Ideas for a Successful Employee Orientation
Imagine for a moment that it's your first day at a new firm. You arrive in the office at 9:00 a.m. and call your new supervisor from the reception area - and no one answers. You sit down in the lobby. And wait. And wait. People are trickling in, but you don't recognize any of them. 9:15 leads to 9:30. Finally, your new boss shows up, greets you, and tells you they're not sure where you'll be sitting, but they've arranged to have a desk set up in the hallway for you until they find out. Then you spend a long, tedious day reading a mountain of human resources documents and job files.
Interesting. They couldn't wait for you to start, but now that you're there it's as though they weren't even expecting you.
Few things in life are as exciting - or as harrowing - as starting a new job. As a hiring authority or human resources representative, it's important that you make the new kid on the block feel welcome and valued. Remember, first impressions last a long time and this is your opportunity to make it a good one. ~
How important is your firm's first impression? Many HR managers agree that a favorable experience in the initial few days on the job is critical to an employee's continuing success and motivation. A new employee orientation, whether a large-scale presentation or one-on-one meeting, can help to create a positive perception of the firm. In fact, studies have shown that a well-planned orientation can effectively contribute to:
- Length of employment
- Fewer mistakes
- Improved client relations
- Better work attitude
- More effective communication among the partners, managers, and new employees
It's not enough for the "loud" partner to be a bit more reserved, the "reserved" partner a bit more garrulous, for the new hire's acclimation. The orientation must provide concrete information as well as create a comfortable - but not false - environment. So, how can your firm develop a rewarding orientation program? Here are some ideas that will help:
- Ask a new hire's supervisor or co-worker, even a partner, to call the new hire a few days before his or her start date. They should tell the new hire that the firm is looking forward to having him aboard, what he'll be doing the first few days, and ask if they can answer any questions. A simple phone call will reduce first day anxieties by presenting a friendly, helpful face to the company.
- Send a welcome note, if appropriate, to the new hire's family, offering to answer any of their questions.
- Let new hires know what time they are expected to arrive on their first day. They'll feel more comfortable having an initial "goal" and knowing that someone will be expecting them.
- You or a manager should fill new hires in on the "unwritten rules":
- Ethics - Despite its importance, moral code is frequently unspoken. Don't be shy about filling them in on the acceptable vs. the unacceptable.
- Dress code - They won't want to show up in a three-piece suit on casual Friday
- Organizational chart - this chart may change continuously, so keep them up to date on the latest iteration
- Departmental goals - How does the department measure success? How does it measure performance? What are the "official" and "unofficial" goals?
- Telephone procedures - These days, mastering the phone system is a bit like neurosurgery. Make sure they know the system and any "phone etiquette" i.e. do employees forward their phones to voicemail at night? Are they expected to pick up the main line when the receptionist is away from his/her desk?
- Mission statement - These statements can be helpful in fostering a team environment. If your firm has one, make sure they know it.
- Customer service philosophy - How are they expected to treat clients vendors?
- Office supplies - Where should they go for extra glue sticks and paper clips? Which items need to be special-ordered?
- Parking - Is there special parking for their department? If you work in the city, maybe there's cheaper parking known only to insiders.
- Extracurricular - Do you have a firm softball team? Are there any parties or field days coming up? They may want to put it on their calendar.
Daniel J. Casey founded Creative Financial Staffing (CFS) in 1994. His career began in 1986, when he worked as a staffing manager for an accounting placement agency in Boston. He left three years later to become the Director of Temporary Staffing Services for their competition. While there, Dan managed staffing for numerous accounting firms and their clients.