NEW EMPLOYEE ORIENTATION A SUCCESS
employee orientation is a planned welcome to the organization that usually is
shared by the human resources (or training) department and the new employee's
supervisor. There are twelve key factors that can contribute to the
successful orientation of new employees.
Training Clinic of Seal Beach, California, surveyed over 300 United States
companies (in 1985, 1988 and 1990, 1993) who were conducting successful
orientation programs. Here are the
All effective programs view orientation as an ongoing process, not just a
one-day program. The process usually begins with the hiring decision and
continues well into the first year of employment. New employee
orientation (NEO) becomes the umbrella program for other programs that include
performance reviews and training.
Because orientation is an ongoing process, information is given to the new
employee closest to the time it is needed. For example, if the
employee's health benefits vest 30 days from the start date, a benefits
orientation is not needed during the first day or first week of employment.
Many companies separated benefits from other orientation information. A
separate meeting, if held in the evening, allows spouses to attend and
participate in the selection of a specific health plan.
The benefits of orientation are clear and visible to both the new employee and
the organization. The organization could identify such factors as
reduced turnover or improved productivity as a few of the benefits of a
systematic orientation. The employee felt valued and was able to
"fit in" to the new job more easily and quickly. Fewer
mistakes were made by the new employee who was more relaxed.
Successful orientation programs shared their "corporate culture"
(philosophy, how to get along, how business is done, etc.). New
employees need to be told the organization's norms, customs and traditions.
If a new employee knows informality is expected, then having coffee at your
desk or leaving work out on your desk overnight is acceptable. However,
if rules are strictly enforced, the new employee must know to follow the
unwritten dress code and carefully adhere to accepted break and lunch times.
some organizations all employees are addressed by their first names. In
other organizations a strong sense of formality would demand using only
surnames. Shared expectations and common definitions of "what's
normal" can contribute greatly to the successful orientation process.
The employee's first day is truly welcoming and helps the employee feel useful
and productive. This can be accomplished by being prepared for a new
employee; desk, office, phone, and supplies are ready. How many times
have new employees arrived at your organization and everyone is too busy to
direct their activities or teach them the job? Several successful
organizations set up a welcome, introductions and a tour that ends in the new
employee's work area. The new employee is then paired with an
experienced "buddy" to teach a specific task. This way a new
employee can perform a simple task that contributes to the department's
production on the first day of employment.
The supervisor's role in NEO is clear and well executed with human resources
department's or function's assistance. Supervisors and the human
resources department or function share responsibility for the successful
orientation of the new employee. Supervisors need to identify what is
best done by them and what information is more general and best given by the
human resources department or function. The human resources department
or function is usually best equipped to share organization policy, history and
benefits. Supervisors usually prefer to explain safety rules, reporting
requirements and job tasks. The division of tasks must be negotiated
between supervisors and the human resources department or function if tasks
are to be successfully shared.
Orientation objectives in successful organizations are measurable and focus on
specific knowledge, skill acquisition and influencing attitudes. Too
often poor orientation programs are an information overload - like drinking
from a fire hydrant! Those programs that included some skills training
(operating the telephone system or practice in using a fire extinguisher)
found a balance of activity and pacing that made orientation interesting, not
Adult learning concepts are known and used to guide orientation. If an
organization wants its employees to use their initiative and exercise
judgment, then a self-directed NEO is appropriate.
Several successful NEO programs gave the new employee a list of tasks
to accomplish, a deadline and the time and resources to complete the tasks.
For example, a manufacturing organization gives the new hourly employee a
checklist to be completed in 5 days. Items on the checklist include
finding bulletin boards, safety and first aid supplies, and signing completed
forms. Another organization gives its new middle managers and staff
people a list of key co-workers to interview. A self-directed workbook
suggests questions for the interviews. Sample
questions are: 1) What do you
expect from me when we work together? 2) What are your job and task
goals and how do they affect me?
unsuccessful NEOs "spoon feed" all information to the new employee.
This process often gives the impression to the employee that the organization
will tell you everything you need to know . . . just wait for it to come to
you. If you want new employees to work independently, at least part of
their orientation should be his or her responsibility.
Many NEO programs use guest speakers (live or on videotape). Successful
speakers are well prepared, present only essential information with specific
objectives, and use good presentation techniques. The human resources
department or function had frequently coached all speakers and even outlined
or scripted their talks and provided professional looking visual aids.
Guest speakers fail to meet their goals when they are ill prepared, ramble off
their subject, or do not arrive on time (or not show up at all).
Audiovisual components of successful NEO programs provide emphasis to the
program and provide a positive message. Frequently
successful videos or slide tape presentations were used to describe the
organization's culture, history and philosophy. Although the temptation
is to put as much as you can on video, the content needs to be lasting.
For example, benefits are best presented "live" if they are likely
to change each year. The organization's history is not likely to change,
but give the current executive group in written form on an organization chart.
Guest speakers who deliver a consistent message and find attending every
session of NEO are also good candidates for video.
The NEO process is evaluated by participants, supervisors and the human
resources department or function from bottom-line results. Participants
can give their reaction to NEO and offer suggestions to improve the process
and validate the timing of content delivery.
