Sunday, October 07, 2007

Welcome to the team!

Think back to your first day on the job. It's funnythat even though that “first day” may have been years ago, you can probably remember it quite vividly. It’s an important day and one that can set the tone for your tenure with the company.

There are loads of studies that show that a good orientation plan is critical to getting new employees productive and keeping them on the team. Some real world examples:

· Texas Instrument determined that employees who completed an orientation were fully productive two months faster than those who did not.

· Corning Glass determined that 69 percent more employees stayed in the company after three years if they completed their orientation program.

The unfortunate fact is that most employers don’t handle this first day, or the process of orientation very well. I find that the reasons for this are lack of understanding of the importance, confusion about whose responsibility it is, and a lack of accountability for the results.

Let’s take this one reason (or excuse) at a time:

Understanding the importance: We all know how costly and painful it is to have to recruit new or replacement staff. Even when they are hired, they take a while to get up to speed. No matter where you are in the organization, the lower productivity of new staff is a real business issue that you need to address.

Confusion about who is responsible for orientation:

No matter how large, complex and well staffed your HR team is, they are only a small part of the solution to orientation. As a manager, you should view orientation as your responsibility, because the most important things a person needs to know about working on your team, are not things HR will know or understand. Whether your HR folks prescribe some form of orientation program or not, you need to have a plan that ensures your new staff have a way to learn from your existing staff, and from you. This will make the new person feel valued, and give them a chance to become assimilated to your ways of getting things done quickly. This can also be a way to show your current staff how much you trust and value their experience.

Accountability for business results:

This one is simple - you are the manager; the buck stops with you!

A good orientation process will make your new staff productive faster and make them feel welcomed, valued and important. All of those things will help you develop and keep a productive team. It’s not hard to do and there are loads of good examples on the net of how simple it can be to arrange a good orientation experience.

In my next post, we’ll talk about one particularly simple, but effective tool – The Buddy.


Talk to your team about this at your next team meeting (you are having weekly team meetings with your direct reports, right?). Ask each of them to think about what went right with their orientation, and what could have been done better. Then have them draft a simple plan to make sure that every person you hire has a great orientation experience