Christine McDade is a human resource professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 20 years in the public sector.
Being the Newbie at Work
Being a new employee on the job is like that first day at the new school. The new employee walks into the workplace with high expectations about how great things will be in the job. All of the co-workers size up the new employee to figure out what they will bring to the workplace. The exchange of glances will bring some initial awkward nonverbal messages. Eventually, however, friendly introductions occur between the new employee and his/her new co-workers. As co-workers start to get to know the new employee, they will begin to find some shared interests and similarities in the new employee's work experience. Over time, co-workers will build camaraderie with the new employee as a trusting work relationship develops. When new employees feel welcomed and are given the tools to successfully transition into the new job, they are likely to have a rewarding experience with the new employer. This practice is commonly known as onboarding. However, when time and attention are not given to making the new employee feel like part of the team, chances are great that the employee will not stay, or will fail to meet the expectations of the job.
What is "Onboarding"?
Wikipedia defines onboarding as follows:
- Onboarding, also known as organizational socialization, refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders.
Employers have traditionally used new employee orientation as the time for formally introducing new employees to the "ins and outs" of the organization. This session is usually hosted by Human Resources to introduce key staff members, policy review, and modified training on customer service, workplace harassment, and safety. Some organizations hold orientation for a few hours and others may hold the orientation for a day or more. Depending on the organization, the amount of information disseminated to the new employee will vary.
Today, organizations recognize the link of the assimilation process with the success of the new employee in the organization. In addition, the investment that goes into recruiting and hiring a new employee is great. Therefore, employers want to make the most of their investment. Failing to use onboarding and orientation practices is bad business practice for an organization.
What Topics are Discussed for Assimilating New Employees
To familiarize new employees with the policies, organization structure, and the jobs themselves, employers use structured orientations sessions. Human Resources works with managers to plan a session that will cover the important topics that new employees need to know to be successful at the workplace. The following topics are often presented to new employees during orientation:
- History of the organization - Employers introduce the history of the organization during orientation. New employees are interested in how the organization has evolved and grown since its founding.
- Organization structure and organization chart - New employees are often unfamiliar with the executive leadership and structure of their new employer. For example, it will be of interest to the employees to learn about the different departments and divisions that make up the organization.
- Policies and Procedures - Orientation is a good time to introduce policies in the employee handbook. Important policies like Workplace Harassment, Job Transfers, and Grievance should be discussed so that employees are aware of their rights.
- Safety - Orientation is also a good time for the company Safety Officer or Risk Manager to present their workplace safety policy. Since good safety practices affect every position in the organization, it is important for new employees to know how to report injuries, workplace accidents, etc., to the appropriate staff.
- FMLA - Human Resources staff discuss the Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA, with employees to present their rights under federal law. Qualifying employers who spend time educating employees will have a better-informed workforce about this important law.
- Employee benefits - Human Resources dedicate a lot of time during orientation to discuss employee benefits. While many employers include information about employee benefits in the offer letter itself, it is prudent to take time during orientation to discuss the employee's options. Health, dental, short and long-term disability, 401K, pension, life insurance, vision, and other benefits are often given as options to new employees. Human Resources staff will want to present the information both in person and in writing to orientation participants. Since there is much information to discuss that is personal and unique to each employee, Human Resources often make appointments with the new employees to have one-on-one conversations about their benefits package.
- Performance evaluation system - Employees will want to know how often supervisors will be evaluating their performance. Performance evaluations are generally done annually and are often tied to a merit raise.
- Unions - If the new employer is unionized, it may be helpful to provide contact information to the employees whose position qualifies to be in a union.
- Training and tuition reimbursement - Some organizations offer different training opportunities and tuition reimbursement for college courses. While the information is often listed in the employee handbook, it is worth taking a moment during orientation to provide attendees with a quick overview of the programs.
The Personal Touch
Besides doing an orientation for a group of new employees, supervisors provide some one-on-one time with the new employees. A tour of the organization for a new employee provides a good perspective and visual understanding of the layout of the organization. A personal introduction to co-workers at the different work sites is appreciated by the new employee who is trying to become acquainted with everything and everyone in the organization. Some organizations send out a memorandum of introduction or post a photo with background information about the new employee in the company newsletter for the entire workplace to see. Any personal touches that introduce the employee to fellow co-workers will be a friendly way to familiarize the new employee with the workplace.
Treat Others as You Would Like to Be Treated
The best way to welcome a new employee is to do so in a manner that is informative while still being considerate and friendly. New employees do not need to go through any form of initiation to become a member of the team. They should be assimilated into the workplace in a manner that helps them get off to a good start in their new role. By understanding the different benefits, perks, and opportunities available to them, new employees will experience a lower level of anxiety and be more like to be successful in the organization.
- SHRM Online - Society for Human Resource Management
The Society of Human Resource Management provides excellent resources for individuals seeking information about Human Resources.
Christine McDade (author) from Southwest Florida on February 28, 2013:
Having a good start in a new job is really important. Turnover, job satisfaction and overall productivity can be affected negatively when new employees are not properly introduced to the workplace. Thanks for the comments.
David Livermore from Bakersfield, California, United States on February 27, 2013:
This is very true. If new employees aren't given a proper introduction into the organization, they may never get a good feel on it.
Good hub, voted up!