Employee development is no simple task, especially in the world of IT consulting. Often, professional development takes a back seat to project work and keeping up with rapidly changing technology. However, stressing the importance of ongoing learning early on in an employee’s tenure can set the stage for achieving continued success.
Outside of nailing their day-to-day responsibilities, one of the greatest measures of success for new hires is how well they connect with company culture. There are several ways you can build that connection. One way is through a book club.
At Blue Chip, a new hire book club has helped employees see our culture more clearly through a unique lens, while providing them with an opportunity to connect with their peers, share experiences, and apply lessons learned for continual improvement.
Here are five recommendations for rolling out a successful new hire book club:
1. Find the right book.
This book club isn’t a general session for just anyone in your company. It is designed to help new employees gain a better understanding of your culture and why your company operates the way it does.
Therefore, finding the right book is important, as it should support the narrative of your mission, values, and beliefs. Survey leadership and employees with long-standing tenure to get insight into the right set of books to choose from, and then narrow down the list from there.
2. Set participation expectations.
Setting employee expectations truly begins during new hire orientation. Let new employees know what book club is, when it will take place, and what book they will be discussing. When the time comes, schedule a brief kick-off meeting to discuss objectives and goals, reading assignments, and participation requirements.
For a more robust experience, combine more than one new hire class and schedule the kick-off 30 days after orientation so that participants have more time to settle into their roles.
3. Facilitate discussions.
The book you select will determine the best format for your facilitated discussions.
Is it a fable based on true events? Discuss settings, characters, and themes to help drive participation.
Is it an autobiography or research-based text? Discuss key moments that affected the author or key findings that contributed to specific outcomes the researchers identified.
No matter the genre of the book, prep questions ahead of time so that you are ready to drive discussion. You could even consider sharing questions ahead of time so that participants have time to prepare their thoughts. Either way, be sure to allow time for participants to highlight key themes or moments that stood out to them while reading.
4. Dig for real examples.
The most impactful part of book club—and the reason why you’re conducting it—is to allow new hires to reflect on and internalize company culture. The best way to do that is to make sure participants discuss how the material connects to what they do every day and your company’s core values and beliefs.
“The strongest part of book club was sharing experiences and hearing different outlooks from different roles in the org. We had admin, back office, engineering, client engagement, and sales all providing perspective. I also learned a great deal discussing book themes and how they applied to our business."
Even if an employee is unable to complete the assignment before the discussion, encourage them to attend. They can easily contribute relevant examples based on the direction your discussion takes.
5. Get feedback.
Getting feedback (and even additional book recommendations) will help you improve future book club sessions and think of ways to expand new hire book club into a larger, company-wide program.
The best part about book club? It can be done in person or virtually, allowing you to accommodate a remote or widespread workforce.
As businesses begin to reopen and define their new normal in the wake of a global pandemic, it may be challenging to connect the old ways of doing things with the new way things must be done. Fostering a culture of learning that includes book clubs, online training, and workshops is a way to ensure all employees internalize new processes, expectations, and goals.
If you need help rolling out technology to support your new work model and things like virtual orientation, call on our team!