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Orientation Vs. Integration

By Barbara O'Toole

Orientation Vs. Integration

To Integrate a New Employee Effectively, Schedule Meetings with Coworkers

iStockphoto / Loretta Hostettler
Your new employee orientation is a make 'em or break 'em experience, for a new employee. At its best, the process of new employee orientation solidifies the new employee's relationship with your organization. It fuels their enthusiasm and guides their steps into a long term positive relationship with you. Done poorly, your new employee orientation will leave your new employees wondering why on earth they walked through your door.

Picture this scenario, which plays out every day in organizations. Your company’s new employee orientation program has slick, pre-printed handouts. The program’s savvy, friendly presenter uses good visuals such as overhead transparencies and a white marker board. Participants receive a guided tour of the facility.

The hundred page employee handbook is safely tucked under their arms. Yet the average employee feels bewildered, overwhelmed, and far from welcomed. Not your intention at all! What’s missing? How can you take your program from simply orienting to integrating your new hire?

Many new hires question their decision to change companies by the end of their first day. Their anxieties are fueled by mistakes that companies often make during that first-day new employee orientation program. These common mistakes include:

  • overwhelming the new hire with facts, figures, names and faces packed into one eight hour day;

  • showing boring orientation videos;

  • providing lengthy front-of-the-room lectures; and

  • failing to prepare for the new hire; ­ providing no phone, no e-mail, no computer, and no work.
Before you completely revamp your present new employee orientation process, ask yourself the following question: "What do we want to achieve during new employee orientation? What first impression do we want to make?" There is no doubt that a company’s positive first impressions can cement the deal for a newly recruited employee. Those positive strokes can also speed integration and productivity. Research shows that good orientation programs can improve employee retention by 25 percent.

Dr. John Sullivan, head of the Human Resource Management Program at San Francisco State University, concludes that several elements contribute to a World Class new employee orientation program. The best new employee orientation:

  • has targeted goals and meets them,

  • makes the first day a celebration,

  • involves family as well as coworkers,

  • makes new hires productive on the first day,

  • is not boring, rushed or ineffective, and

  • uses feedback to continuously improve.

Make Them Say During New Employee Orientation: "I Am Welcomed, Therefore I Belong"

Most organizations are great at celebrating the departure of a beloved coworker. Why are we often so awful at welcoming a new one? Think about arranging a party to welcome the new employee. Celebrations produce enthusiasm. Have you experienced starting a new job only to have your coworkers and supervisor ignore you during the first week?

If so, you understand the effectiveness of even a little enthusiasm! Some simple celebration methods might include: a letter of welcome signed by the CEO, a company t-shirt signed by all department members, and a cake with candles on the employee’s first day. Involve families in the celebration. Schedule a welcome luncheon or dinner for spouses and families during the employee’s first month.

Old-fashioned welcome wagons were once used to deliver goodies to new members of a community. You can establish your own “welcome wagon.” Freebies that aid the new hire in his job will reinforce the belief that company employees are glad he is there and want him to succeed.

As an example, a map showing nearby eateries is helpful and appreciated. (An invitation to lunch from coworkers each day during the employee’s first week is even more welcoming.) Go one step further than providing a map of the facility and the parking lot. Provide your new person with a photo of himself in the parking lot, in front of the company sign. Visuals have great impact.

With a good new employee orientation, employees can even be productive on their first day of work.

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*Barbara O'Toole has over seven years experience as an HR Generalist in Fort Worth, Texas. She is currently working in the training department of a software development company. When she is not onstage performing in plays, she enjoys the company of her two children, JoBette and Michael. Her husband, Ken, is also a writer.

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