Socialising New Engineers into the Organisation

In People Development

41187656 - men work on the old factory for the installation of equipment in protective helmets


Russell Korte’s 2009 research on how engineering graduates learned the social norms of an organisation as they started new jobs in the workplace produced two significant findings:

  1. Relationship building is the primary driver of workplace socialisation.
  2. The work group is the main context for socialisation, not the organisation.

This challenges views that organisational socialisation is a learning process that is mainly the responsibility of the newcomer.  Korte points out how induction/inhouse educational programs can leverage these findings:

  • Place greater emphasis on the social system in the work place — Relationships with co-workers and the manager determined the quality of learning and integration for newcomers. The quality of relationship building influenced on-the-job learning outcomes.
  • Recognise the influences and variances of work groups on learning and performance — “Newcomers’ experiences learning the social norms of the organization varied based on the quality of relationship building experiences in the work group.”

Newcomers to the workplace typically access information from these sources:

Differences between organisational-centric and people-centric onboarding processes:


To understand better how newcomers learned the social norms of their organization, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 30 engineers recently hired by a large manufacturing organization. Through these interviews, newcomers’ described their experiences of learning what to do, how to do it, and why it is done this way. From content and thematic analyses of the transcripts two major findings emerged: (a) relationship building with coworkers was the primary driver of the socialization process and (b) the various work groups were the primary context of the socialization process—not the organization. Relationship building is the mutual interaction between the newcomer and a coworker or manager leading to higher- or lower-quality relationships based on levels of trust, respect, interpersonal support, and mutual obligation.

  • Read Korte’s article in Human Resource Development Quarterly, 2009:
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