More Effective Employee Orientation: Rethinking Traditional Approaches to New-Hire Training
HR experts contend that a new employee’s first day on the job can set the course for his or her entire tenure at the company. Although a new hire’s opinion of the organization will likely evolve and develop over time, a lot can be determined in those crucial first few hours when their general sense of the new position is still just beginning to be formed.
Taking advantage of this one-time opportunity to make a good first impression is particularly important in the hospitality industry, which, as a whole, continues to struggle with the challenge of employee retention. And yet many hotels, restaurants, caterers, and other hospitality industry companies continue to rely on the same protocols for employee orientation and training that they’ve been using for decades.
Of course, it’s crucial for companies to have a standardized, consistent approach to new-hire training to ensure that each staff member receives the same level of thorough, accurate information and instruction. But “standardized” doesn’t have to mean dull and uninspiring.
Instead, think of your new employee orientation as a sales pitch. This training session represents your most valuable opportunity to “sell” your employees on the organization and earn their engagement, personal investment, and commitment.
Unsure of what kind of changes you should make? According to Jean Barbazette, chief consultant for The Training Clinic and author of Successful New Employee Orientation: Assess, Plan, Conduct, and Evaluate Your Program, it’s not necessary to pull out all the stops in order to make your existing orientation program more effective. In fact, an overly-gimmicky approach could have the unintended effect of alienating your new hires. Instead, it may be possible to tweak and refine your existing orientation method to make it much more engaging. Here are a few simple tips to help you get started:
Take a Long, Hard Look at Your Current Orientation Program.
The first step of any organizational change effort is evaluating the protocols and procedures that are currently in place. Have a group of managers assume the roles of new trainees and sit through your current orientation program from start to finish. Make notes about what works, what’s out of date, and what could use a bit more fine-tuning.
Solicit Feedback from Recent Trainees.
Talk to employees who have recently gone through your current orientation program. Was there too little or too much information? Was it tedious? Did the format work? What would they like to have seen more or less of? Informal interviews or anonymous surveys are both effective methods that you can use to gather accurate information from recent hires. For best results, talk to a range of employees, including some who have been with the company for several months. This will help you better understand how your training program stacks up against employees’ actual on-the-job experiences.
Hit the Highlights, Skip the Fine Print.
Identify the most important things new employees need to know, and divide your training time accordingly. An exhaustive approach that covers every footnote in the HR manual isn’t necessary, and may actually wind up confusing your new hires. If you have a great deal of material that must to be covered, break the training sessions up over several days.
Give New Hires a Cheat Sheet.
If possible, prepare a binder with all written training materials and give it to your new hires before the orientation session. This will give them a chance to begin familiarizing themselves with the organization’s policies and procedures in advance. This way, they’ll have more personal engagement in the process, and they’ll be ready to ask questions about anything that was unclear.
Don’t Be Afraid to Have Some Fun.
Let’s face it -- extended training sessions can be a bit monotonous. Mix things up a bit with interludes of ice-breakers and other interactive activities, such as group introductions, pop quizzes with gift certificates or other premiums as prizes, and name recognition games that allow new employees to get to know one another.
Whether your overhauled orientation program is fairly similar to your original approach or radically different, what matters is taking the time to ensure that it is effective, efficient, and up-to-date. This training program is your chance to make a positive first impression on your new employees -- make sure you make the most of it with a streamlined, exciting program that engages and inspires.