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WSJ's The Experts

Why You Should Ask New Employees What Shocks Them

Why You Should Ask New Employees What Shocks Them

By asking new hires what most astonished them after joining an organization, companies can capture the collective wisdom of first impressions.

  • August 26, 2015
  • min read


Why You Should Ask New Employees What Shocks Them

This article was originally published on's The Experts.

A strong company culture is an asset to be proud of, but it also can create serious risks.

Pride can cause you to overlook dysfunction in the company. In addition, a strong culture can make it harder to recruit successfully senior executives. You want someone who fits the culture and will work well with the rest of the leadership team, but you also want someone who brings his or her own strengths and a fresh perspective to the game. That’s essential when your company is growing and your new hire was recruited to supply expertise that your company doesn’t currently have.

During a recent discussion about recruiting challenges with Chinese company founders in Shanghai, they mentioned a common tool they use that addresses both challenges described above: They ask each senior recruit for a rapport d’étonnement after a set period, usually 100 days.

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By the time this phrase made its way from French to Chinese to English, it was described as a “shock report,” which initially perplexed me. The actual translation, I’ve since learned, is “astonishment report.” Used by businesses, government and academia, this tool taps the insights of new recruits by asking what most astonished them after joining the organization. The goal is to capture the collective wisdom of first impressions before the organization’s culture begins to indoctrinate new recruits.

The more we discussed it, the more I liked both the concept and the slight mistranslation of “shock report.” New recruits with fresh eyes often do observe trends that are subtle, but shocking.

One example uncovered by a shock report: A drift between “generations” in a company, with the founding leadership team still deeply engaged with the company mission, but failing to fully pass along their passion to the newer generation of hires. The solution for that company: The founders made it a priority to regularly tell the history of the company in all its gory details to recruits, and emphasize the new generation’s role in taking the company to the next level.

As your company grows, find out what shocks new hires. It might not be your culture they find surprising, but the fact that you’re allowing it to erode.

James Allen is co-leader of the global strategy practice at Bain & Co.


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