Supervisors can tell you if NEO information is used on the job and to
what degree NEO needs revision. NEO should also be evaluated for
results. A manufacturing organization was able to reduce turnover by 69%
in the first three years by conducting a systematic NEO; a bank was able to
reduce orientation and skills training of new tellers from six weeks to two
weeks. Cost-benefit analysis is not easy to conduct, but worth doing to
prove your results.
Successful NEO programs provide information to the employee's family.
This included welcoming gestures and letters or organization newsletters to
the family or a more inclusive program for spouses and families. Many
companies welcomed families at work one day during the year. Others
scheduled a benefits orientation during the evening. One unique approach
involved a home visit by the corporate "welcome wagon."
12 elements suggest that NEO is a process that needs to be refined and
customized for each organization. These
12 elements also need to be modified based on when orientation is first
conducted and how many new employees are hired at one time.
Suggested Readings on New Employee Orientation
D.,(1998) Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting & Orienting New Employees, 3rd
Barbazette, J. (1993). Make
new-employee orientation a success. In J. W. Pfeiffer (Ed.), The
1993 annual: Developing human resources. San Diego, CA: Pfeiffer &
Barbazette, J., &
Barbazette, R. (2nd ed. 1998). New
employee orientation CD-ROM and organizer. Seal Beach, CA: The Training
J. “Design An Orientation Plan That Really Does the Job”, Supervisor’s
Guide to Quality & Excellence, September 7, 1998, page 3.
Jean, “Employee Orientation”, Intervention Resource Guide: 50 Performance
Improvement Tools, Jossey-Bass, Pfeiffer, 1999, pages 149-157.
K., & Rutter, M., Corporate View: Orientation, South-Western
Becker, J., & Ellson, S.
(1987). How to develop a competency-based head nurse orientation program. Journal of Healthcare Education and Training, 4(3), 32–36.
Bergen, S., & Huchendorf,
K. (1989, December). Ongoing orientation at metropolitan life. Personnel
Journal, pp. 28–35.
K. Hawkins, G., & Elledge, K. “From New Recruit to Team Member” Training
& Development Journal, August, 1993, pages 55-58.
Burk, B., Gillman, D., &
Ose, P. (1984, November 6). Nursing orientation: A whole brain approach. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 15(6), 199–204.
Cadwell, C. (1988). New
employee orientation. Los Altos, CA: Crisp Publications.
Chapman, E. (1989). Your
first thirty days: Building a professional image on a new job. Los Altos,
CA: Crisp Publications.
H. S. New Employee Orientation: A How-to-do-it Manual for Librarians,
Neal Schuman Publishing, 1993.
Desatnick, R. (1987, March).
Building a customer-oriented workforce. Training
and Development Journal, 41(3), 72–74.
D.R. & Jarvis, R. L. “Quick Starts for New Employees” Training &
Development Journal, October, 1996, pages 47-50.
M., & Miller, K. “Assimilating New Employees” Training &
Development Journal, July, 1996, pages 49-50.
Ed, The Ultimate New Employee Survival Guide, Petersons, 1998.
Jenking, J. (1990, February).
Self-directed workforce promotes safety. Human
Resources Magazine, 35(2), 54–56.
C.S., & Taylor, J. “Employee Orientation is an Ongoing Process at the
DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co.” Personnel Journal, May, 1994, page 67.
Klubnik, J. (1987, April).
Orienting new employees. Training and
Development Journal, 41(4), 46–49.
Leibowitz, Z., Scholossberg,
N., & Shore, J. (1991, February). Stopping the revolving door. Training
and Development Journal, 45(2), 43–50.
Manter, M., & Benjamin, J.
(1989, September). How to hold on to first careerists: The new independent
employee. Personnel Administrator, 34(9), 44–52, 105.
Markowich, M., & Faber, J.
(1989, September). If your employees were the customers. Personnel
Administrator, 34(9), 70–73, 101.
McGarrell, E. (1983,
November-December). An orientation system that builds productivity. Personnel,
Oldfield, K. (1989, March).
Survival of the newest. Personnel Journal,
Peper, M. (1989, Winter).
First day of a new employee. Society of
Insurance Trainers and Educators Journal, pp. 16–17.
Reinhardt, C. (1988, June).
Training supervisors in first-day orientation techniques. Personnel,
Rossett, A., & Brechlin,
J. (1991, April). Orienting new employees. Training,
Shea, G. (1981). The
new employee. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Spruell, G. (1987, August).
Off to a good start: Successful orientation programs.
Infoline #708. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and
John, Organizational Entry: Recruitment, Selection, Orientation, and
Socialization of Newcomers, Addison-Wesley Series on Managing Human
Wilkins, A. L. (1990). Cultivating
corporate character. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. (Audio Cassette
program, 2 hours)
K. “Effective Training for a Revolving Door”, Training & Development,
September, 1996, pages 51—52
Youst, D., & Lipsett, L.
(1989, February). New job immersion without drowning. Training
and Development Journal, 43(2), 73–75.
Zemke, R. (1989,
August). Employee orientation: A process, not a program. Training,
visit our related website section for other resources. Click HERE