Best Practices for Onboarding New Employees

Posted May 23, 2006 by

The first few weeks on the job for a new employee can have a strong impact on his or her long-term job satisfaction. This is the time when the employee establishes attitudes about the position, coworkers, management and the company itself. A well-thought out orientation program can not only help new hires feel at home right away but also make it possible for them to get started on the right foot and quickly become productive.
In a survey commissioned by Robert Half International among 1,400 chief financial officers, an overwhelming 83 percent of respondents said that formal orientation programs are effective in retaining and motivating personnel.
The First Day is Critical
The best programs are tailored to a firm’s corporate culture and employee base. Most businesses also find that a multi-phased orientation program yields better results. However, the first day of employment is the most important. The following information should be offered in the first orientation session or conveyed by the new employee’s immediate supervisor during the first day or two.

  • A “big picture” overview of the company’s culture, mission, organizational structure, products, services, customers and competitors. More detailed information can be presented in later sessions.
  • A comprehensive job description and information on how the new employee’s position fits into the organizational structure.
  • Facts about compensation and benefits from health insurance to vacation policies.
  • Information on ethics, confidentiality policies, and other conditions of employment.
  • Explanation of technical and administrative resources such as computers, fax machines, copiers, voice mail, e-mail and other tools necessary for being productive.
  • Logistical information about the working environment, facilities, amenities, building security, ID cards and anything else that will be needed immediately.
  • Introductions to staff members with whom the new hire will work most closely.
  • Information about training, mentoring and other company programs that provide opportunities for career growth and development.
    At the end of the first day, it’s a good idea to allow the employee enough time with his or her direct supervisor to ask any questions left unanswered.
    Reinforce Important Information
    Company facts and policies presented at the initial orientation sessions should be reinforced in writing in your company’s employee handbook and referred to as needed in continuing employee communication programs. Videos, CD-ROMS, online resources, custom software, and brochures can also be effective means of delivering factual materials. For example, multimedia presentations can be used to depict distant company locations or video clips of important events in the organization’s history. However, the prepared materials should be supplemented with facilitated training that allows employees to ask questions and have concerns addressed.
    Additional information and more in-depth data should be introduced when the new employee becomes more familiar with the job. Remember, also, to seek feedback during the first few weeks and months to see how he or she is adjusting to the new position and to head off potential problems.
    A solid orientation program in conjunction with ongoing internal communications will build loyalty and teamwork, increase motivation, and boost retention rates – all of which are increasingly important in today’s competitive hiring climate.
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