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Orientation Programs - The Missing Link for Preventing Workplace Problems

Accountemps, a large temporary staffing service for finance professionals, recently released a survey about orientation programs for new employees. The study included responses from over 500 human resource (HR) managers working for employers with 20 or more employees.

The study revealed that a surprising 34 percent of those employers surveyed do not provide their new employees with any formal orientation. The respondents who work for employers that do provide orientation programs were asked to describe the biggest benefits of the programs.

Thirty-five percent of the HR managers claim that new employees who participate in orientation programs have a better understanding of the organization's values, guidelines, and expectations. Another 17 percent believe new employees are better prepared through orientation programs for long-term success in their jobs.

Nineteen percent of respondents claim new employees feel connected to the employer much faster because of orientation programs, and 20 percent claim orientation programs enable new employees to more quickly make positive contributions to the workplace.

According to Accountemps, orientation programs help ease the pressures of starting a new job and increase the likelihood that employees will perform at higher levels more quickly. Accountemps provides managers with five ideas for assisting new hires to quickly adjust to their new workplaces:
  1. Roll out the red carpet. On the first day, new employees are often nervous. Make a point of greeting them personally and letting them know how much you are looking forward to them joining your team.
  2. Aim to ease anxieties. Offer introductions and encourage any and all questions. Organize an informal meeting of co-workers during lunch or a scheduled break.
  3. Arrange day-in-the-life tours. In the first few weeks of the job, have new employees spend time with colleagues who they will work with in the future. This will allow the employees to learn the operation style of the organization and feel more connected to a wide range of co-workers.
  4. Provide a road map. Give new employees a clear idea of what to expect over the first few months, addressing job responsibilities, top priorities, and performance goals. Keep an open-door policy and meet with them regularly over this time.
  5. Make use of mentors. Assigning a co-worker to each new employee who can answer questions and offer advice and institutional knowledge will not only shorten the learning curve for the new employee, but also give him or her a stronger sense of belonging. "Accountemps Survey: One in Three Employers Lacks Orientation Program for New Hires," www.prnewswire.com (Mar. 20, 2012).
Commentary and Checklist

The Accountemps survey highlights the productivity benefits of orientation programs. Clearly, a new employee who is well informed and comfortable in the new workplace from the first day is better equipped to accomplish productivity goals. Furthermore, strong support systems from the outset foster loyalty, boost morale and reduce turnover.

Orientation programs are also important tools for risk management. Well-communicated and thorough loss prevention training during orientation can provide the basis to implement and enforce the employer's workplace policies and practices. In addition, training conducted routinely as part of orientation programs may help employers defend against claims of wrongdoing should they arise.

All new employees, regardless of their job responsibilities, should receive training on EEO polices as well as on issues of safety, social media usage, confidentiality, and ethics, for example. The first week on the job is the best time to educate employees about the organization's policies and practices. Not only does training during orientation prevent wrongdoing from occurring in the first place, it also allows for consistent enforcement of policies once new employees begin their job duties.

New hires should have ample opportunity during orientation to review your handbook of policies and procedures and ask questions so that they have a clear understanding of the workplace rules and expectations before they acknowledge them in writing.

Here are some things HR managers can do to make sure that employers are getting the most out of employee orientation programs:
  • Have managers and supervisors provide notice when they plan to hire and train new employees.
  • Ask managers to provide a written schedule for training.
  • Review the agenda and the materials before the training to make sure all necessary areas are covered.
  • Have participants rate the training and make suggestions for changes. Read and evaluate every comment.
  • Periodically attend orientation and training.
  • Document all employees' orientation and training.
  • When training is complete, make sure all questions have been answered, and have new employees acknowledge that all orientation materials and training are completed and understood.
  • Periodically update orientation and training content materials to address current issues.
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