Failing to properly introduce new
hires into the firm inhibits future revenues, putting not only
the new employee at a loss, but your firm as well.
Orientation sessions for new hires often generate snickers
once employees have been around long enough to learn the
reality and the ropes. Typically, the information is overly
optimistic and misleading, and too often it’s completely
unhelpful in terms of setting a clear direction for a new
Rather than fixing the problem, many firms have done away
with these sessions completely and instead expect the new
employee’s manager and co-workers to help orient the
disoriented newcomer. This is a mistake.
Orientation, when done well, is an unparalleled opportunity
for the organization as a whole, and key individuals in
particular, to prepare and plan for new employees, to
graciously welcome them and help them feel included, to
facilitate introductions and important contacts, and to educate
them. According to Ilene Gochman, an organization effectiveness
expert with Watson Wyatt Worldwide, “Few things are more
important to a company’s long-term performance than
choosing the right employees and ensuring they have the proper
outlook from day one.”
In a 2007 survey, Watson Wyatt found that a focus on quality
hiring and thoughtful orientation is closely linked to employee
engagement, which, in turn, correlates with enhanced financial
performance. (An “engaged” employee is motivated
and enthusiastic about work and is focused on the good of the
organization.) According to the report, for a typical S&P
500 organization, a significant improvement in employee
engagement is associated with a $95 million increase in
revenue. That’s hard to beat.
There are several ways to cultivate an engaged employee. The
best approach is to start efforts before day one, continue
during a structured (but not tedious or boring) orientation
period, and follow up throughout the employee’s
Obviously, finding the right person for the job is fundamental
to achieving the desired result. Take a look at your
recruitment process—at what happens before day one. Do
the individuals interviewing candidates know the details of the
job for which the person is applying? Are they aware that they
should explore a diverse set of candidates? Can they conduct an
effective, comprehensive and legally sound interview? Will they
make objective judgments as opposed to relying on gut feelings?
If you can’t answer “yes” to each of these
questions, then you may be starting new employees off on the
Spend some time with your recruitment team before they
actively interview your future employees and ensure that they
have the necessary skills and information to do the job well.
This step is critical if you want your new talent to pay off in
terms of organizational growth and financial success.
DURING: Orientation. When I
envision the formal orientation sessions I’ve attended in
the past, I see a sleep-inducing slide show with some stale
information on mission and values, a dogmatic review of the
employee manual and/or benefits, some uninspiring product
information, and then someone espousing some gobbledygook that
the company is the most wonderful and most perfect and most
spectacular of all the companies in the land. It was enough to
make me wake up and run for the nearest exit.
What would have kept me awake and happily in my seat was
some up-to-the-minute, concise
information about product, competitors, market segment and
penetration, primary organizational objectives, recent
successes, and how my new firm differentiates itself in the
After getting some basic understanding about my new place of
employment, I wanted to know about the people—who leads
the organization and why; the departments and their primary
reasons for existing; how my job fits into it all; and some
cool stuff about what the staff had done recently. I would have
liked my manager to take the time to introduce me to those
important for me to do my job (and tell me why), to take me to
lunch with my new co-workers and peers to help facilitate some
conversation to break the ice, and to tell me what to expect in
the next day, week, month and beyond.
There are a million other effective ways to bring an
employee on board, but to do them well takes time and energy.
Select someone qualified to be in charge and to manage the
process, but vary the orientation cast of characters so that
other employees have the opportunity to share their unique
perspectives and experiences. Just like raising a child,
getting a new employee off to a good start takes the whole
AFTER: Communication. In the
world of orientation, once is not enough. Reorienting existing
employees should happen whenever there is a significant change.
A new senior manager, a new benefit plan or policy, a new
product, a change in a regulatory issue, all cry out for
communication. Never underestimate the disorienting power of
change. Following a structured approach similar to new hire
orientation, including information, education and explanation,
will ensure that you don’t undo the good you’ve
done by poorly managing change along the way.
Kramer, an HR consultant, is a contributing writer.