How to bring new employees on board

The introduction you give new staff sets the tone for their employment

I know a woman who arrived at work on the first day of her new job to find there was no desk or PC. In fact, technically there was no office set up at all — the company was in the middle of reorganising its premises and her new business unit was “between offices”. Her workmates took her out for a coffee and then followed that by lunch at the pub. She said that as first days go, it was rather pleasant.

So should you formally induct new employees or should people just find their way in a new company as they go?

According to Barbara O’Toole, writing on humanresources.about.com, research shows that good induction and orientation programmes can improve employee retention by 25%.

And a recent survey (of 5780 people) by English job site reed.co.uk, found that 40% of employees left their jobs because of poor induction.

Poor induction has an ongoing effect, according to the survey and according to Reed “Nearly all workers — 93% — believe that a poor induction has a continual effect on their productivity in the job.”

The survey also found that it took more than seven weeks, on average, for someone to “feel at ease” in their new job when they’d had a bad induction.

Problems with inductions included them being too short, hasty or boring and an impersonal induction was also a negative.

“As one person said, ‘Induction meant teaching myself from a manual left on my desk.’”

Then again, some surveyed had the opposite problem — that the induction was too personal.

“One irritated starter reported, ‘The HR officer who gave the induction was much more interested in the male inductees’ private lives’.”

My favourite induction problem however is a very The Office-sounding case of a new employee who was told to hop on one leg and sing ‘We All Live In A Yellow Submarine’ on their own in front of 20 other new employees.

Back at humanresources.about.com, O’Toole writes that even a slick induction programme isn’t necessarily a good thing because it can be overwhelming.

“Many new hires question their decision to change companies by the end of their first day. Their anxieties are fuelled by mistakes that companies often make during that first-day orientation programme.”

She says common problems include overwhelming the new hire with facts, figures, names and faces, showing boring orientation videos, providing lengthy front-of-the-room lectures and failing to prepare for the new hire — providing no phone, no email, no computer, and no work.

Her advice might sound basic but it’s also hard to argue with: “What do we want to achieve during orientation? What first impression do we want to make?”

O’Toole even writes that you should celebrate the new employee coming on board. This doesn’t necessarily have to involve cases of champagne and staff members photocopying body parts.

“Some simple celebration methods might include: a letter of welcome signed by the chief executive, a company t-shirt signed by all department members and a cake with candles on the employee’s first day.”

She also suggests a “welcome wagon” — freebies like a map showing nearby eateries and “an invitation to lunch from co-workers each day during the employee’s first week is even more welcoming!”

Meanwhile, Bizhelp24.com points out that if people leave the new employee to figure things out for themselves it costs time and money.

In fact, the website suggests starting the induction at the interview.

“Even if the applicant isn't definitely going to be your new employee, it still gives them a chance to maintain interest in your business.”

And there are things, it says, that employees should be told before their first day. This includes the terms and conditions of employment and where to go on their first day, who they should ask for and what they should bring along.

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