General Orientation….Set The Tone For Success

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August 14, 2008

General orientation. Do those words make you shudder? Most workers go through so much of this stuff that it is simply agonizing just to hear the words “general orientation.” Some companies spend more than one day conducting orientation classes. Other companies spend little or no time at all in this area. It can be painful, or it can be one of the best days one can have at work. But why do we as employers even spend the time with orienting employees to our workforce? Why can’t new hires “just get it?” Is this culture, philosophy, mission, vision and other colorful statements that adorn our hallways really all true?

Truth to company philosophies, mission, vision, whatever we might call what makes our organizations culture come alive each day are important values that we hold.  Even if your company mission is an 8 x 11 framed statement that hangs on a wall, collecting dust, I’ll bet that even a small part of it holds dear to the hearts of employees. In some  manner, in some tiny form, it’s alive in your culture. Other organizations may have just the opposite delivery of culture and values. It may be very clear, engaged in the subconscious of employees through frequent reminders, memos and emails. It’s even on our badges that some us wear each day. So what is it exactly that your organization wants to communicate to your recent newly hired team? That question and response I leave to you.

However, once you find that answer, the manner in which you communicate those concepts to your new orientation class will set the foundation of whether or not your retention numbers remain above your industry norm. Consider the new hire orientation. On average, it’s at least six to eight hours of what most managers refer to as “hell.” Donuts, coffee, perhaps some fruit and water for breakfast are often regular menu items.  Pizza, heavy carbs, sodas, or worst of all, no lunch provided, set yet another scene of welcome. Oh, and don’t forget the cookies at 3:00.

But what if there was a manner in which an organization could really roll out the red carpet with each orientation class? Can the HR department reconfigure its budget to put on a good show at general orientation? What would that look like? I feel that it is so important for us to remember that general orientation will alert newly recruited employees as to what they can expect for the rest of their time at our organizations.  Let’s put it this way ... you’ve probably heard of our impending “recruitment crisis.” How about that tremendous number of employee shortages there will be in the next 10 years? Sound familiar? I think it’s certainly possible to change and diminish those predictors by putting several very simple tools into place, and one of those is a well thought out, extremely welcoming, over-the-top orientation program.

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Form a committee of employees that hold your company values true. Drive them to offer ideas, examples and concepts that will mold and form an orientation program that is beyond compare. Avoid the concept of cost. If you weigh the financial piece versus the cost of replacing just one “hard to fill,” it’s my bet that the cost of the orientation will be less. Be open to ideas, open to concepts, and most importantly, be open to change. Your general orientation is the first opportunity to satisfy the needs and wonder of new employees. Pull out all the stops; create the fanfare, schedule good speakers, excellent food, entertainment and clear concepts of company values, mission and goals.

I once worked for a CEO that told my HR department that due to budget issues, we could no longer offer breakfast items to the new hire orientation groups that met once a month. In the same breath, that same CEO talked about company values that embraced the employee and put them first. Don’t get caught up and worried about orientation costs. I can assure you that in the long run you will be saving many more dollars in avoiding turnover, posting jobs, recruiting, etc. Set the scene during that orientation program. Go above and beyond; get creative with ideas of welcoming new members to your team! Don’t let the lights dim on your production.

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