The Blackjack Method of Onboarding: Self-Sufficient Employees

Why successful management is a lot like dealing a game of blackjack

Blackjack Method of Onboarding

Successful employee development is made a lot easier by what we like to call the Blackjack Method of Onboarding.

A game of blackjack begins unconventionally when compared to other popular card games. At the outset, half of everyone’s cards are visible to everyone present. The dealer first deals everyone a card face-down, and then follows that with a card face-up. This means that there is a mutual state of general awareness of what each player is holding, but uncertainty about what they need to do next.

In essence, this is exactly how companies operate. To see how this is the case, we need to consider a couple of things from the dealer’s point of view.

The dealer can only see half of everyone’s cards. She knows something about their situation, but she is missing a significant part of it. For example, she may see that one player is showing a six of spades, but that six means something very different if his second card is the ace of diamonds than if it is the two of hearts.

Likewise, the blackjack method of onboarding says that as manager, you can see the bigger picture and parts of each employee’s project and responsibilities, but you can’t see everything about any one of them. Each employee has more going on behind the scenes of their assignments, their face-down card, and it is their job to determine the best next steps. You can offer your input as guidance, but it ultimately falls them to act.

This is how it should be. They can see both cards. They must decide to hit or stand pat. Importantly, their load is not yours. Too often managers fail to remember this important fact. This isn’t to suggest that the success of your employees is not your concern, only that you have your duties, and they have theirs.

Progressing in this way enables you to stay focused on your own assignments, such as overseeing all of your employees and the big picture. Otherwise, you will end up focusing on the minutiae of one employee’s assignment and not have time to manage your other employees and ensure they are all on track.

Back to blackjack, as the game moves on, the dealer will start to learn the player’s strategy. She will get a feel for when a player will stand and when he will take another card, and this will help her get a feel for what cards he probably has in later hands. She will get to the point where she can determine what number each player has without ever seeing their face-down card just from seeing how they play over the course of time.

As manager, you will get a feel for your own employees and how they will handle their workload. You will never be able to see everything they have going on behind the scenes, but you won’t need to. You’ll be able to see when they need a little extra guidance or help, and when they will be able to handle the situation on their own. Again, this will save your own time, allowing you to stay focused on your assignments while still ensuring that they accomplish what they need to do.

In other words, you can let them decide to hit or stand pat on their jack-six combo while you worry about your own king-seven.


For more on the Blackjack Method of Onboarding, see our post on feedback and goals.

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