The new employee’s first day on the job provides an employer a wonderful opportunity.
Employers have only one opportunity to make a good first impression. Things said and done (good and bad) the first two hours on the job are often remembered a long time.
Nearly all employees want to get off to a good start. Few take a new job with the expectation or desire to fail. Helping the new person get started is more important than how much work he or she does the first few hours.
Most employers anticipate some obvious questions. “Where should I park?” “What time do you want me here tomorrow?” “What do you want me to do?” Orientation goes beyond these obvious questions. Here is the opportunity to convince each new person that he or she is important to you and the business.
A reminder. All new employees get oriented. The question is not whether there will be orientation but who will do it and what will it include. Co-workers kidding a new person and explaining the way “things really are around here” may not be the orientation the employer wants. A new person being left to sink or swim often causes unnecessary frustration and worry.
What to include? Orientation is the introduction of a new employee to the industry, the business, the requirements of the job, the social situation in which he or she will be working and the business’ culture.
The business’ culture includes its values (shared beliefs), history, tradition, and dos and don’ts. A well-oriented new employee understands the key points about a business and its people and why things are done the way they are.
Orientation provides opportunity to emphasize keys to the success of the business. Customer service, safety, the importance of doing things “right” and courtesy to co-workers are examples of keys for emphasis.
Orientation should create an initial favorable impression. Key ingredients of the good first impression include sufficient information about when and where to report for work, paperwork handled efficiently and friendly people to guide new employees through the first few hours and days.
Orientation actually starts with the advertisement of the position, the interview, and the job description given the new employee. Being businesslike in the hiring process is important. A written job description and written offer with the conditions of employment help set a positive tone.
Orientation should encourage acceptance by other employees. Introductions, informal interaction, a tour of the facilities with short stops to hear people talk about their jobs and history of employment in the business, and opportunity for the new employee to ask questions all can help gain acceptance.
Planning orientation. After a person is hired and before the first day of work, the employer needs to decide:
1. Who will be in charge of orienting the new person? 2. What will be the content of the orientation? 3. How will the orientation mesh with job training?
Charge one person with planning and conducting the orientation. Other people, including co-workers, can be involved even though responsibility rests with one person. Orientation should lead smoothly to the start of job training.
The person responsible for orientation should receive training and guidance from the top managers of the business. Dumping orientation on an already overworked person with instructions to “show our new person around” rarely leads to accomplishment of orientation goals.
Orientation tips. 1. Have a detailed orientation plan, stick to the planned content, and start and end on time.
2. Put the new employee at ease before jumping into the heavy parts of the orientation.
3. Include the owner of the business, if possible, to help impress on new employees that they are important.
4. Encourage questions throughout the orientation.
5. Keep first-day paperwork to a minimum. Postpone as much of the paperwork as possible until late in the first week of employment. A bored “paperwork sergeant” shoving pages and pages of forms at a new employee hardly creates a positive first impression of your business. Too many new employees are asked the first morning on the job to sign numerous forms they don’t understand and papers they have not read.
6. Provide a glossary of key terms. Include the everyday words that have special meaning in your business.
7. Save a few minutes at the end of the first day to encourage the new employee, ask for questions and again emphasize his or her importance to the business. Send the new person home with a good feeling about the first day. Again, keep in mind that how much work the person got done the first day is less important than the foundation that was built for many productive days to follow.
8. Save at least 15 minutes at the end of the first week for the last phase of the orientation program. Encourage questions. Review progress made during the first week. Outline what will happen during the next few weeks. Send the person home feeling good about being part of your business.
Concluding note. Your reaction to these suggestions may be, “It would be nice but … I don’t have time for this stuff because we got work to do,” or “Only big businesses need to worry about these things,” or “I hire people to work not learn the history of my business.”
You will do better with happy, positive and enthusiastic people than with people who are just there to do a job and go home.
Well-planned and conducted orientation helps people get off to a good start. It increases their chances of being happy with their jobs and positive about you and your business. That opportunity to make a good first impression never can be repeated.
(Send comments or questions in care of “Farm and Dairy,” P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)