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Prima facie

Making sure employees’ first experiences are good ones

By Ryan Skubis

If your company is like most, your new-employee orientation consists of a tour of the office and a few sessions on company policies and procedures. Even then, you may be ahead of the game. In a recent Accountemps survey, 34% of HR managers interviewed said their companies don’t even have a formal new-employee orientation program.

But, as the saying goes, you never have a second chance to make a first impression, and investing just a bit more time and resources on orientation and onboarding can pay off in a big way.

Orientation opportunity

New-employee orientation provides an ideal opportunity to give workers the tools they need to perform their jobs well — and to instill in them your company’s values and goals.

In fact, a strong new-employee orientation can spell the difference between a smooth transition into a new position or a rocky start on the job. In the same Accountemps survey, 35% of HR managers who indicated their companies did have orientation programs said the greatest benefit was employees’ stronger understanding of company values, guidelines and expectations.

Another 20% felt a formal orientation helps employees make positive contributions more quickly, and 19% noted that employees who go through orientation feel a more rapid connection to the company.

Tips for a good start

Any one of these benefits alone would provide a good argument for building a robust employee orientation program. Want to make yours more effective? Start with these tips:

Provide a warm welcome. Start making it a positive experience from the very beginning. Alert security that a new employee will be arriving, and make sure someone from your team (ideally, you) meets him at the front door and escorts him to his desk.

Ensure that his work area is set up and that he has the tools he needs to get started, including access to the company intranet and databases, if necessary. If you aren’t able to meet him at the door, stop by as soon as possible to tell him how happy you are that he’s joined the team and to let him know what he’ll be doing for the next few days. Make sure he feels valued and motivated from the very start.

Review the lay of the land. Introduce the newcomer personally to all of her coworkers and key contacts from other departments, and explain any policies and procedures specific to the department. If you have one, ask an HR representative to go over compensation, benefits, and company policies with her.

A tour of the facilities, including rest rooms and break areas, as well as how to set up voicemail, are also important: She’ll feel more at ease and ready to jump right in to the job if she’s not worrying about the little things.

Go over the basics of the job. Sit down with your new employee on his first day and make sure he understands his main job duties and how his work will contribute to departmental and company priorities. This is the time to elaborate on elements you reviewed during the recruitment process.

Go over the job description point by point, and highlight performance goals. Paint a detailed picture of what he can expect in the first few months on the job.

Provide an overview of the company. A savvy job candidate approaches an interview armed with knowledge of the company. Now fill in the gaps by explaining more about company operations, including all products and services.

Provide a short history of the organization, and discuss how it fits into its industry. And talk a bit about the office culture. All of these things will give the new employee a sense of how she can best fit in and begin contributing immediately.

Keep it lively. When orientation consists of dull slide presentations and piles of paperwork, no one wins — the employee is bored and doesn’t learn the things she needs to know, and the employer wastes the opportunity to inform the worker about what’s important.

Try different techniques — videos, games, group discussions, guest speakers — to keep things interesting and useful. That way, the employee is more likely to stay engaged and absorb pertinent information. If you are holding an orientation for multiple employees, consider bringing someone in from senior management to speak about the company’s mission and values; it will lend more credibility and importance to the entire process.

Space it out. Avoid overwhelming new workers with too much information at once. Instead, consider using a broader onboarding approach by spreading orientation over a few weeks, or even months. Hold some informal discussions on the first few days, and then follow up with a more formal program.

Continue to check in frequently with your new employee, perhaps once a week, to see how things are going, answer any questions, and provide feedback on her work.

Provide a point person for the future. If you have more tenured staff who are willing to help out, consider assigning new employees mentors who can provide more detailed guidance and advice as the weeks go by. Not only will this give new workers an additional go-to person for questions and concerns, but it also might give them a friend and confidant who can help them feel like a real part of the team as they settle into their new jobs.

It’s normal for new employees to be a bit uneasy in the early days on the job. But you can help ease their anxieties with a well-thought-out orientation process. What’s more, you’ll benefit from it, too, as these workers are better able to hit the ground running.

Ryan Skubis is the district president for Accountemps in Jacksonville. Accountemps is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 350 offices worldwide and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com.

 


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