The New Employee and the Organization as a Social Event

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You need well trained, competent employees in your organization. That’s a given. I’ll go so far as to say this: the only way to measure whether training’s successful is on-job trainee competence.

If the trainee isn’t competent on the job, your training’s failed. And 95% of the time the trainee is not to blame for training failure.

Is Competence Enough?

If by “competence “we mean “skill”, it isn’t. We all know of highly skilled individuals who were unsuccessful and ineffective. But sometimes we’re blind to the limitations of mistaking skill for competence.

Measuring Competence

We tend to measure competence as repeated demonstration of skill and behaviour. Put simply, if someone can do something well over and over again, we’re satisfied that they’re competent. But that’s not enough at work.

Competence Isn’t Effectiveness

All of us need skillful employees. That’s just the start. If your employees aren’t skillful, you’ll face serious business problems. But you may also face serious business problems even when your employees are highly skilled. If you don’t believe me, consider the teams in the NBA or English Premier League (Soccer). These leagues are replete with players of great, even extraordinary, skill. But few of the teams are successful at their business: winning titles. The same is true in any workplace.

Work As A Social Event

Organizations are social entities. Work is a social event. Unless you’re a sole trader, you work with people. You know that already. The implications are what can bring us undone.

Social Event Not “Love-In”

It’s absolutely essential that employees work effectively together to help create and sustain a viable business. It is not absolutely essential that the employees “like each other”, “relate well” or “get on together”.

People who work together effectively will learn to “get on”.  If you’re part of a successful team, you’re far more likely to be tolerant of individual idiosyncrasies than in an unsuccessful team. Merely encouraging staff to “get on” is no guarantee of successful on job performance.

Training And Performance

Well trained, competent staff are necessary. But successful on job performance won’t necessarily follow. Poorly trained staff will damage your business. Well trained staff won’t necessarily improve it. Most staff performance issues relate to what employees “won’t do” rather than what they “can’t do”.

Implications Of “A Social Event”

If you want your employees to be successful and effective you must train them well. But because they work with others, you need to ensure that:

  • > They know exactly what performance is expected of them. And “exactly” means  just that: no waffly, high sounding, grandly worded phrases, just clearly expressed, measurable performance standards.
  • > They know, understand and accept the job roles and goals of the people they work with. Role and goal conflict is common in the organization. It causes much interpersonal conflict. The conflict’s merely a symptom. I must know what’s expected of both you and I and both of us must accept that each of our contributions are vital to business success. When that’s the reality, disruptions arising from so called “personality conflicts” will disappear as we focus on co-operation for effective business results.
  • > You, as manager, put systems in place that make it impossible for your employees to fail. “If your systems are poor, your people will fail”. It’s as simple as that … and it won’t matter how skillful they are.
  • > Your employees not only understand the importance of systems, but are competent to operate them, understand what they exist to achieve and are encouraged to recommend system improvements for better business results.
  • > Your remuneration and reward systems reward both successful individuals and teams.
  • > You know exactly what performance you expect from your employees and your business:  that’s probably the most important element of “successful and effective”.

The New Employee: A Special Case

Most training effort is usually devoted to the new employee. That’s fair enough. But it’s the new employee who’s most likely to be affected by the social implications. New employees want to “fit in” as quickly as possible. They want to show that they have the skills. As they see it, that’s how they’ll gain respect from their more experienced workmates. New employees need the support of effective systems and clear roles and goals to help them settle and become effective contributors quickly.

Redefining Competence

For effective and successful employee performance, competence means much more than demonstrating skill. Your training must reflect the social realities of the organization. The basic human unit in the organization isn’t the individual. It’s the team. Organizations are comprised of individuals. But the teams determine effective and successful performance. It’s the manager’s role to create that.


Businesses fail for many reasons. In some cases even the best systems, skills and people won’t make much difference. Training alone, no matter how well done, will not lead to successful and effective on job performance.

Remember  that work is a social event. Managers who understand the social implications of the organization will always have a better chance of running a successful business than those who don’t.

0 thoughts on “The New Employee and the Organization as a Social Event

  1. AmyMccTobin says:

    This post pulled 2 thoughts from me:  1) if Yahoo needs to retrain its staff, Marissa Mayer pulled them in for that.  I would.
    2) I think great bosses are like great coaches, not dictators. Any great coach worth their salt encouraged their teams to socialize together in order to become a team.  That’s why team building events, although often ridiculed, are important.  Great post Daniel!

    • Danny Brown says:

      AmyMccTobin The fallout from the Yahoo decision is crazy. We don’t know the inner workings, we don’t know the decisions that needed to be made, and we don’t know how they’re going to measure its success and what the next 12 month plan holds. Gah. 
      Thanks, miss.

      • hessiej says:

        Danny Brown AmyMccTobin I think Yahoo! is doing a reset. Weed out the deadwood and start again with a trusted employee base. Then the new expectations and “conversation” begins to determine how they develop success together.

  2. hessiej says:

    Danny Brown When you speak of remuneration, the past has always been dictated by individual success. I would also add that competence is iterative based on learning. And with learning comes failure. Baking this into how an organization evaluates and rewards performance is an entirely different mindset because rewards were always based on short-term goals. Think of those millionaires who have started business after business and failed over and over. Eventually, their failures allowed them to reap the rewards they enjoy today. Business success has to be derived from the processes, checks and balances to properly cultivate employee success.  That not only translates into employee ownership over their role and deliverables, it also brings positive business outcomes

    • Danny Brown says:

      hessiej Agreed. I can’t recall who said it, but the mantra “Fail fast” is a good one to live by. It’s how we grow from children to young adults to adults – we fail, we make mistakes, we pick ourselves up and we move on.
      Too many businesses have been forced into playing it safe, and much of the blame can be laid at the feet of social media and its “always on” mentality. But if you have the conviction in what you’re doing, and employ and believe in the people to see that conviction through, success will come.
      You just need to be brave and believe in who’s around you.

  3. hessiejones says:

    karimacatherine thanks Karima! ArCIntel

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