The New Hire Orientation “ToolKit” – 64 tips you can use tomorrow

There have been several posts lately (HRNET) on how to improve Orientation. Through my work in retention, I have found that poor orientation can increase “buyers remorse” and thus increase turnover.

Below are some orientation tools you might find a welcome addition to what you currently do. Not all tools work in every situation so put together your own mix of tools and then test it to see what works and what doesn’t.

Tools to “Celebrate a New Hire”

Part of HR’s job is to educate managers on the importance of making new hires feel welcomed and important. Managers and employees need to take a larger role in “closing the sale” and owning the process of assimilating the new hires because their talent will improve the teams chance of meeting it’s goals. Managers should consider using one or more of the following “celebration tools” to raise the enthusiasm of and for the new hire.

  1. A phone call from the CEO/ GM welcoming them to the organization.
  2. An invitation by the CEO/ GM to visit their office on their first day (or the CEO stopping by their work space).
  3. A letter from the CEO/ GM welcoming them to the organization.
  4. Cake and candles on the first morning to celebrate their joining the “family”/team.
  5. A new hire luncheon on the first day to meet the team.
  6. Welcome banner for their cubical signed by the CEO and all.
  7. Take a Team Picture on the first day and have it signed by all.
  8. Give them a Tee Shirt signed by all.
  9. Place a Notice/Ad in the Local Paper welcoming them to let everyone know of your new team member (like consulting/ law firms do).
  10. Give them a Plaque – Celebrating their First day.
  11. Give them a “2 for dinner” certificate to tell their spouse or friend about their new job.
  12. Place a welcome Note/ picture on your corporate Web site.
  13. Put new hires pictures in our local ads or in regular corporate advertising.
  14. Send their spouse/kids first day welcome gifts, corporate products or cards to make them feel they are part of the team and to build support for the new company.
  15. Have other spouses call and welcome their spouses.
  16. Have a new employee lunch for spouses during their first month.
  17. Have a “No forms/ video/ manuals” policy during the first day/week. Consider sending them to their home to read prior to starting or let it wait until at least week 2.
  18. Give them a “new hire” pin/ hat to let all know they deserve special help. The pin/ hat also entitles them to ask “dumb questions”.
  19. Give them a “pre-dated” 5 year pin to show them we expect them to be part of the team for a long time.
  20. Give them a “meet everyone card” that requires (rewards) them for getting the initials of all key team members on the card during the first ___ days.
  21. Give them a “new hire” reserved parking spot to celebrate their first week.
  22. Give them a License Plate Cover for their car announcing their new company

Time to Productivity Tools

Many workers encounter delays and frustrations in getting “the tools and training they need to start off running in their new job. By increasing the effectiveness of Orientation programs delays can be minimized and workers can begin producing days or weeks earlier than under traditional programs. Most of these TTP tools need to be used before the new employee starts.

  1. Change the managers and teams performance appraisal and reward systems to include time to productivity for new hires.
  2. Prior to starting to get the new hire their E-mail address, password, telephone #, ID card, corporate credit card, a departmental org chart/ telephone directory, etc.
  3. Provide them a Glossary of acronyms, buzzwords and on-line FAQ’s so they don’t have to ask uncomfortable questions about these buzz words (they are afraid to ask because it might make them seem like a dumb hire). Knowing these words might also decrease the number of errors on the job.
  4. Assign them a departmental “mentor” to assist them during the first month in getting answers they need. An alternative is a orientation team to own the process.
  5. Give them a copy of our mission/vision statement, our department’s short term plan. and org chart prior to the first day.
  6. Give them telephone directory (updated with their name in it if possible).
  7. Ask them who they would like to meet during their first week and have the meetings already scheduled.
  8. Have their business cards mailed to their house before their first day.
  9. Give them a “Help Source” Card with the names / E-mail addresses of people with a reputation as “helping types”.
  10. Do a survey of your past “new hires” and identify their problems, frustrations and things they would liked to have “More of/ Less of”. Do the same at exit interviews to see if poor Orientation played a part.
  11. Develop a “new hire” network of new hires and recent hires so a recent hire can act as a Big Brother/ Sister for a brand new hire.
  12. Develop a set of success measures and metrics so that the process can be continually improved and those that helped in orientation can be rewarded. Include training, MIS and operations to ensure all details are measured.
  13. Pre-assess the training needs of the candidate and schedule the required development before the candidate starts. Give the new hire the tools they need as fast as possible in order to succeed.
  14. Pre-schedule a series of one on one meetings with the new hire to identify their frustrations and problems before they get out of hand.

Anticipating and Answering Their Questions

Under traditional orientation programs, most questions are asked by the candidate while they are in HR and generally they are asked only on the first day. Through focus groups and surveys, possible questions can be anticipated and answered before the candidate garners the courage to actually ask the question. By expanding the time for questions, providing assimilation help over several weeks and making it easier to get answers you will improve a new hires’ productivity and lower a new hires’ frustration level.

