Get Them Started Right
Employee orientation can make a world of difference. Save yourself some serious management time; do it right.
The faster they can get up to speed, the quicker you get a return on your investment. Here are some tips that will help you in this area.
Assign a “Buddy”
Every new employee needs a “buddy”. This is someone the new employee can turn to who can answer the question: “How are things done around here?”
The buddy could be their new manager, but not necessarily. In fact, it’s probably better if it isn’t. What is important is that they do have someone to turn to.
If you are hiring a new technician, for instance, assign one of your other techs to look after the new person. Choose someone who has been around a while, of course. Use it as an opportunity to acknowledge one of your better people for the good work they do.
The buddy should be someone who is very familiar with the organisation. Of course, if they also have a good understanding of the area where the new employee is working, that’s even better.
This is not vital, however, as the buddy is not there to teach the new person their job. The buddy is there to help with employee orientation in the overall environment.
The buddy system is designed to give new employees someone to turn to for the simple, everyday things. Things like:
- “How do I get supplies?”,
- “How does the phone system work?”,
- “Who looks after accounts?”, etc.
Establish the End Result
Once the employee has found their feet in the new environment, the next step in employee orientation is to ensure that he or she understands what the overall objective of the job is.
The end results should be made clear.
The new top performer will already be asking you this, if they have not already figured it out for themselves.
But the not-so-top performer will benefit greatly by having this clearly stated for them.
The essence is:
“What is the outcome of performing this job well? And what is the measure by which this outcome will be judged?”
The Replacement Position
Employee orientation, when taking over a job that someone else has been performing, is quite different from when the new person is stepping into a newly created position. With a replacement situation, you should ask yourself one very important question:
“Did the previous holder of this job produce good results?”
If the answer is “Yes”, then the new person should have some way to find out how and why that previous person was so successful.
On the other hand, if the previous employee made a mess of the job, their methods of operating should be avoided at all costs. But it would help if the new person knew (by the example of the unsuccessful employee) what not to do.
The New Position
When filling a newly created job, with no previous incumbent, employee orientation is a totally different story, of course.
In this instance, the new person must learn about the position from the manager who has created the job in the first place.
Here is where your Top Performer will shine. If you, as the manager, can define the end results that are required in the new position, a new and results-oriented employee will quickly work out what the job is, and begin to get on with it.
If the new employee is not a totally competent high flyer, the manager will need to spend some time making sure they understand what the position is about. The manager will need to do a thorough job of creating a clear and concise Job Description.
Having valid job descriptions for every position in a company is one of the quality certification requirements. Even small companies are putting more focus on writing job descriptions today. See the related article How to Write Job Descriptions for a full explanation on how to do this.
A job, or “position”, description is certainly a valuable part of employee orientation. It will help a new employee get a good grasp of what is required. But if that is all the new person has to go on, they are missing some vital information.
Let’s look at an example of what we mean here.
Suppose you are promoting a Sales Person in your location to Sales Manager in another branch. This person is being promoted because they have achieved outstanding results as a Sales Rep. So now you have to hire a new Sales Person to fill the gap in your team.
Obviously, it will be of tremendous help to the new person if they know how and why the promoted Sales Rep was able to be so successful. But if the departing Sales Rep has gone to another branch, it may not be easily possible for them to get together for a debriefing.
- A “Job Description” does not tell the new person the nitty gritty of how to perform the job.
- It tells them what the job consists of and what they are supposed to achieve.
- But it does not tell them precisely how the previous successful person was able to be so effective.
Of course, a part of the success could be attributed to that previous person’s abilities, knowledge, approach and style. But there will also be many tips, tricks and techniques that the new person could learn from the departing Sales Rep.
These are the things that can greatly aid the new Sales Rep in achieving a decent productivity level as rapidly as possible.
How do you get this valuable information into the hands of the new Rep? The answer is; a “Job Write-Up”.
This only applies to positions that were previously held by another; not to newly created positions. And this is not something that the manager of the group writes; listing the goals, procedures, areas of responsibility and accountability (these are all part of the Job Description, not the Job Write-Up).
A Job Write-Up can only be done by the departing employee.
It goes into detail on the peculiarities of the job. It covers those things that can only be learned by actually doing the job. Such information is vital to employee orientation.
This is highly practical stuff. For example, the successful Sales Rep may have found:-
- An effective way to arrange his sales kit, so as to get the sales message across more easily.
- That the best time to catch the Managing Director of a certain large client is to call him before 8:00AM.
- A workable strategy for organising the daily calls, so as to maximise the time.
You can see that these are all things that are peculiar to that particular job, but are not things that are normally included in a regular Job Description. These are also things that only the departing employee can document, which brings us to the next point.
Always Get a Job Write-Up
When someone is moved from one position in your company to another, always get them to do a Job Write-Up. This is vital to the employee orientation of the new person who will take over.
This applies regardless of whether they were successful or not.
If the incoming person is not given the opportunity to understand all the finer points and specific bits of data that are peculiar to that job, they will take much longer to get up to speed.
And if the outgoing person has made a mess of the job, the newcomer has a list of what didn’t work.
How to do a Job Write-Up
- A Job Write-Up can be as complex as a detailed report on the exact, up-to-date status of all the major projects that are currently running.
- Or, it could simply be a brief list of some of the more important things that the new person should know about.
Even if the outgoing employee is being dismissed, they should be encouraged to write up some sort of summary of the important things that are happening in their job and the way they performed the various activities.
They will actually feel better about leaving when they do this.
The crux of the Job Write-Up is that it should make it easier for the new person to step into the shoes of the employee who is leaving.
The test is: does the Job Write-Up enable a new person to step in and begin operating with some degree of effectiveness?
In summary, if you want your new people to have a flying start, give them some effective employee orientation by ensuring that they have:-
- A buddy.
- A clear idea of the end results required of the job.
- A Job Description.
- A Job Write-Up done by the outgoing employee.
With each of the above things in place, employee orientation will be effective and your new people will have a much better chance of rapidly getting up to speed.
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