In The Workplace

I’m the human resource department head of a medium-sized corporation. I read some time ago that you’re promoting the start of the orientation process for new workers during the job interview itself so applicants are alerted to what’s in store for them. You said that it minimizes early resignations of people who may not like their new boss or anything about the company. I agree with you 100%. Outside of that, could you help us understand how to conduct a successful orientation program for new hires? — Not Satisfied.
Well, not exactly the whole new-employee orientation process. The “orientation process” I was talking about is to test the firm resolve of job applicants about your company’s culture, management style, and other terms of employment. They’re very important in ensuring that there are no surprises that could force new employees to promptly abandon their posts, resulting in HR being blamed for making a poor hiring selection.
Imagine hiding the fact that the applicant’s prospective boss is a much-hated manager. Or the punishing work schedule that may not match up with expectations of the new employees. Or plans to move the office to a far-flung location. Or a double-digit turnover rate reflective of low employee satisfaction.
Of course, you have to address these questions in a positive manner in order not to adversely affect the image of your organization, in general. Therefore, you should be prepared the moment you open the window of opportunity for applicants to ask important questions, which you can’t refuse to answer anyway. You can only hope to delay it.
If you think it’s time-consuming to do this with all job applicants, relax. Think again. The new employee orientation program should only be limited to tasks on a shortlist, especially if they’re applying for key managerial posts where you can’t afford to make mistakes.
Let’s proceed now to the meat of your question: How can an HR department ensure the successful conduct of a new employee orientation program? There are certain critical elements that you should consider:
One, ensure that the new employee’s work area is prepared. This includes having the desk, computer, telephone, office supplies, related gadgets, and facilities are readily accessible. While this may not literally fall under the strict purview of an “orientation” program, it’s much better than having to say: “Let’s see where we can fit you in.” Obviously, this sends the wrong message. It starts the work relationship on the wrong foot.
Two, cover all bases as specified under the company handbook. The trouble is that many employee handbooks are outdated. Even some online versions need to be overhauled. That’s why the HR department must have a standard checklist and pertinent template forms that can be used to explain the working environment, employee benefits, office facilities, and other concerns. Just the same, don’t overwhelm the new employees with too much information that may not be absorbed in one sweep.
Three, be open to answering all questions from the new workers. If you’re not ready to give an accurate answer, promise to give the answer at an appropriate time. Don’t ignore the questions. It could be misinterpreted as hiding something. If not, direct the person to the right party who can better explain the issues. You can also tell the worker that the information he’s seeking is confidential and sensitive information. The difficult questions that you must face squarely include “What happened to the former occupant of this job?” That’s assuming that he failed to raise that question during the job interview process.
Four, provide a general familiarization tour of the office facilities. The HR department should be able to facilitate the tour that includes the cafeteria, medical clinic, toilets, shop floor, and back office. Introduce the new worker to key officials who may show up in the hallway or elevator. Take extra care in doing this. Sometimes, bosses will want to perform this task, and if this happens, be glad to yield.
Five, endorse the new employee to his boss and assigned department. Take great care in doing this, while observing the protocol. For one, explaining the job description and other performance standards must be handled by the department concerned. It’s not the job of the HR department to do this. Sit down and talk with the department head about how he would like to perform the endorsement. Then, take it from there. This is very important in order to avoid giving information that may contradict the position of the department concerned.
Six, organize a “welcome lunch” for the new employee. Make him feel very important. It doesn’t have to be an expensive meal. Sometimes it’s better for you to host the lunch meeting at the company’s cafeteria. Let the department head or his representative handle everything. This is important to start on a positive note. Of course, much also depends on the personality and position of the new employee. Whatever it takes, make sure that the new worker feels positive about it.
If you’re in HR, maintain a safe distance with the new employees unless they insist on more guidance. Encourage them to communicate actively with their department heads. Just the same, keep your ears to the ground. Anticipate possible issues that may come up. Offer some help, if necessary, should you meet in the hallway or cafeteria. If there are issues, be the first to report any findings to the department head.
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