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What Happens if ‘Absorbing by Observation’ Disappears?

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What Happens if ‘Absorbing by Observation’ Disappears?

MIT Sloan Management Review,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Successful onboarding involves passing on tacit knowledge – even when new hires are not physically present. 

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Is your company seeking to integrate new hires more successfully – even when they’re working remotely? As professor of management Lynda Gratton explains, formal onboarding sessions cannot convey the subtle norms and tacit knowledge underlying work processes within a company. She describes innovative ways to assimilate new employees when they can’t be present in the office. 


To internalize a company’s culture and work practices, new hires must have opportunities to observe senior team members.

Young employees and new hires best learn about their company’s culture and norms through observation. The important subtleties of company life – such as who pulls the strings behind the scenes and how to navigate the company – cannot be taught in formal training sessions.

For instance, one partner at a prestigious London law office has his trainees work inside his office, so they can listen to telephone conversations, sit in on client discussions and observe his work practices. Meanwhile, the Japanese company Fujitsu has young employees stay at the office after formal working hours, so they can observe older employees interact more...

About the Author

Lynda Gratton is a professor of management practice at London Business School and founder of the advisory practice HSM.

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