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-- It Pays to Help New Staff Start Right
It Pays to Help New Staff Start Right
by Ron Kaufman
Managers should invest wisely in well-designed staff
Effectively orientating your new employees can pay back big
dividends in staff retention, employee commitment and customer
Staff members who are properly trained and welcomed at the
beginning of their careers feel good about their choice of
employer, fit in quickly with peers and colleagues and readily
contribute new ideas. They also speak well about your firm to
friends and family. And they represent you more confidently to
customers, business partners and suppliers.
Poor orientation of new employees can cost you dearly. Those
who don't start right don't tend to stick around long, either.
High staff turnover means you must recruit, train and orientate
new staff all over again. Staff turnover also takes a high toll
on the morale of those who do stay behind. When people leave
your organization, those who remain begin to wonder... should we
be looking for new employment, too?
But while many managers will agree that new staff orientation
is important, very few invest the time and attention necessary
to make sure it's done consistently, and done right.
Now is the time to review your staff orientation program. Apply
the following ideas to be sure your staff "start right"!
Think long term.
Effective orientation is a gradual process, and does not end
after the second day on the job. The initial induction of
employees during the first few days is important. But it is even
more important to make sure new employees fit in and feel
comfortable over the longer term. This can mean six weeks for a
factory worker, or up to six months for new members of a senior
A time for everything. Everything in it's time.
New employees arrive with basic questions that must be answered
quickly: What is the dress code? Where are the tools for my job?
How does the telephone system work? When do people eat, meet and
After the initial induction period, your employee's questions
will change and mature: "How am I being appraised? Why is the
system set up this way? How can I (safely) suggest changes ? Who
can I see for guidance, approval and support?"
Don't try to answer all possible questions in the least
possible time. Stretch out the process to cover the first weeks
or even months on the job. This lets new staff absorb essential
information more gradually and completely.
An extended orientation program also reassures new employees.
Newcomers are always under great pressure to perform and adapt.
Your extended program shows you understand their situation, you
care about their adjustment, and you will continue to show
interest and attention over time.
Involve everyone in the process.
New employees are not the only ones affected by the quality of
your orientation program. Other groups are influenced during
this important period as well, including peers, bosses,
subordinates, senior managers, customers, suppliers and even the
new hire's family back home.
Each group has different questions and concerns about the new
employee. Address those concerns by giving each group an active
role in your overall orientation program. Buddy systems, lunch
meetings, panel discussions, site visits, family days - these
and other methods can be used to involve diverse groups and
individuals in the process.
The reputation of your Human Resource Department is also at
stake. If orientation is well planned and conducted, the HR
department will be seen by new employees as a valuable resource
for addressing their future concerns. On the other hand, poor
staff orientation sends an early message that the HR department
is ineffective or out of touch.
Your orientation program should accomplish seven major
1. Create comfort and rapport.
New staff want to feel a sense of acceptance and belonging
inside the organization. Accelerate this process by creating
abundant opportunities for new staff to interact with their
peers, bosses, subordinates, colleagues from other departments,
customers, suppliers and senior managers.
Diversify the time and nature of these meetings. For informal
conversation, tea-times, meal-times and after hours get
togethers are a good choice. Include new hires in customer
visits, focus groups and occasional management meetings.
Send new employees on short attachments to visit other company
divisions and departments. Spending a week, a day or even an
afternoon in a different part of the business will do wonders to
build rapport and understanding throughout your organization.
2. Introduce the company culture.
New staff usually want to fit in with accepted norms and
values. "How do things really work around here? What importance
do people attach to style, dress, presentation? Is punctuality
very important? Do meetings start on time? Are long hours the
exception or expected?"
Understanding company culture only happens over time, through
formal presentations, informal dialogue and lots of personal
experience. What gets said "officially" is compared with what
gets said "confidentially" over lunch, after hours and even
amongst colleagues in the washroom.
Extend your positive influence beyond the formal presentations.
Create a buddy system or mentor scheme to match your most
sincere and enthusiastic staff with your incoming employees.
But don't expect your enthusiastic staff to stay that way if
their mentor role becomes a burden. Give the mentor relationship
real support: pay for a few lunches, allow time in the weekly
schedule for mentor-mentee conversations, include mentor
services in annual staff appraisal and show appreciation to the
mentors with tokens of recognition, appreciation and respect.
