A poorly planned and managed new employee orientation period is the unforced error of the business world. A botched orientation is the endorsement-rich basketball star who can’t make a foul shot to save his life, or the NFL team that can’t seem to score when they’re in the red zone . . . by every measure it is a wasted opportunity.
A botched orientation is almost always a top-down problem, regardless of who might have the everyday responsibility of training the new hire. It is a mystery when you consider what is already known about the true value of good employees and just how difficult and costly it can be to attract them to your business. A new recruit should receive a show-stopper of a welcome and an Ivy League education when it comes to learning all about a company’s history, mission and values.
There is an escalating war for great talent in our country — your level of success depends upon your battle-readiness. It’s been proven that the companies that “do people best” are the ones that truly thrive. Supporting that, the past 18 months has seen us dissecting, in these very pages, some of the most critical elements of the employer/employee relationship; the transition of the new supervisor, the mentoring process, uncovering staff creativity and fostering an engaged workforce among others. These dynamic issues are all made moot if we can’t routinely turn a nervous new hire into a satisfied old hand. To find long-term, productive employees, a company must demonstrate — especially from day one — that it is worthy of such personal commitment.
WHAT IS ORIENTATION? (NOT!)
Let’s be clear on what orientation is not. Orientation is not immediately sticking the new hire in the break room until someone comes to fetch them “when they have a minute.” Orientation is not having someone else deliver to the new hire a bulky carton of literature, tech bulletins, material safety data sheets and a note from you that reads “Been a crazy morning . . . get through as much of this as you can . . . I’ll try to break away for some lunch.” Why is this bad?
The mismanaged orientation session has exposed some unexpected and potentially unwelcome facts including the following:
• Your initial despcription of the positive environment your company offers its workers may now seem forced and untrue.
• If they can’t get your attention on their first day of work, how will they get your attention on an important matter later on down the line?
• The first few days in any new venture are always uncomfortable. Today’s abandonment might implant a thought that you don’t care much about your employee’s thoughts.
WHAT SHOULD ORIENTATION REALLY LOOK LIKE?
Your orientation process should look like a water glass in the city’s finest five-star restaurant; it should always look full and well tended to as a result of the entire staff keying in on that one representative and memorable detail.
Orientation is more an opportunity to cultivate than a responsibility to dread. The indoctrination phase is a bridge between your description of working for the organization — related during the interview — and the reality of it. A disconnect at this point embeds an undesirable mistrust. However, reinforcement of your spoken recruitment promises can create a strong early bond, building trust equity. It’s an important promise kept, and can carry you through a future time when a promise you have made can’t be kept for reasons beyond your control.