  1. Assign a “Welcome coordinator” or concierge that they can call before they start their job.
  2. Give them access to the company Intranet or call center so they can learn about the firm and it’s benefits before they start.
  3. Give them “Silly/ Dumb” question “coupons” to give to people. The coupons can help ease their fear of asking “dumb” questions.
  4. Identify questions specific to their particular job through interviews with previous hires in their job class.
  5. Designate the recruiter as the HR person responsible for helping the candidate get answers to most of their questions before they start as well as after their beginning date.

Tools to make them part of the team

Helping the manager understand what the worker expects (why they accepted the position) and how to best manage them is almost as important as helping the worker understand the firm’s culture and the team’s expectations. By helping managers understand the need to develop an early strategy on how to assimilate, manage and develop the new hire HR can make a significant strategic contribution.

  1. Plan an hour of uninterrupted time with the manager on their first day.
  2. Pre-schedule a series of “no cancel” meetings with the boss and key team members during the first month.
  3. Give the new hire $25 certificates to give to the top 5 mentors that help them the most during their first week/ month.
  4. Get the manager to ask them for a “What they dislike list” – and then develop a what they want “More or Less of” list and then manage to it.
  5. Ask them about their Dream job and how they can best be managed. Periodically manage toward it.
  6. Develop an individual “Challenge” plan for the first 3 months to ensure that the employee is continually challenged in their job.
  7. Develop an individual “Growth/ Development” plan for the first 3 months to ensure they are developing at an acceptable rate.
  8. Assigned a recent hire from the team as a mentor to ease the transition.
  9. Have the CEO/GM do the orientation presentation to show the new hires how important they are to the organization.
  10. Give them 5 “free lunch coupons” to use on co-workers so that they will rapidly get to know them and the local restaurants as well.
  11. Expand the recruiters’ job description to including staying in touch with “their hires” and using their knowledge to help managers understand and manage their new employees.
  12. Give them a “Rouges” gallery (pictures of the whole team) on the intranet (or hard copy) of all team members so it will be easier for them to put names with the faces they meet.

Additional assimilation / orientation tools

  1. Don’t let the “intern” / HR Benefits person do the orientation! Dump the dull video’s and take out the boring stuff (Have a comedian do it if necessary like they do in comedy traffic school)!
  2. Do a frustration (barriers to productivity) survey among the new hires at the end of the first, third and sixth month. Manage to the results.
  3. Benchmark other firms’ best practices (Corning, 3COM, HP, etc.).
  4. Use orientation as an intelligence-gathering process. Find out all you can at the time of hire. Ask them who at their old firm is good and ready to leave, what are their best practices etc. Ask them why they took the job and why they rejected other firms. Feed that information back to the recruiters to help improve our recruiting process and to managers so we can improve on how we manage our new hires.
  5. Extend orientation to at least a week (to as much as 6 weeks) so that you don’t initially overwhelm them with information. Stop doing it in one day.
  6. Give them a list of the “best” restaurants, schools, child care, etc., in the neighborhood to help them feel comfortable with their new neighborhood.
  7. If they have relocated, consider getting the spouses and kids of your current employees to help orient them to the “cool things” in the community.
  8. Develop a New Hire electronic chat room/list server/ Web page to help them help each other. Consider forming an affinity group and pay for their lunches.
  9. Do a post-orientation survey and ask them what they want more of and less of from orientation. Ask them to write down any new ideas or solutions they have on how to improve orientation and use them.
  10. Consider varying the length and type of orientation depending on the job/ importance of the hire.
  11. Develop the capability to do orientation “remotely”, globally and Just In Time.

“Celebrate” Your New Hires Using This Orientation Toolkit

Sales Reps know it – First impressions are everything!

HR professionals need to know it also. Many corporations miss an opportunity to make a great first impression and to “close the sale” on a newly recruited individual by providing a lackluster orientation! They also inadvertently also slow the new hires development and the time it takes for them to reach their expected productivity.

A weak orientation may just be a missed opportunity to WOW a new hire but it may also turn into a disaster if the orientation process contradicts the initial impression put together by the recruiter. Almost all companies do an orientation for new hires but few pay much attention to them. Often workers come to work excited about the prospect of a new job and new friends only to get cold water in their face the first day on the job. A simple survey of workers not only will show how boring orientation can be but also how little of it employees actually remember.

HR has it all backwards. We celebrate when an employee LEAVES our firm but where is the party when a new hire comes onboard? Stop getting “the intern” to put the videotape into the VCR and making the “benefits clerk” the first point of contact for a new hire. HR needs to start making the beginning of a new job a celebration and a process to make the new hire productive right out of the gate!

