the stuff that almost certainly takes six months or more to master when you’re working with new people in a new role. Managers can (and should) facilitate this learning process to the extent that they can. But they also need to be sensitive to the reality that deeply understanding the social and political dynamics of a new team and/or company just takes time, and show patience with the new hire accordingly.

Relatedly, it also takes some time to feel a sense of belonging when you’re new to an organization. It’s only once you really feel like you’re a part of the team that you’re willing to take risks and, as a result, be fully effective in your role.

What do you think?  If you’re not in the community and would like to join in the conversations, please join us!

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