3. Show "The Big Picture"
You must help new staff find quality answers to all of the
"Where has this company been? Where is it today? Where are we
heading to? Who are our customers? What do they say about us?
Who are our major competitors? What is our market position?"
"What is our current focus: are we expanding operations, going
regional and launching new technologies? Or are we trimming
costs, rationalizing product lines and streamlining operations?"
You can orient new staff to these "Big Picture" issues with a
well-designed presentation. With slides, OHP, video or multi-
media, highlight your history, and present status, your future
goals and directions. Share "humble beginnings". Detail
"greatest achievements". Show excitement for future directions.
But be candid about company weaknesses, too. Talk openly about
difficulties and challenges in the market. Keep your "Big
Picture" presentation upbeat and lively, and keep it up to date.
In large organizations, very senior managers are often the best
authorities to share insight on the future of the business. But
these same managers may frequently be out of town or involved in
handling current events. They are not always available when you
want them to participate in an orientation program.
You can solve this problem by capturing them on videotape as
they discuss the opportunities and challenges facing your
organization. Then use the video in your program, and bring the
managers back "live" at a later date for panel discussions,
question and answer sessions, or informal "meet the manager"
4. Explain job responsibilities and rewards.
Clarify expectations from the very beginning. Ensure new staff
are thoroughly versed on their job responsibilities and
accompanying levels of authority. Demonstrate and thoroughly
explain your staff appraisal system. Show new staff a copy of
the actual appraisal form and illustrate how good performance
will be assessed, measured and rewarded. Use career paths of
those who have come before them to illustrate possibilities and
potentials in the job.
5. Handle administrative matters.
There will always be paperwork to complete, forms to fill and
detailed procedures to follow. Employment agreements, insurance
policies, benefit packages, charitable contribution forms,
locker allocation, tools and uniform distribution, the list goes
on and on. While these are important to complete, resist the
temptation to "get it over with" at one long (and boring)
sitting. Spread those administrative tasks over many short
sessions in the first few weeks. Hours of filling out forms on
the first day at work is not the way to inspire enthusiasm about
the dynamic nature of your organization!
6. Provide reality checks.
Make sure your orientation is not an ill-guided fantasy of what
you wish the company could be. If your program shows only the
bright side of the business and the happy side of daily work,
don't be surprised when new employees come back shell-shocked
after two or three weeks on the job. Take time to be open and
candid about the pressures and realities of your company, your
team, your customers and your competition.
One large regional firm developed an extensive orientation
program along the theme: "You will know more about the problems
of this organization than people who have worked here for
years!" This novel approach produces new staff who understand
realities and are ready to work hard to help make them better.
7. Gain full participation.
Give everyone a role to play in new employee orientation.
Involve peers and colleagues in your mentor schemes, engage
managers in talks and panel discussions, put subordinates in
charge as hosts and guides during your cross-department visits.
Invite new staff's family members to a special "Meet the Company
Day" and take lots of photographs at the event. Later, send the
best photographs back to your new staff's home address - with a
copy of your company's newsletter and a hand-written note from
you to the entire family.
Most of all, gain full participation from the new employees
themselves. Resist the temptation to project all information in
a one-way stream from the company towards the new staff. Have
new staff explore the company, research the competition, meet
the customers, and then generate their own questions for you to
receive and reply.
Finally, get your new employees fully involved in welcoming the
next batch of incoming staff. This will ensure your orientation
program stays fresh and relevant to staff needs, and can be a
watershed towards making "new staff" feel like "veterans" at the
company; experienced, involved and able to contribute.
The time, money and human resources you dedicate to new
employee orientation can be one of your best long-term corporate
investments. Make sure your program is thoughtfully designed,
carefully delivered, continuously upgraded and improved.
Ron Kaufman is a leading author, trainer and keynote speaker in
the fields of improving Service Quality and implementing
Customer Focus. Based in Singapore, Ron's clients include many
of the Fortune 100 companies, plus government agencies and
associations around the world.
More ideas, techniques, articles and information are available,
FREE, on the website: http://www.ronkaufman.com
RON KAUFMAN - Active Learning!
P.O. Box 693, Marine Parade
Singapore 914407, Republic of Singapore
Tel: 65-441-2760 Fax: 65-444-8292
Copyright, MCMXCVII, Ron Kaufman.
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