It’s easy for a newbie to get lost and become unsure of themselves and their role if expectations aren’t made clear and communicated up front.
Beginning on day one new hires need to be ushered through your organization’s procedures, culture, the tasks and realities of their job and general expectations of what success looks like for that employee.
Ideally, this should begin with an orientation, formal or otherwise. In reality it often begins the minute the new hire walks in the door on his first day. What should happen?
Be Prepared. The employee’s immediate supervisor should be on hand to greet him and get him started on the basics. If, as the supervisor or manager you cannot be there (really, this shouldn’t ever be the case), assign someone else who has the knowledge and ability to do so. Make sure things like computer log-ins, phone extensions, email, etc. (if appropriate) are already set up and ready to go.
Walk the new hire around and introduce him to people he’ll be interacting with, as well as simple things like where the restrooms are, the lunch area, etc. First days are stressful enough without being left floundering for something as simple as finding the restroom or where to store or eat your lunch.
Solid Orientations are a must. Never just throw a new hire into the fray to sink or swim on her own without orienting her to her job, company expectations, culture, etc. True, first days may feel like being thrown in without preparation, but make sure you’re giving new hires as much information as possible before they actually begin working on tasks and assignments.
You should be covering basic expectations about both general work behavior and professional behavior such as:
- What are the employee’s hours? Are there break times?
- What are procedures to use for calling in when sick or running late? What’s acceptable under the policies for missed days or tardiness?
- What are appropriate and allowable uses of technology and social media?
- Is it acceptable to make or take personal calls in the workplace?
- What’s acceptable concerning relationships with co-workers, supervisors, clients outside of work?
- Can colleagues date? If so, must they be in different departments? Have lateral positions? Report it to HR?
Performance expectations are essential to communicate from the beginning.
- A thorough review of the job description and tasks required is in order during orientation.
- What are key indicators of both expected and outstanding performance in this position?
- What skills and behaviors do you want to see displayed?
- What constitutes appropriate work attire?
- Are there key benchmarks or deadlines that must be met in the first 90 days or 6 months?
- How are promotions and raises decided?
- What are the expected practices for handling the "typical" problems that someone in this role will face?
- How should an employee navigate a problem? At what point should a supervisor be brought in?
- What are company practices for handling internal conflict or conflict with an outside entity?
- What’s an appropriate workplace attitude?
- What values do successful employees display in their work? How do those values translate to behavior on the job?
- What values does the organization deem important?
- How can new hires best incorporate themselves within company culture?
This is where a good mentoring program can be helpful, as well. Be careful, though, that the people you assign as mentors possess and display the skills, values and attitude your organization deems important. Remember, someone will be training your new employees and introducing them to your culture. Make sure those people share your vision.
On the job training. Most of us are pretty familiar with the concept of on the job training. These programs are usually more formal in nature and often have a set start and end, after which the new employee should be reasonably well trained to perform his or her job. However, tossing a new employee into the work environment, expecting her work group or team will show her the ropes, or that new hires will learn by watching their team, is no better, and often worse than giving them no direction whatsoever. There can be no doubt that this practice will result in failure, sooner or later, for that employee.
Whether you call it orientation, or on-boarding, this process is vital to the success of all employees and to your organization. You can break it down into these basic areas:
Administrative: includes the practical details like getting the employee into the payroll system, benefit plans, computer systems, etc.
Technical: includes focusing on making sure the employee has the training and knowledge to perform the job.
Social/Cultural: includes getting the employee integrated into your culture; allowing them to get to know the people they will work with and for.
Getting your new hires off to a good start is crucial for retention, especially (although not exclusively) for hourly workers. Statistics for turnover during the early period of employment show it’s not unusual for 50 percent of a company’s hourly employees to leave within 120 days of their hire date. A thorough orientation or onboarding process has been found to have a strong effect on the adjustment and outcomes for new hires who have limited prior work experience, which is often the case with people being hired into entry-level hourly positions.
Done correctly, a successful program will increase your new employees’ understanding of their specific roles and responsibilities, and help them to become active and productive employees in your organization and within its culture.