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Research / Discovery

Success from campus to cubicle

August 13, 2014

School of Education associate professor Russ Korte studies onboarding processes for new graduates.

 Russ Korte presents his research to the Why Hire Gen Y? conference sponsored by the College of Business Career Management Center in July."I wish my university had taught me how to play the political office game."

Russ Korte, new School of Education associate professor, heard these words from a frustrated engineer working at his first job out of college. When employers began contacting university engineering programs to complain that their Generation Y workers were struggling in their new job positions due to being unprepared, Korte launched a pilot program soon after to better understand the cause of this "unpreparedness." Korte interviewed at every level of the issue from the human resources department, corporate executives, and young engineers working their first jobs out of college.

"During the interview process, it became clear that issues of translating the theory taught in the classroom into practice in the business world was not the issue," says Korte. "However, at the end of each interview I asked the new hires what was hardest about their new job and all of them talked about interpersonal issues in a new company culture."

Onboarding focus of research

Known as "socialization" or "onboarding," the process of learning how to navigate those invisible political and social systems found in every new culture is the focus of Korte's research. If new employees are not smoothly transitioning into the job position and company culture through the onboarding process, they are more likely to struggle and not enjoy their work, leading to increased turnover rates.

"Having a successful onboarding experience is essential to the success of the employee long-term," explains Korte. "When one in five new employees quit in the first year or two, it's clear that companies need to reduce this turnover."

Korte interviewed nearly 200 newly hired faculty, medical professionals and engineers, learning that most struggled with the invisible social and political systems found in new job settings. Through additional research in Human Resources Development, Korte believes there are two primary factors that can be developed during the initial onboarding process to more effectively encourage the long-term success of newly hired employees. 

Successful onboarding

First, new hires need to be able to develop effective working relationships with the current staff. Korte believes the responsibility to build those relationships belongs to the current staff,as well as the new employee.

Secondly, onboarding happens in small work groups, which are primary points of contact for those new employees to engage with the overarching company culture. Korte has found that those work groups that effectively support new employees have greater success getting new employees up to speed and creating stronger commitment to the organization and team in which they work. 

Korte has used his research findings to inform organizations about factors that affect the success of new hires and how to best support them. He has also been invited to speak to a number of classes, giving students tips on how to navigate their new jobs. 

Korte presented his research in a talk titled "Onboarding a New Generation" at the  Why Hire Gen Y? conference hosted by the CSU College of Business Career Management Center in Fort Collins in July.

Korte is a professor in the Organizational Learning, Performance and Change program in the School of Education, part of the College of Health and Human Sciences at CSU.


Contact: Gretchen Gerding
Phone: 970.491.5182