Home Alone. No one expected it to be a massive hit, but something about Macaulay Culkin’s cherubic face combined with the zany antics of a couple of burglars was a winning holiday formula. But what, if anything, can this 1990 classic teach us about onboarding and new employee retention? Quite a lot, so settle in as we take you back to a time of micro machines and New Pepsi, before smartphones were ubiquitous and leaving your 8-year-old home alone for nearly a week wasn’t immediate cause for a CPS call. Here’s why Home Alone is a perfect primer for every onboarding DON’T.


“You’re what the French call…Les Incompetent!”

Managing expectations. Do you remember why everyone is on Kevin’s case? He doesn’t know how to pack his suitcase. His mom assumes he knows, his brothers and sisters won’t help and he’s stymied as to how to pack for his first international trip. This happens to kids and new employees a lot. In fact, managers often expect new employees to “hit the ground running” without any inside knowledge of intercompany cultural norms, industry jargon or a clear picture of unwritten office rules. It’s a classic onboarding mistakes. Don’t assume (like Kevin’s parents did) that your Millennial employee can just “man the Facebook page” or that your more established employees will naturally take newcomers in under their wings. According to Gallup, engagement is highest among employees who have some form (face to face, phone or digital) of daily communication with their managers. Managers who use a combination of face-to-face, phone and electronic communication are the most successful in engaging employees. And engaged employees have a manager who returns their calls or messages within 24 hours.


“Look whatcha did, you little jerk!”

Office Bullies. Can we please agree that Uncle Frank is a terrible person? He’s cheap, rude and generally unkind. Sure, Kevin shouldn’t have spilled the soda by pushing Buzz, but to me, he looked pushed to the edge. He was consistently insulted, bullied and pushed to the brink by everyone in the family. The bullying, unseen (and then seen!) by his parents and left unchecked caused Kevin to lash out. While you can certainly expect more from your grown-up employees, keep in mind that office bullies can be a real problem, especially if you work in a cliquish environment. 72% of employers deny, discount, encourage or defend workplace bullying. Don’t be that person. Keep a careful eye on your newest employees to ensure they can fit in.


“Hyper on Line 2!”

Remember the police officers that Kevin’s mom initially calls? The ones who bat her freaked-out self back and forth while eating donuts and wrapping presents? When they finally send an officer to the house, he tells them to “count their kids again!” Hardly a thorough investigation at all and one that allowed some dangerous (albeit hilarious) hijinks to ensue. For many HR professionals, this is par for the course. The stereotype of a disengaged “personnel lady” who simply “phones it in” is something that smart recruiters, hiring managers and yes, HR Professionals across the globe are trying to combat. May we suggest they begin with onboarding? This is the first impression your employees will have of your organization! It’s an incredible time to seed inspiration, build new processes and effect change. Don’t allow onboarding to be a forgotten child (ahem, see what we did there?) Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity, along with 50% greater new hire retention. So, that’s a good reason…


“I got the milk, eggs and fabric softener!”

Micromanagement breeds contempt. I know I said earlier that Kevin needed a little help but he also needed his large family to stop assuming he was incompetent all the time. Sure, he put himself in unsafe situations, relentlessly bullied that poor pizza delivery guy and stole a toothbrush, but he also conquered his fears, took down a couple of bad guys, reunited a family and managed to get the house clean before his parents got home (except Buzz’s room). Perhaps what he needed was less micromanagement and more chances to grow into the young man he could be. Once you’ve established with your new employees just what their role is and given firm parameters around what needs to be done, back off and see what they can do on their own. An Accountemps survey discovered 59% of employees had worked for a micromanager at some time in their careers. The employees also said micromanagement had a negative impact on them at work – 68% said it decreased their morale at work and 55% said it reduced their productivity.


What do you think? Are there a few onboarding lessons to be learned from Home Alone? At the very least, avoid Joe Pesci’s management style, it didn’t always work.


Related Posts: