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Starting off on the right foot with a new employee is critical for engagement and long-term retention at your organization.  So often a first day is filled with mindless paperwork, unending introductions, and excuses about why a computer isn’t available yet or a workstation isn’t ready.

To remedy this, often organizations will create extensive presentations about the history, culture, and benefits of working there – but research indicates that employee orientations can be infinitely more successful if LESS is shared about the company and MORE is invested in learning about the new employee.

“Organizations will talk about recruiting from outside the company because they need new ideas and new blood, but then there is this tendency to shut off the new and basically transfer the corporate culture over to the new employee,” Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School who co-wrote the paper “Breaking Them In or Eliciting Their Best? Reframing Socialization around Newcomers’ Self-expression,” published in the March 2013 Administrative Science Quarterly.

The paper, shared by Forbes, highlights a field study at a major call center that had more than half of its call center agents quitting after a few months.  After implementing a new orientation program that included discussing each employee’s individuality and how those strengths might help their new employer, the call center found that their turnover rate decreased by nearly 50%! This discussion about individual strengths wasn’t all that extensive either – it included several activities that lasted only about 1 – 2 hours.

Use an employee’s first day to celebrate what they’re bringing to your organization and make them feel valued right off the bat.  Some easy to implement ideas include:

    • Send new employee paperwork and handbooks prior to starting; ask the employee to complete and bring it on their first day so you don’t have to spend time doing this on a first day.
    • Ask for their favorite food/restaurant ideas and let them know they don’t need to worry about lunch their first day. Maybe schedule lunch with only their direct supervisor so that this important relationship between direct report and supervisor can get established right away.
    • Don’t do a ton of introductions with a lot of people – there’s no way they’ll remember everyone and it can be overwhelming to some to meet so many people.
    • Ensure workstations and computers are set up right away so employees feel able to contribute right away.
    • Share their 90 day training and development plan – ask for their input and ideas

Do you have any success (or horror) stories about a new employee orientation you’ve experienced?  We’d love to hear about them!

Catherine Schmidt
Catherine Schmidt
Catherine Schmidt is Purple Ink’s Manager of Career Coaching Services and is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Catherine has a special interest in career coaching and recruiting and finds joy when she can connect the right person to the right opportunity.

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