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Induction: orienting
the new employee

Starting a new job has been compared with your first day at school. You are bound to be:

- a little nervous, but hopefully enthusiastic;
  - keen to impress, but not wanting to attract too much attention;
  - anxious to learn quickly, but not wanting to be deluged with names, facts and figures;
  - hoping to fit in, but not look too 'new' and inexperienced.

The reception you receive from your employers should anticipate these feelings. After all, the organization has spent good money hiring you and should treat you as an investment to be nurtured and encouraged. In reality, however, you are likely to receive an induction or orientation which can be anywhere between two extremes:

  • In at the deep end - expecting you to get on with the job without any real welcome or
  • information
  • Overwhelming - providing you with an avalanche of introductions, site tours, information packs, etc.

What induction is not about

Most large organizations inflict at least some of the following on new hires:

  • Handing out the employee handbook - the HR department may be proud of it but it is not going to be an easy read.
  • Introducing the new recruit to everybody in the business - embarrasing at best, and likely to be off-putting to a new hire who wants to slide into the job quietly. Besides, no-one wll remember what they have been told nor the names of the people to whom they have been introduced.
  • Dishing out even more facts and figures on day 1.
  • Doing so in the form of a lecture or presentation - with slides.
  • Doing it again on day 2.
  • Not giving the employee their own 'home' - workspace, desk, phone, computer.
  • Having the immediate supervisor away on vacation, in a continuous series of meetings, or just too busy to be involved.

In her excellent practitioner guide Dynamic Introduction (Gower Publishing, 2003) Susan El-Shamy (p. 20) describes a typical ineffective induction programme in these words:

"Many of you may be all too familiar with the standard three-hour orientation programme that has too many inductees crowded into a small, hot room with too few chairs and too many long-winded speakers. Endless slide presentations may have given way to endless PowerPoint presentations, but the central goal of getting all the information dumped onto the new employees in the quickest way may not have changed at all."

These activities run the risk of boring and confusing, rather than helping, the new employee. Obviously, there is information which new recruits need and paperwork (payroll details, social security, etc) that has to be done. Also, there is a degree of ritual - a 'rite of passage' - expected by the new hire, colleagues and the organization. But the process needs to be thought through, especially in relation to timing, quantity and intensity.

The simple truth is that most people responsible for orienting new employees do not:

 - put themselves in the new hire's shoes, i.e. do not take account of just what it is like to start a new job;
  - think of induction as an adult learning process which has to be designed to take account of the ways in which people learn

Susan El-Shamy goes on to argue that 'the goals of the orientation or induction training programme should be the same as the goals of an entire induction process.' According to El-Shamy, these goals include:

  • creating a positive impression
  • addressing any new-job regrets
  • increasing comfort levels and feelings of belonging
  • increasing knowledge of the organization and its policies and procedures
  • sharing organizational values, goals and initiatives
  • distributing basic staffing and human resource information
  • communicating information about the work environment
  • sharing job-specific information

Next page: Induction - getting orientation right

This article is adapted from the 2nd edition of Human Resource Management in a Business Context, Alan Price (2004), published by Thomson Learning.

More learning articles:

Excerpts from Chapter 5, The Trainer's Handbook

  1. Evaluating Effectiveness
  2. Short-term Evaluation
  3. Project Sessions
  4. Case Histories and Practice Sessions
  5. Examinations
  6. Types of Exam Questions
  7. Assessment Sessions
  8. Self-evaluation
  9. On-the-Job Evaluation
  10. Long-term Evaluations
  11. Bottom-line Evaluation


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