The “horrors” of traditional orientation

Remember the horrors of your first day when:

  • You were given 15 minutes to “read and sign a 100-page handbook”.
  • You had to watch the orientation “video from hell”.
  • You spent the morning filling out confusing
    benefits forms until it hurt.
  • On your first visit to your cubical you found no phone #, email address, password or business cards.
  • Your boss might have been out of town the week you started.
  • You met dozens of people but you don’t remember any of them.
  • Your assignment the first day is to “read” the manuals and wait until the boss has time to give you some projects.
  • You find that the training you require to do your new job isn’t even offered until next month

Buyer’s remorse/regret!

Many new hires are questioning their decision by the first day. The next week isn’t much better with nothing to do because the boss hasn’t had time to give you a project. Buzzwords and acronyms are everywhere but you are too embarrassed to ask what is a “SNAFU” and similar strange words that are thrown at them. And you still don’t have a computer.

The recruiter that made all of those wonderful promises is long gone. Your family is nervous about the “change” and it’s even worse if you just physically relocated your family. It’s like your first day in France and you don’t speak french. you feel alone and wonder if it was a good decision.

If a firm makes a negative “first impression” it may take months to overcome an employee’s initial frustration and “buyers remorse”. Research shows clearly that “improving” orientation can increase retention rates by as much as 25%. Initial hire frustration also slows “time to productivity”, increases error rates and can, in general, take the enthusiasm out of any new hire.

Poor Orientation programs can also impact future recruitment efforts. Everyone, you know asks you during your first week “how’s your new job?” Unfortunately, the response to the question is often “It’s not what I expected” or “they never told me…” which can result in negative rumors that could discourage others from applying.

Remember that a great HR function learns to prioritize its customers and activities. The depth of the orientation can and should vary with the position an the “importance” of the hire. Getting a team leader up to speed might be more important than getting a janitor.

Celebrate the new hire and reduce time to productivity

The “celebration” approach assumes that the first day, week, month as crucial to getting a new hire “signed on” to the company’s culture and shared vision. Later in this document is a Tool Kit of techniques that can have a significant impact on the quality of your orientation program and shorten the time to productivity. Make orientation something they will remember rather than regret!

Who is responsible for orientation?

Most Orientation is owned and done by HR. Not senior level, HR people but junior ones, generally from benefits. This is “bass-ackwards”. Managers and employees need to own the orientation process. There are numerous reasons for giving managers ownership of the process including:

  • The team needs to realize how important it is to get and assimilate a new team member in order to be successful.
  • Managers and employees need to “own” the orientation process and take responsibility for getting new hires up to productivity because they are closer to the problem and they will suffer the consequences if it’s not done correctly!
  • The team and the managers are the only ones that can, over time, listen to and understand what the “new-be” in their function needs, wants and can provide it to them.
  • HR can’t be strategic when it is mired in paper and routine. If it uses an Intranet/ Call Center solution HR can make it easy for employees and managers to “self-service” their own assimilation needs with a minimum of HR effort.

Goals of orientation programs

1 – Celebration –

  • Make workers and co-workers see hiring and orientation as an opportunity to acquire new talent and increase productivity so they can become more of a winning team.
  • Excite new hires about their new job/team and excite the team about the new hire.

2 – Speeding Time To Productivity –

  • Give them the information they need and help eliminate barriers so you can speed up their time to productivity and have a positive ROI occur earlier.
  • Eliminate poor starts/ disillusionment that may lead to “crib death” resignations and retention issues.
  • Reassure new hires that they made a good decision buy allowing them to begin meaningful work as early as possible.

3 – Anticipating & Answering Their Questions –

  • Provide avenues to anticipate and answer questions that new hires might have.

4 – Becoming Part of The Team –

  • Identify motivators/ challenges/ “de-motivators” and dream job factors of the new hire so managers and the team can manage to them.
  • Get family and other workers involved in the orientation and retention of a new hire.
  • Give us a competitive advantage over our competitors by treating new hires differently so they can spread the word on how we ‘celebrate” new hires.

Who is good at orientation?

  • Corning
  • 3COM
  • PepsiCo
  • Peoplesoft
  • Oracle
  • HP

What are the characteristics of a World Class orientation program

  1. It has weighted and targeted goals and it meets each of them
  2. It is done by a senior person.
  3. Is an on-going process.
  4. It begins before the first day.
  5. It makes the first day a celebration.
  6. It involves the family and others in the process.
  7. It makes them productive on the first day.
  8. It isn’t boring/ rushed or ineffective.
  9. It’s global / multi-lingual and diverse. Have a one size fits one strategy to allow for individual/ local needs.
  10. It’s available on the Intranet and uses technology.
  11. It reduces turnover.
  12. It can be done “remotely” and during “off” periods.
  13. It is monitored, measured and rewarded. It also uses feedback to continuously improve
© June 1998

As seen on Gately Consulting.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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