July 3, 2008

Conducting Effective Employee Orientations

Orientations are performance trend setters By Claire Belilos
Do you have two steps, or even three in the Orientation process? There must be a general orientation, a departmental orientation, and the specific job orientation, conducted by different parties. The General Orientation is usually managed by either the Training Department or the Human Resources Department, with the Departmental Orientation by the Department Head or first Assistant, while the specific Job Orientation can be carried out by an experienced and trained employee (trained on how to train). These guidelines are intended for people conducting the General Orientation:

A general rule of thumb for having the audience interested in the general orientation is
(1) to make them feel at ease (open circle)
(2) make sure that they had enough time to read the employee manual ahead of orientation time
(3) spend a good portion of the intro time towards self-introductions, spiced with open questions
(4) get them acquainted to know who Management is: have a big chart in the orientation/training room which depicts how the organization is set up, with photos of the management team next to their title
(5) get them acquainted with the operation: have another large chart in the room depicting the flow of work and communications regarding the organization; this flow should include customers, suppliers and all parties affecting the organization (I had just planned such a chart for the hotel where I dealt with Training and Development, wrote it out in text, had an artist express it in carricature format (humorous colourful chart) - after all this was a hotel. Maybe in a technical company humour is not allowed. I explained it to the artist and we showed how each job position affected the final product since the customer's/guest's first contact with the operation and ending with the last contact.
6) have them know and see departments in operation: based on this drawing I conducted the orientation and explained all functions of the hotel, promising a personal tour of all the departments we discussed, including back areas, where the Department Heads received us personally and gave further insight on their departments
7) allay their fears and doubts: cover subjects which are usually never mentioned in orientations, such as the difficulties new employees or supervisors experience, about turnover figures, about how people assimilate better after hanging out three months, about how they can turn to you for any difficulties they experience, be it regarding their rejection by existing old-timers or other matters. Let them know they can always turn to you for confidential advice (do not forget that any new person has fears and doubts regarding being accepted, succeeding or failing)
8) encourage friendships among new employees: try to create a team spirit among the existing group of newcomers - by the end of the day or the two days you will have created a group of employees at different levels and from different departments who will cooperate and enhance communications across the organization
9) extend respect to them as human beings: have lunch with them as a group (I saw too many people who conduct orientations go to a different lunch room and this is very insulting)
10) enable first hand contact with upper management: have different Executives come to welcome the group and assure them of management's commitment to help them succeed. Introduce each of the newcomers, dwell on their position, career background and personal interests.
11) assure them how the organization welcomes their observations, comments and critiques.
12) and last but not least, sharing company goals with them. Discuss it with them. Ask what their own personal and career goals are and try to right there and then mesh their own goals with the company goals.

This strategy (action plan) has proven to be highly successful. It cuts down on turnover drastically, engenders trust, cooperation and motivation.
About the author:
Claire Belilos is the founder of CHIC Hospitality Consulting Services. Her background includes Hospitality operations. She specializes in solving people management problems, organizational training and development, supervisory coaching, training of trainers, designing effective job, training and evaluation tools, and training for customer service excellence. For more information, please visit her website at http://www.easytraining.com

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