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Employee Orientation: Get Your New Employees Off to a Great Start

With a well-designed employee orientation program, your business benefits by having new employees hit the ground running. And less time is required from your managers answering basic questions or explaining common issues.
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Aside from the cost and investment in time needed to recruit and hire new employees, there are plenty of other reasons why it's important to pay attention to a new hire's first few days on the job. With a well-designed employee orientation program, your business and the new hire can benefit in numerous ways:

  • May enable new employees to hit the ground running and get into the rhythm of daily business life faster than those without proper new hire orientation. That can mean less time and money needed for training and less extra attention needed from your HR department.
  • May keep "new employee anxiety" to a minimum, since new hires can more quickly feel like they are part of the organization.
  • May reduce the time and effort your managers or supervisors have to give over to answering basic questions or to explaining issues more appropriately covered in orientation.

In general, an effective employee orientation program consists of two parts:

(1) a broad overview of policies and procedures that apply to and affect the entire company, including everything from your mission and goals to benefits, compensation and zero-tolerance policies regarding bullying and sexual harassment; and

(2) a review of the new hire's specific job duties and an explanation of how his or her position fits into the company's short- and long-range goals. Without both parts, the new employee is unlikely to have a well-rounded sense of her individual responsibilities and where she fits into the "big picture."

Pre-planning and orientation

New employee orientation shouldn't be something that's done "on the fly." In the same respect, it's important to recognize that each new employee is a different and separate individual (often with very different job responsibilities), so a generic, one-size-fits-all approach won't work either. All employees need to receive much of the same information, but some pre-planning on your part (or whoever is responsible for orientation) will smooth the process to make it more beneficial for everyone involved. Before the actual orientation takes place:

  • Decide what information is most important to share. Avoid a generalized "information-dump," since no one can be expected to process everything about your business all at once. What are the key issues and challenges the new hire will face? Provide information that helps them get off to a productive start and save the non-urgent stuff for later.
  • Make sure employees in the new hire's area are ready to welcome him or her.
  • Arrange ahead of time for someone to show the new employee around.

Once the orientation gets underway, be honest with the new employee. For example, don't emphasize "official" working hours if your company culture actually involves people coming in earlier or staying late much of the time. Being honest up-front adds to your credibility with the new employee, who may otherwise be skeptical about what he or she hears from the first day forward. Also, leave plenty of time for questions. Your orientation may seem comprehensive to you (did you mention where people can park or where they like to go for lunch?), but new people are likely to come up with questions you didn't expect.

Consider assigning a buddy or mentor

Giving the new hire a buddy or mentor to work with can be a great way to reinforce the benefits of your employee orientation program. For someone who's completely unfamiliar with the business, it's reassuring to know that the employee down the hall is available and willing to answer further questions, offer informal advice or just serve as a friendly face among a sea of strangers. This can accelerate the process of becoming acclimated to the culture and makes things less stressful overall.

One further tip: Don't require the new employee to start their work responsibilities immediately after orientation (unless absolutely necessary). They have a lot of data to process and will benefit by having additional time to read the employee handbook and other company materials. A day or two extra to review company materials and become acclimated can make a huge difference in how they feel as their begin taking on their real job responsibilities.

 

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