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Employee orientation: Keeping new employees on board

24 June 2012 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Lionel Wijesiri
Orienting employees to their workplaces and their jobs is one of the most neglected functions in many organisations. An employee handbook and piles of paperwork are not sufficient anymore when it comes to welcoming a new employee to your organisation.

The most frequent complaints about new employee orientation are that it is overwhelming, boring or that the new employee is left to sink or swim. The result is often a confused new employee who is not productive and is more likely to leave the organisation within a year.


Purposes
Employers have to realize that orientation isn’t just a nice gesture put on by the organisation. It serves as an important element of the recruitment and retention process. Some key purposes are:
  •  To save time for the manager: Simply put, the better the initial orientation, the less likely supervisors and co-workers will have to spend time teaching the employee.
     
  • To reduce anxiety: Any employee, when put into a new, strange situation, will experience anxiety that can impede his or her ability to learn to do the job. Proper orientation helps to reduce anxiety that results from entering into an unknown situation and helps provide guidelines for behaviour and conduct, so the employee doesn’t have to experience the stress of guessing.
     
  • To reduce start-up costs: Proper orientation can help the employee get up to speed much more quickly, thereby reducing the costs associated with learning the job.
     
  • To reduce employee turnover: Employee turnover increases as employees feel they are not valued or are put in positions where they can’t possibly do their jobs. Orientation shows that the organisation values the employee and helps provide the tools necessary for succeeding in the job.
     
  • To develop realistic job expectations,

positive attitudes and job satisfaction: It is important that employees learn as soon as possible what is expected of them and what to expect from others, in addition to learning about the values and attitudes of the organisation. While people can learn from experience, they will make many mistakes that are unnecessary and potentially damaging.



The best New Recruit Orientation (NRO) programmes have five elements in common:
1. They are engaging
2. They involve senior leaders
3. They create a shared vision
4. They are welcoming and enfolding
5. They are part of a talent value chain
Let us analyse each one of them briefly.


Engaging
Creating an engaging presentation utilizing various training techniques, beyond simple PowerPoint-driven lectures, allows an organisation to produce smoother transfers of corporate best practices which would yield impressive gains in productivity among new recruits. The most appealing and therefore most effective, NRO programmes involve creative, compelling group activities such as role plays and team games.

True learning requires action and plenty of planned activities, utilizing all aspects of the ‘learning pyramid’ – lecture, reading, audio-visual, demonstration, discussion groups and practice by doing.


Involving senior leaders
While the HR may design the NRO and be responsible for the majority of its delivery, the senior management has to take an active, supporting role for it to be successful in its goals of developing a productive, dedicated workforce. Companies are using the senior leadership in various ways during NRO programmes.

By involving the senior leadership in very visible roles, the NRO can be elevated from a simple orientation programme to its rightful place as the beginning of building a special rapport. It affirms the new employee’s decision and creates buy-in on both sides of the employment relationship.

A few simple things could be done. The senior executives may welcome new recruits at the beginning of the programme. The senior executives may present a portion of the programme, specifically as it relates to the company’s core business. The senior executives may take part in activities such as group lunches for new recruits.


Create a shared vision
Successfully recruiting top talent is not enough – once an employee joins a company, the NRO should ensure that those valuable individuals become engaged in the organisation’s on-going learning processes. Beyond communicating policies and procedures, the NRO should create a shared vision by acclimating new recruits into the company culture and values, as well as the overall framework.

By inculcating everyone in the culture and values that make the organisation ‘unique’, new employees are enabled to ‘live the values’ of their new company. It is important for new recruits to understand the company’s framework and place in the industry, so that “they can understand how important their roles are in meeting the company’s business objectives and profit goals.”


Welcoming and enfolding
Everyone can probably remember the feeling of walking into a new organisation and feeling lost. The best NRO should be designed to assist new employees in overcoming this emotion. This could be done by creating a welcoming, almost celebratory environment and by making people feel like productive members of the organisation immediately.

Celebrate through welcoming activities. I know of a company which sends every new employee a gift basket on their first day of work. They also provide detailed facility tours, including introductions to key people, as a way to enfold new recruits into the organisation and celebrate their arrival. Anticipate needs and arrange for productivity tools. If new employees feel productive on day one, they feel welcome on day one. To feel productive, new employees need to have access to the tools and company assets that they will need to perform their job, such as a computer and phone, email access, a desk, phone list and other necessities. Also helpful to have on day one, or at least week one, are business cards, a nameplate and other personalized items which enfold a new employee into the organisation.


Part of a talent value chain
Training is not a one-time programme; it is a process which begins with interviewing and continues through to the offer process, orientation and on-going knowledge transfer. The best NRO programmes are those that acknowledge that they are one step in this value chain of “attracting, developing, and retaining individuals with the skills, perspective and experience necessary to drive the business.” This is accomplished by beginning orientation prior to day one and continuing it with future follow-up. Begin orientation with the interview. New recruit orientation starts with the first interview. Ensure that interviewers are trained to carefully introduce key concepts about the company during the interview stage. Create formal follow-up systems. An additional technique many forward-thinking companies use is to provide structured follow-up to new recruits following NRO programmes. Such follow-up allows NRO to be integrated into a long-term talent development process rather than a one-time programme. Follow-up helps to integrate the new recruit rather than putting them in a ‘sink or swim’ situation, which often leads to either lower productivity or higher attrition, either of which affects the bottom line.


Perfect programme
None of the NRO programmes discussed above is ‘the perfect’ programme, but all are innovative and progressive in some of their practices. NRO programmes are constantly changing and evolving with the business changes or as feedback received. The key to an effective NRO is to focus on asserting the new employee’s decision to come on board, conveying a sense of the company’s culture and making the new recruit feel a productive part of a team as soon as possible. Over the next few years, it is predicted that the war for talent will begin again, once baby boomers start retiring en masse and a smaller generation replaces them in the workforce, creating a major talent shortage in Sri Lanka. When this challenge in recruiting recommences, it will be the companies that have been known as top talent developers that will be most successful in securing the most in-demand candidates.

(The writer is a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience. He can be contacted on lionwije@live.com)
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