Conducting a well-planned orientation program for new staff pays many dividends for both you and your new hires. Yet it is surprising how often orientation is conducted in an unsystematic fashion.
Orientation programs can run anywhere from an hour or two to several days in length. There are typically two components to an orientation program: a general introduction into the company, its culture, values, vision and policies; and a departmental or job-specific orientation when the employee actually starts work.
Explain the company's mission, values and policies
The general orientation should be designed to ensure that new employees understand your company's mission, values, vision, policies and procedures. If your company is adamant about providing exceptional customer service or is passionate about teamwork, then the orientation program can ensure that this message is provided in a consistent way to all new hires.
Plan your program
The employee's initial questions are often fundamental and cover items such as hours of work, pay days, grooming and dress code, vacation time, sick leave, breaks, training or performance questions. Familiarize your new employee with the policies and procedures of your organization. An employee handbook can be a helpful handout, allowing staff the opportunity to study the expectations and rules of their new workplace and take it home as a resource document. Your policies around absenteeism, harassment, theft, and training can also be explained to ensure that there are no misunderstandings when the employee starts to work.
Welcome your new employees
Nothing beats a good first impression, so start with a warm welcome. Introduce the new employee to all key staff, especially everyone with whom the new hire will be working over the course of a shift. It's important for the new employee to understand the "big picture," how each position relates to the others on the team, and how the team relates to other departments or areas of the operation.
If possible, the owner or CEO should also meet with the employee. This gives the leader an opportunity to impart company values and ideals, and lets the employee knows that the owner is a hands-on part of the business.
Share your company's history
Let your company shine. Brag about how the company started, and how it's growing. Talk about your culture of teamwork, and why you enjoy your own job. Showing pride in your company helps employees know they are part of something bigger. It also instills pride, making their adjustment more seamless.
Provide them with the basics
Never underestimate the simplest things. Point out the location of the washroom and lunchroom. A quick tour of the facilities, including where the new employee can store personal belongings and take breaks, is appreciated. Mention security and safety issues, such as how to lock up or call for help. Review your policy on Internet and telephone usage on company time. This attention to detail speaks to the care you have for new employees. Outline behaviour expectations and practices in your workplace including acceptable treatment of tools, property, other employees and customers as well as workplace safety and emergency procedures. It is often helpful to assign your new hire a "buddy" who can answer simple procedural questions later.
Complete all paperwork
Companies can also use the orientation program as the time to have new hires sign up for company's benefit programs and payroll. Employees want to know when, how and what they get paid. Review their salary, benefits, paydays, and, if appropriate, the probationary period and performance-appraisal time. Make sure appropriate income tax and benefit forms are signed.
Some companies also provide basic training (such as WHIMIS and safety procedures) at this time. If a union represents the new employee, there is often a component of the program that has the union representative talk explain the requirements and benefits of union membership.
Set job and employee expectations
Review the job description, pointing out what's expected in regards to hours, staff meetings, workload, training and job appraisal. Pay particular attention to sharing your customer service philosophy. Laying out this foundation provides a clear guideline of performance, and it sets the foundation for the employee's time with your company.
Begin the training program
On the first day, provide preliminary training, whether it's how to run the cash register or how to handle phone calls. The first day of work is truly the first day of training. Explain that you'll offer ongoing training in the days ahead—whether it's mentoring one-on-one or attending a training session.
An effective orientation program sets the tone for new employees. It allows you to motivate them to be successful, and it encourages them to do their best. That makes new employee orientation a sound investment for all concerned.
Because an employee's orientation can be broken into multiple phases, you might want to cover off these fundamentals as soon as possible. Create a simple first-day checklist to keep from overlooking important steps.
You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, and for employers, the orientation of new hires is that opportunity. A positive working relationship with your employees leads to lower staff turnover, higher productivity and higher employee morale. Take the time to do it right and reap the rewards of another satisfied new hire. Ultimately, this will help improve your bottom line.