Imprinting and Onboarding

In 1973, Konrad Lorenz got a Nobel Prize for his work on  imprinting. His experiments with newly hatched greylag geese are milestones in the field of psychology. Lorenz showed that the plucky new goslings would imprint on the first suitable moving stimulus that they saw. In this case, it was Lorenz in his wading boots. He would waddle around the lab followed around by the gaggle of geese. The geese would be forever imprinted with the thought that Lorenz was their Mother Goose.

A key finding was this -- the imprinting needed to take place during a "critical period." The baby geese had to be exposed to the stimulus between 13-16 hours after hatching. It's a very small and specific window of opportunity.

Companies have the same opportunity to imprint new hires with their "talent brand" during the initial months of the employees' new hire. During onboarding, the employer can teach and infuse them with the company's culture. It's an ideal time to reinforce the positive behaviors that can lead to career (and employer) success. But like the offer for Ginsu knives, it's for a limited time only. You gotta act fast.

Flickr photo by Brit.

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