Think back to the last time you wondered about a company you hadn’t heard of, your next doctor’s appointment, or the best holiday gift for your mom. The second this thought arose, what did you do? Chances are, you picked up your laptop or cell phone to check, or asked Siri or Alexa to find out. Google’s behavioral scientists have a term for this — micro-moments.

According to Sridhar Ramaswamy, Former Senior VP of Ads & Commerce at Google, a micro-moment takes place when you turn to a smartphone or similar devices to fulfil the need to learn or discover something. These intent-rich moments shape decisions and preferences. Academics Kerry Roberts Gibson and Beth Schinoff have also discussed a similar concept in workplace behavior — micro-moves, suggesting that even seemingly inconsequential acts can affect relationships at work. In their words, “Each step, or micro-move, can change the direction of the relationship.”

The more we explore the concept we realize that the right micro-moves at crucial micro-moments can take a workplace relationship forward. However, picking up that phone to engage with a colleague, a boss, or a team-member can seem like a loaded move — after all, how much solicitousness is too much? Let’s explore this by considering a new hire’s onboarding experience.

Onboarding scenario 1: A new hire’s first experience with his new boss

Dan, a new recruit, has just received an email from the HR manager of his new firm, welcoming him to the team. As he reads the email, he is both elated and anxious. This move will offer him more exciting, challenging work, but he will miss the rapport shared with his colleagues in his current workplace. As he returns to his inbox, however, he sees a new email — from his new boss Karen. Her email is warm, telling how excited she is to be working with him, introducing his team through the email, and reassuring him about the amazing projects in store for him. This puts Dan at ease, quelling his anxieties even before they build up.

Onboarding scenario 2: A colleague has a calming solution to first-day nerves

Thursday evening, before his first day at work, Dan is wondering whether he should take his car, come in early to beat the traffic, call up in advance for a parking space… Just then, a text pops up from Mike, his new teammate, who asks whether he needs a ride since he lives in the same suburb. Mike also mentions that Friday afternoons are reserved for team bonding activities — this week, bowling is on the cards. Dan can now tackle parking and traffic another day and instead look forward to bonding with his peers.

Onboarding scenario 3: A subordinate clarifies the reporting structure

Dan and Mike get in early on Friday, so that Dan has some time to settle in. As he gets to his desk, Jeremy introduces himself as his direct report. Dan is unsure about how best to discuss tasks with Jeremy. However, as he opens his work inbox, he notices an email from Jeremy, listing down all his open projects, with call-outs on tasks he would like Dan to guide or review. Dan feels less pressured on his first day because of this and can focus on his upcoming meeting with Karen.

To what extent do these scenarios match up to onboarding experience you would want as a new hire? Try looking at your interactions with a new boss, direct report, or peers, and see how you can make such micro-moments count.

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