Imagine this: It’s your first day at a company that you’ve heard wonderful things about. You arrive 15 minutes early, tell the receptionist that you’re here to see Ms. X, your new boss, and then you wait – for 2 hours! When someone does finally fetch you from the lobby (literally 30 seconds before you were planning to walk out), they take you to HR, shove you in there for a bit of paperwork, then you wait again until they come get you to take you to your department.
When you arrive, Ms. X looks at you like she’s already angry and shows you to your cubicle, which is covered above in scotch tape and below in popcorn kernels from the previous occupant. You’re assigned a “mentor” who hands you a 6” stack of data from a computer system you’ve never used before and tells you to study it. You ask to go to the restroom and they point in the general direction, then you can’t get back in the door to your department because no one gave you an access badge. At the end of the day Ms. X apologizes for “assuming you were late” because she just now got around to checking all those voicemails the receptionist left her during the 2 hours you were in the lobby. This job is off to a great start, right?
That job didn’t last long and I couldn’t be happier about that. I should have known it was a bad fit from the terrible first week and total lack of orientation. I still talk about this company and use it as the gold standard for what not to do. A bad job orientation experience can stay with an employee long after they’ve left your company and seriously damage its employer brand. It’s cliché for a reason – you really DON’T get a second chance to make a first impression and if the impression you make to new employees is extremely different from the impression you gave them as a candidate, they will run.
Now that I’ve outlined the gold standard of what NOT to do, here are some tips to get it right:
Job Orientation Tips
1. Pre-orientation for you — Know your info and have a plan. Know who is coming in and make an orientation plan. Is this person an engineer or a janitor? Once you get done going over policies and paperwork, who will give them the facility tour – you, or their supervisor? Who will they be shadowing during their first days? Have this all set up beforehand, otherwise you risk looking unprepared and making your new hire feel like an afterthought.
2. Pre-orientation for the new hire — Remind people of the time and what information to bring: IDs, voided check, emergency contacts, etc. Be clear on how long it will take and what they should wear. Tell them whether they’ll immediately go to work after or not. Try and schedule 2 or 3 people together if they will have relatively the same job or be in the same department. Everyone likes an instant “work buddy.”
3. Make the environment as comfy as possible. People are still nervous during orientation. They’re terrified they’ll say the wrong thing and their offer will be rescinded immediately. Put them at ease. Schedule when you’ll have plenty of time to talk to them and answer their questions. Adjust the thermostat so everyone is comfortable. Provide a drink of some sort. If orientation is an all-day affair, provide snacks and take breaks. Don’t let anything get too stuffy. If you’ve been doing the orientation all day and you need a break to check email, etc…get Larry in accounting to give them an office tour. The new hires will enjoy another perspective and Larry can point out the really important stuff – the coffee area, the vending machines, the bathrooms and Linda in Risk Management who always has chocolate in her bottom drawer for those having a bad day.
4. Present the info and be honest. Set everyone up for success. If your handbook says everyone gets an hour lunch but you know the real culture is to take 45 minutes, tell them that. Don’t make them look bad. If you say you’re open from 8-5 but you know that people in this position wind up staying late more often than not, be up front about it. Ideally you did this in the interview, but if not, now is the time. People will appreciate the truth.
5. Unless you are just desperately shorthanded, don’t make someone go right to work immediately after orientation. Let them absorb all the info you just threw at them. They will have more questions later. If your orientation takes 2 hours, great. Schedule that and then let them start the next day. If it’s an all-day thing, do it on a Friday and let them take the weekend to reread policies, reaffirm their enthusiasm and reenergize for a great first day.
Do all these things and your job orientations should go smoothly and make your new hires feel welcome and ready to work. Starting off with a positive impression is the best thing you can do to make your new employees feel loyal to your company and proud to work there. And for the love of Pete, please clean up your popcorn!
Dominique Rodgers has worked in HR related positions for the past 10 years. She is currently the Office Manager at Reputation Capital Media and a student at LSU. If you are interested in HR, recruiting, employee benefits, Doctor Who, or the collective works of Joss Whedon, please connect with her on Twitter @HRGalFriday!
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