This aspect of an organisation’s processes is close to my heart as a well-executed new hire orientation helps build a special bond between the two sides.
My own first experience of an orientation program goes back some 25 years. The organisation was big and used to seeing people rolling in and out. Its program conducted weekly was fairly structured for the time in informing its new entrants of the genesis and mandate of the business. It lasted some 4-5 hours, included a film, a generic board presentation, printed handouts, tea and then a walk through the huge facility. It also included a disparate group of newcomers who didn’t relate to each other. Rather than being oriented on the place, I remember a numb feeling after such an impersonal and one-sided show.
Later, I worked in 3 other places but felt more connected with each of them after just a chat with the HR Head, a walk around the facility in the company of an HR representative, and a hello to each staff member aided, again, by an HR representative or the Head. In those 30-40 people setups, this manner of first interaction felt warm enough. The rest happened on-the-job and with the help of buddies close at hand. More recently though, an NGO showed such an informal work culture that it had me worried. While ‘I’ had the privilege of an escorted walk around the 2-floor facility and an assigned work desk, I saw that many young researchers ended up waiting a couple of days for a workstation or email id. It was so irritatingly disconcerting for these folks that I felt forced to take on the job of orienting every new member and ensuring coordination among stakeholders for some basic services for them. Administration’s simple excuse was that there was too much turnover and some really short stints to warrant the frenzy an orientation program amounted to. Resultantly, only the hardy ones stayed in this work culture long enough to allow the organisation the benefit of talent it hired.
So, what am I really suggesting? Just the following pointers for a painless induction:
i) Make a connection and make it warm
Arrange a chat with the HR Head and the CEO the first day. Show the physical facility, help make a cup of coffee, have the person introduced to at least all those s/he may have to interact with. The first few days a newcomer is vulnerable and warms up to all gestures of pleasantness. Be gracious, show happiness at inducting the person and sound proud of the surroundings and work culture you’re introducing. Most of all, have a message circulated through suitable means on the newcomer’s bio and some interests so colleagues have something relevant to say in their greetings.
ii) Provide space and identity, and please make that quick
Ensure that the newcomer has work space assigned as also an email account with a workstation on the first day itself. A security card, name tag, table placard or other forms of identity documents must be kept ready for the first day and handed over ceremoniously so the new hire starts getting a feeling of belonging by the end of the day.
iii) Arrange a staggered orientation on work culture
Staggered…because a newcomer feels rather jet lagged in the first couple of days of flying through a swarm of new faces and policies. I’d say make the first day full of smiles and welcome chats. Give the company branded t-shirt/bag/pen/coffee mug etc. to take home, and an assigned buddy to ask questions on this very day. Any kind of a workshop or training is best lined up after a couple of days of cooling off while outstation travel to visit clients or field offices would be handled most productively by the newcomer after some weeks of absorbing the work culture and role.
iv) Equip with information
Make the policy manual and all forms available on the intranet to minimize the need for grovelling by the new hire. Do ensure that the first day isn’t spent merely filling onerous forms but the individual surely feels assured that any benefit or policy information s/he seeks is there for a read.
v) Keep room for debriefing
A debriefing exercise a month later on what gestures were appreciated, information found useful and what required hunting would be immensely useful in enhancing the efficacy of the orientation program. This can be done with the combination of a feedback form and verbal chat or just a form. Do take lessons from this feedback for future hires.
Beyond this, if you’re looking for more viewpoints on onboarding, breeze through this very readable 35-pager, particularly the linked posts from pages 20-21 and a training plan on page 33 http://upstarthr.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Onboarding-NHO-eBook.pdf. Plus, I’d be interested to know how your own induction into new workplaces went for you.