You have only one opportunity to make a good first impression on new employees. The first day that a new person is on the job provides you many “teachable moments.” Nearly all employees want to get off to a good start. The good start depends more on orientation than on how much work gets done the first few hours on the job.
Help every new person get off to a good start. Orientation is as important for the part-time high school worker as for the new full-time employee. Even a relative or nearby neighbor you have known for years will benefit from careful orientation.
Most every employer anticipates 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 answering the obvious questions. Here is the opportunity to convince each new person that he or she is important to you and to the business.
What is orientation?
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, history, traditions and norms of behavior expressed as dos and don’ts.
A new employee needs to understand the key points about a business and its people and why things are done in particular ways.
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 orientation.
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 employees to ask questions – all can help people gain acceptance and feel good about their new job.
After a person is hired and before the first day of work, you need to decide who will be in charge of orienting the new person and what will be included in the orientation.
Charge one person with planning and conducting the orientation. Other people, including employees, 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 help from the top managers at the business. Dumping orientation on an already overworked person with instructions to “show our new person around” can frustrate the person “dumped on” and the new employee.
The orientation’s content depends on the size and complexity of your business. You will probably want to include an overview of your business. Include policies and rules about such things as attendance, breaks, scheduling work and courtesy to other employees.
If you have customers, emphasize the importance of customer service.
Compensation and benefits should be explained. Remember that new employees cannot possibly remember the details of all that is covered the first day. New employees will appreciate a written summary of when and how they will be paid and their benefits.
Don’t forget to introduce the new employee to their coworkers and to people who often visit the business such as neighbors, service people, and close relatives. Include a summary of job duties, safety first principles and how the job duties relate to the work others are doing in the business.
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 to help impress on new employees that they are important to the business.
4. Encourage questions.
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.
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.
Your reaction to these suggestions may be, “It would be nice but … I don’t have time for all 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.