How to be a “cozy” organization: which socialization tactics to use, why and for whom

Key Points:

  1. Socialization tactics aimed at making employees passively accept pre-set roles- also known as institutionalized socialization-  relates decrease in role ambiguity, conflict, intentions to quit and positively correlates with job satisfactionjob commitment, performance, fit perceptions, and custodial role orientation.
  1. Socialization tactics seem to be more effective for new graduate newcomers compared to seasoned entrants.


“Should I stay or should I go?” Besides being a title of the glorious song by “The Clash” this is also a question that newcomers usually make when they have their first experiences in a new organization. And what can an organization do so that the answer will be positive? Here we present a summary of the most effective tactics of organizational socialization, to help newcomers’ adjust and improve their intent to stay.

Which tactics can organizations use?

The experience of entering in a new organization is often a shock by which the newcomer experiences disorientation, foreignness, and a sensory overload. To help this delicate process, managers can implement socialization procedures to facilitate the acquisition of skills, values and behaviors necessary to become an active member of the organization.

Saks, Uggerslev and Fassina (2007) conducted a meta-analysis of over 30 studies investigating socialization tactics over the past 20 years, with the intent to clarify the efficacy of using a strategy of socialization based on scientific evidence.

The authors focused their research on Van Maanen and Shein’s (1979) six socialization tactics, that can be divided into two categories: on one hand the procedures that encourage newcomers to passively accept pre-set roles (Institutionalized socialization), and on the other hand those tactics that encourage the development of a unique approach to their roles (Individualized socialization). The six tactics represent three broad work-related factors (social, content and context). Here we present the social tactics, since the research results showed that these were most strongly related to adjustment outcomes.

Social tactics:

  • Serial (vs Disjunctive): socialize the newcomer with an experienced member of the organization who serves as a role model, compared to a process where a role model is not available.
  • Investiture (vs Divestiture): This tactics is focused on the affirmation of the identity and personal characteristics of the newcomer, in contrast to push the newcomer to effectuate changes and adjustments in aspects of their personal identity.

Why managers should use these procedures?

Not all the managers are disposed to invest time and resources in the early step of newcomers experience, but you will soon understand why it is convenient to use these practices.

First of all, if socialization procedures are ineffective the consequences can be serious, including leaving the company. Research has indeed shown that a newcomers generally demonstrate higher turnover rates than regulars and that these rates of turnover among newcomers are on the rise (Allen et al., 2010).

In addition, the authors found that tactics that represent institutionalized socialization reduce role ambiguity, role conflict, and intentions to quit, and increase job satisfactionjob commitment, performance, fit perceptions, and a custodial role orientation. This, in simple terms, means a stronger intent to stay and to accept their role.

For which type of newcomers are these tactics most effective?

Have you ever thought that not all the socialization tactics are effective for all types of newcomers? The authors found that socialization tactics have a stronger effect on the adjustment for recent university graduates compared to seasoned entrants. There are at least three possible explanations for this:

  • First, seasoned newcomers might be less affected by efforts put forth by the organization to socialize them. In fact, they might be less willing to bend to a new organization because they have a better understanding of their own needs and requirements at work.
  • Second, the effect size of tactics on adjustment may also be weaker for seasoned than unseasoned entrants simply because less socialization is needed. In fact, seasoned newcomers might be more aware of what is required of them.
  • A third possibility is that more effort is required to facilitate seasoned employee adjustment. That is, although new entrants might easily learn new procedures that are unique to their new employer, seasoned workers may experience cognitive interference from their previous employment experience, so they need more socialization to adjust..

Takeaways for your practice

To promote a strong attachment to the organization an intervention in the early phases of employee placement is an opportunity not to waste.

Implement Social Interactions

Considering that the social tactics seem to be the more effective, newcomers should have frequent opportunities to interact with other members of the company. Following this advice, an increasing number of organizations are recently initiating social interactions during the recruitment process where future co-workers and senior management are available to meet with potential candidates. Once hired, a manager may provide an experienced member to act as a role model, and also focuses the attention on affirming the identity and personal characteristics of the newcomer.

Combine the two

In addition, the results of the research suggest that managers can use a combination of individualized and institutionalized tactics rather than being forced to choose one set or the other. For example, it is conceivable that an organization might employ institutionalized social tactics to promote strong attachments to the job, but also employ individualized content and context tactics to promote an innovative role orientation. In this way is possible to achieve stability and innovation.

Act accordingly

The last advice is: pay attention to the type of newcomer that you have in front. For example, recent graduates seem to benefit the most from the information, structure, and guidance of institutionalized socialization tactics.

…And remember first impressions always count, so don’t waste the opportunity to make a good one!

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Saks, A. M., Uggerslev, K. L., & Fassina, N. E. (2007). Socialization tactics and newcomer adjustment: A meta-analytic review and test of a model. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 70(3), 413-446.

You can find the original article here!

Van Maanen, J., & Schein, E. H. (1979). Toward a theory of organizational socialization. In B. M. Staw (Ed.), Research in organizational behavior (Vol. 1). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

You can find the original article here!

Allen, D. G., Bryant, P. C., & Vardaman, J. M. (2010). Retaining Talent: Replacing Misconceptions With Evidence-Based Strategies. Academy of Management Perspectives, 24(2), 48–64. doi:10.5465/amp.24.2.48

You can find the original article here!

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