The Blackjack Method of Onboarding: Feedback and Goals

What a game of cards can teach you about employee onboarding

Blackjack Method of Onboarding Feedback and Goals

Setting up effective employee onboarding looks a lot like starting a game of cards. To see how, we’ll need to take a closer look at what we call the Blackjack Method of Onboarding.

Imagine sitting down to play cards with a group where some people think they are playing Poker, some Blackjack, and still others Hearts. One poor sap even thinks the game is Uno.

How would that game go? How long would you continue playing before you give up and leave to do something else?

Goals and feedback are vital in any enterprise, whether it’s a competitive game, a home improvement project, or a company. Without them, there’s no driving force moving you forward, spurring you to bigger and better things.

Unfortunately, many companies fail to keep this simple truth in mind in developing and onboarding their employees. Oftentimes, managers are looking for a Full House while employees are trying to decide if they should stand pat at 17. As a result, employees don’t accomplish the goals the manager has set, and the manager does not provide the support the employees expect. Both sides upset the other, and the company loses time and money.

To prevent this, goals should always be explained at the outset of every project, and all sides should ensure they are on the same page. More importantly, though, ensuring everyone is united in purpose should be an integral part of the onboarding process. Job duties and expectations ought to be explained, and the overall goal of the company should be conveyed through a mission statement and all materials should work toward accomplishing that mission.

Once the goals and expectations have been laid out, the next step is reinforcing them with constant feedback. Even once all employees are working toward a singular goal, they still need guidance as to whether their performance is getting the company closer to reaching it.

Returning to our card game, suppose the dealer tells everyone that the game is Blackjack. Imagine how uninspiring the game would be if no one but the dealer were ever permitted to see the cards. All of the responsibility to run the game would then fall to the dealer, and the players would have no idea whether they were close to winning or losing. Moreover, they would never know whether to ask for another card or to stand pat. The only feedback they would receive is the news that either they lost or (less likely) that they won.

Again, this is unfortunately how many companies are run. Without a clear system of providing constant feedback to the employees, they are effectively playing Blackjack without being able to see their cards. Too much of the work, then, falls to the managers and supervisors, who are inundated by a flood of data they must track by themselves, and the only time the employees receive feedback it is to say they have failed or, less likely, they have succeeded.

The Blackjack Method of Onboarding shows how to fix this. The onboarding process should provide a series of different types of feedback. At the very least, they should include regular, planned sessions with supervisors to discuss employee performance and frequent, unplanned, and short conversations to quickly check in and let the employee know they are valued. There should also be an imbalance between positive and negative feedback, with the positive outweighing the negative. To achieve this, managers should celebrate even the small victories, demonstrating that even the small ones play a part in achieving the larger goal.

Or, in our Blackjack game, even drawing the two of clubs is a feat worth celebrating when the player is sitting on 19. But she would have to see her cards to know that.

And not be playing War.


For more on the Blackjack Method of Onboarding, see our post on Self-Sufficient Employees.

Or, for more information on Successful Employee Onboarding, see our other blog posts.