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In most organizations, when new employees are brought on board the orientation focuses on the culture and practices of their new workplace. But new research says this is the wrong approach. Instead, you should concentrate on encouraging the new hires to talk about themselves.

In a working paper, professors Dan Cable of the London Business School, Francesca Gino of Harvard University, and Brad Staats of University of North Carolina, found that when new hires were initially allowed to emphasize their best selves (rather than focusing on organizational identity or skills training), it led to greater customer satisfaction and employee retention after six months.

The researchers found the same results when teams were formed. When the initial socialization period let team members focus on personal rather than organizational identity, they were more engaged and satisfied with their work and performed their tasks more effectively.

One-hour orientation sessions at one company in the study involved a senior manager talking about how working there would give new recruits the chance to express themselves and to generate their own opportunities. The newcomers were also asked to respond to questions such as, "What three words best describe you as an individual?" and "What is unique about you that leads to your happiest times and best performance at work?"