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A Quick Guide To Employee Orientation? - Help For Managers & HR

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A Quick Guide To Employee Orientation  - Help For Managers & HR

Here's a short article to help both managers and human resource professionals think a bit more about employee orientation, why it is so important to both employee retention and productivity, and how to go about it.

We would not be understating the case if we said that orienting employees  to their workplaces and their jobs is one of the most neglected functions  in government.  Countless horror stories exist about how a new employee  has received a ten minute talk with the manager, and directed to his or her  office position, with no further guidance or instruction.  Not only is this  exceedingly stressful for the employee, but it virtually guarantees a very  long period of unproductiveness for the employee. 

In this month's PSM Supplement we present an overview of the orientation  process, and a checklist that you can use when orienting new staff.  As  you read the article, keep in mind that orientation is also important for  existing employees if a) they have never received proper orientation or b)  there have been many changes in the organization and it's purpose and  function.   

Purposes of Orientation 

Orientation isn't a nicety!  It is used for the following purposes: 

1.   To Reduce Startup-Costs 

Proper orientation can help the employee get "up to speed" much more  quickly, thereby reducing the costs associated with learning the job.   

2.   To Reduce Anxiety 

Any employee, when put into a new, strange situation, will experience  anxiety that can impede his or her ability to learn to do the job.  Proper  orientation helps to reduce anxiety that results from entering into an  unknown situation, and helps provide guidelines for behaviour and  conduct, so the employee doesn't have to experience the stress of guessing.   

3.   To Reduce Employee Turnover 

Employee turnover increases as employees feel they are not valued, or are  put in positions where they can't possibly do their jobs.  Orientation shows  that the organization values the employee, and help provide tools necessary  for succeeding in the job.   

4.   To Save Time For Supervisor & Co-Workers 

Simply put, the better the initial orientation, the less likely supervisors and  co-workers will have to spend time teaching the employee.   

5.   To Develop Realistic Job Expectations, Positive Attitudes and Job  Satisfaction 

It is important that employees learn early on what is expected of them, and  what to expect from others, in addition to learning about the values and  attitudes of the organization.  While people can learn from experience,  they will make many mistakes that are unnecessary and potentially  damaging.   

Two Kinds of Orientation 

There are two related kinds of orientation.  The first we will call Overview  Orientation, and deals with the basic information an employee will need  to understand the broader system he or she works in.  Overview  Orientation includes helping employees understand: 

  • government in general, the department and the branch 
  • important policies and general procedures (non-job specific) 
  • information about compensation and benefits 
  • safety and accident prevention issues 
  • employee and union issues (rights, responsibilities) 
  • physical facilities 

Often, Overview Orientation can be conducted by the personnel department  with a little help from the branch manager or immediate supervisor, since  much of the content is generic in nature. 

The second kind of orientation is called Job-Specific Orientation, and is  the process that is used to help employees understand: 

  • function of the organization, and how the employee fits in 
  • job responsibilities, expectations, and duties 
  • policies, procedures, rules and regulations 
  • layout of workplace 
  • introduction to co-workers and other people in the broader  organization. 

Job specific orientation is best conducted by the immediate supervisor,  and/or manager, since much of the content will be specific to the  individual.  Often the orientation process will be ongoing, with supervisors  and co-workers supplying coaching.   

Some Tips 

1.   Orientation should begin with the most important information (basic  job survival). 

2.   Orientation should emphasize people as well as procedures and  things.  Employees should have a   chance to get to know people and their  approaches and styles in both social and work settings. 

3.   Buddy an employee to a more experienced person, but make sure  the more experienced person   wants to buddy up, and has the  inter-personal skills.  This provides ongoing support. 

4.   Introduce employees to both information and people in a controlled  way.  A new employee can't  absorb everything at once, so don't  waste your time.  Space out introductions. 


Orientation (or lack of it) will make a significant difference in how quickly  an employee can become more productive, and also has long term effects  for the organization.  To help you in the orientation process, we have  included a checklist for the Job-Specific Orientation.  Note that any  complete program will include other elements...those that would be  included in the Overview Orientation.   

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Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992. Since then Robert has trained thousands of employees to deal with angry, hostile, abusive and potentially violent customers. He has authored over 20 books on various subjects, many published by McGraw-Hill.


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