Tune Up Your New-Hire Orientation Program
You’ve sifted through the foot-high stacks of résumés, guided jittery applicants through a series of nerve-wracking interviews, and spent days carefully considering all of your choices. It wasn’t easy, but you finally made a decision, selecting the candidate whose impressive background checked out and whose demeanor and temperament felt like the best fit. Now what?
If the next item on your to-do list is shoving your new hire into a dingy, disused conference room to watch eight hours of grainy training videotapes that were produced in the early 1980s, think again. The era of “bore-them-to-death” new-hire orientation has officially come to an end.
Think of New-Hire Orientation as the Beginning of a Partnership
Your orientation program is much more than new hires’ introduction to your organization and its policies and practices. It’s the beginning of a relationship – hopefully, one that will be long-lasting and mutually beneficial. Your orientation program is your one chance to set a positive tone for this relationship and to get things started on the right track.
If done right, you can use this opportunity to significantly increase the chances that your new hire will thrive in his or her new position. On the other hand, if your new-hire orientation program is stale, commonplace, lackluster, or just downright dull, you could be dooming your new hires to a career trajectory marred by poor performance and dissatisfaction – and that’s just among the ones who stick around longer than six months.
If you think that your new-hire orientation program could stand to be updated, don’t be overwhelmed by the prospect of a major redo. According to David Lee, management consultant and internationally recognized authority on employee performance and morale, just a few relatively minor tweaks can have a big impact. It’s more about how you present the information than the information itself. If you’re ready for a change, here are a few ideas to help you improve your new-hire orientation program.
Flatten the learning curve.
An effective new-hire orientation program should make it as easy as possible for your new employees to become productive, fully-functioning members of your team. Rather than burying your new hires in an avalanche of facts and policies that are bound to be overwhelming, focus first on the information they really need to succeed – and take care to present it in a way that is most conducive to enhancing their on-the-job productivity.
Use a staggered training schedule.
There’s no need for your new busboys and hostesses to have to sit through a line-by-line reading of the entire HR handbook when what they really want to know are things like how tips are divided or how many times a week they’ll have to close. Prioritize the information you present in your standard new-hire training program, breaking it down into manageable chunks. The first sessions should focus on the facts they’ll need to know to perform well in their first day on the job. Make sure you comply with all applicable regulations in your region and industry.
Make it emotionally resonant.
Facts are only part of what’s important in effective new-hire orientation programs. Employees are curious about your company’s organizational culture, as well as other intangible variables that can be difficult to convey with dry recitations of HR policy. Think of the first session as a kind of rite of passage, inducting your new hires into an exclusive club. Information is important, but employees’ emotional engagement with the process is equally significant.
Don’t be afraid to play with format a bit.
One surefire way to increase your new hires’ engagement in the orientation program is to switch between several different mediums and modes of presentation. Use an array of different speakers, and call on all of the technological advantages you have access to in order to keep things interesting. Inviting current employees to speak and to respond to new hires’ questions is another great way to initiate your new staff members.
Focus on the future from the very first day.
Make it clear from the start that your company is interested in cultivating and supporting the career ambitions of your new hires. If possible, incorporate a professional development map or long-term goal worksheet into the orientation process. That way, you’ll hammer home your organization’s commitment to professional development from the start. Your new hires will start to see this job as a path to career success, rather than dismissing it as a temporary pit-stop along the way.