How to Make the Most of Employees’ Personalities

July 12, 2013


First days on the job tend to be stressful. Not only must fresh hires learn the names of a litany of new colleagues, they may also be required to endure often boring orientation sessions. In corporate environments especially, these standardized introductory rituals teach new hires to tone down their own personalities in order to conform to the company’s way of doing things. While this is likely an efficient way to acclimate employees to the job, new studies show that such impersonal onboarding procedures stifle creativity and increase turnover.

For instance, India’s call centers have an average employee turnover rate of 50 percent to 70 percent annually. New hires often undergo training in 15-to 25-person teams where they learn human resources information and background facts about the company. They’re also required to display competency in English after undergoing two weeks of voice training. In those particular sessions, employees are asked to “de-Indianize” many parts of their behavior. Researchers believe that people in this line of work become so restless because they deliberately suppress key parts of their identity, causing them to burn out of the job quickly.

In comparison, customer service leaders like Southwest Airlines and Zappos thrive because they allow employees to put their personalities on display. At Southwest talented flight attendants sing over the intercom. Meanwhile Zappos’ call center representatives ease the tensions of concerned customers in a decidedly off-script manner. Companies like these take the time to learn their staff’s talents from the moment they join the organization. To get employees to emerge from their shells, one study encourages managers to ask new hires about some of the most triumphant moments in their lives. This “personal highlight reel” helps determine the authentic strengths that the new hire can bring to the job.



  1. Why do many employers insist on new hires conforming to one way of doing things?
  1. Why is it critical for companies to reduce employee turnover rates?


Source: Daniel M Cable, Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats, “Reinventing Employee Onboarding,” MIT Sloan Mangement Review, Spring 2013. Photo by CGIAR Climate.