I have worked for companies large and small that seem to struggle with how to effectively provide their new employees with orientations to the company. Here are a few tips that might help toward making the process more successful.
Tip # 1
In larger companies, the orientation program is typically owned by the Human Resources department…and this can often miss the point. There is a role for introducing the human resources information such as benefit packages; employee handbooks and policies; and income tax paper work, etc. But the new employee orientation really should focus on the following information:
- What is this organization really about?
- What is it like to work here?
- How are things organized?
- Where do I find what I need to do my job?
- And…where does my job fit in?
Another mistake that is often made with the orientation is in feeding the new employee so much information; you put him or her to sleep…literally! Yes, they need a lot of information but there has got to be a better way. Here’s a suggestion to fix that dilemma:
- Move away from the lecture and test mode and move toward a friendlier format
- Publish the information in a reference format – notebook, web page, etc. – so new hires can use it as needed back on the job.
- Use interactive exercises that reinforce how to access the data
- Illustrate how the information is organized and how and why different departments use it
- Allow the employee to ask as many questions as necessary so you are comfortable (as is he or she) that the information is indeed accessible
Your company slogan is, “We are a team” but in fact, your orientation makes the new employee feel very alone because he or she doesn’t know who the various others are and what they may mean to him and his role. How can this be fixed?
- Include social networking activities – help them build their social network
- Provide a “getting to know the organization” module early on in the orientation that explains what the areas do and who their key players are
- Follow up with an exercise in which the new hires make contact with those players who are most directly connected to his or her job
- Add additional social networking activities throughout the orientation period to help the new hire understand who his own ‘go to’ people might be
- Add in some interactive opportunities to build an organizational chart based on his own connections within the company
Often, companies believe orientation to be a onetime event. You think that you have brought the employee up to speed within a very short time frame and can’t understand why he isn’t absorbing what he needs – as mentioned above – too much information can be loaded on the employee and this mind-set (onetime event) doesn’t illustrate your desire to keep your employees with you and give them the tools to do the job effectively. To ensure that you don’t fall into this trap, try the following:
- Think of orientation as a process – not an event
- Realize that every new employee will have his or her own questions and they may be very different from the questions you had. Orientations are for the new employee – not the existing ones
- Try to get answers for the employee as soon as you can so he knows you value his willingness to learn what he needs to learn
- Be willing to change your delivery to ensure the employee is engaged in the process
- Mix up online media (your intranet), classroom time, and small group projects to give the new employee the real flavour of the organization
- Do occasional check in’s to make sure that the employee is comfortable finding what he needs
Many businesses don’t really provide an orientation program and this is probably the biggest mistake they can make. Even if you don’t have an ‘official’ program – you do indeed have an orientation. Consider the following:
The employee forms his or her own opinion of the company based on those he meets upon arrival.
If the reception is less than welcoming; that’s the message he receives, he’s not really welcome. As an example, he walks in and the receptionist ignores him for the first 5 minutes he’s there while she talks on the phone and files her nails. Then he meets the bookkeeper, Sandra. She scowls at him and goes on and on about how overworked she is and she doesn’t have time to go over the income tax forms with him. He’s finally brought over to his desk and he sits there for the first half hour going through all kinds of documents that he needs to fill out and he doesn’t know where to begin. He goes in search of the boss and no one in the hallway even acknowledges his presence, they all walk by…faces in their paperwork…not so much as a good morning. Everyone looks so unhappy!
After the first few days, the new employee is making a lot of mistakes but he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do…his co-worker rolls his eyes when he’s made the same mistake for the third time in a row. He asks a co-worker a question about what he should do with some paperwork he has and the co-worker asks him why he doesn’t know this by now…
- The best way to ensure this is not your orientation, is to construct one; good orientation programs are good business
- Think of your orientation as a window into your company’s culture. If you truly want your employees to stay with the company and be productive, give them the best opportunity to do just that
- Be sure you communicate how important this person is to your organization and how pleased you are that he or she has joined you
Never under-estimate the power of first impressions! Give your employees your best and they will certainly give you theirs!
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