Successfully Acclimating New Employees to the Workplace Pays Dividends

Barbara Richman SPHR
May 14, 2014 — 2,394 views  
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This article originally was published in the Memphis Business Journal.

As employers express cautious optimism that the economic downturn is showing signs of recovery, it becomes more likely that they will begin to make plans for hiring. At the point when preparations are initiated, it will be timely for organizations to assess programs to attract and retain employees. One initial focus would be to look at orientation and onboarding efforts, recognizing that the manner in which employees are acclimated to the organization can positively influence their perspectives and commitment moving forward.

Orientation and onboarding are structured programs designed to introduce employees to the organization, positively influence their perceptions, and address mutual expectations for employment. Although both approaches share similar objectives and often are referred to interchangeably, there are distinctions that can be made.

New employee orientation programs usually begin on or shortly after the first day of employment and range from a few hours to several weeks. While some organizations schedule one meeting, others conduct follow-up sessions to increase the scope and retention of information presented. The content is adapted to meet organizational needs and typically includes an introduction to the overall organization, discussions of selected portions of the employee handbook, a review of employee benefits, and completion of necessary paperwork.

While onboarding programs can include orientation activities, they also provide a more in-depth and comprehensive assimilation process that normally extends from three months to one or two years in duration. This approach focuses on building a supportive environment and strengthening the employee’s involvement with the job, work team and organization as a whole.

Although both approaches have merit in integrating employees into the workplace, the choice depends on factors that include leadership perspectives and organizational size and resources, including time. Regardless of the program selected, the focus should be on examining ways to gain employees’ commitment to the organization and increase the potential for engagement, productivity and retention. With each, preparation is a requisite for success.

The following are a number of questions to consider in developing orientation and onboarding programs:

1. How can an environment be created in which new employees perceive that they are being welcomed and accepted as members of the organization’s team? There are numerous opportunities to assist employees in developing relationships and becoming a part of the department and organization. For example, employees can be introduced to management and co-workers. Tools, equipment and materials necessary for successful job performance can be furnished in a timely manner. Supervisors can be responsive to questions and inform employees of others who can provide necessary support.

2. Are employees given sufficient information about expectations for which they will be held accountable? Employees should receive an employee handbook and other information which will enable them to comply with policies, procedures and other workplace practices. Management within the employee’s department should communicate job, departmental and other work-related requirements.

3. Has the organization differentiated between information to be covered with all employees and that which should be provided to designated groups? For example, all newly hired employees should be introduced to fundamental aspects of the business, including its mission, values and products or services. Specific groups, such as employees in supervisory positions or jobs involving telecommuting, should be given additional information that is customized to meet their needs.

4. Do employees understand the functions of departments within the organization, how their positions relate to other departments, and the impact that their work has on the overall organization? Employees will become more engaged and capable of communicating effectively with other departments and customers if they understand the general functions of all departments and the relationship between the work they perform and work performed by other areas of the organization. Engagement also should increase if employees understand the contribution of their work to the organization as a whole.

5. Does supervision provide performance feedback to employees on a regular basis throughout their initial periods of employment? While ongoing feedback regarding strengths and areas of improvement allows every employee to understand how they can become successful in meeting job requirements, it is essential for new employees. If there are disparities between these requirements and actual performance, supervision should discuss specific improvements and provide appropriate training or other assistance to enable employees to bridge those gaps.

6. Does management provide opportunities for newly hired employees to be exposed to role models? Employees can be influenced positively by exposure to co-workers and others who are effective in carrying out their job duties and responsibilities and who consistently display behaviors that the organization values. This exposure can be accomplished in a variety of ways that include providing times for employees to observe or be trained by role models and implementing mentorship or similar programs.

Barbara Richman SPHR

HR Mpact

Barbara Richman, SPHR, is a senior consultant with HR Mpact, a human resource consulting firm, www.hr-mpact.com. She can be reached at (901) 685-9084 or [email protected] This article has been written to provide readers with general information on the topic and is not intended to be used as a source of legal advice.