Goals of a new employee orientation program

Most companies have some type of new employee orientation (NEO). This orientation can range from very simple to complex, depending on how much money and importance a company place on NEO. Closely tied to orientation is training of new employees. Many people believe that those two words are interchangeable they are not. Work center orientation involves learning details of your specific job and company orientation is learning about a company’s goals/vision and general knowledge that every employee should know (Wallace, 2009). This paper will explore both concepts. Included in this paper is a detailed explanation of a proposed two-week orientation program for new employees. In addition, there is a discussion on continuing education training and performance appraisals.

Goals and Benefits of a NEO Program

A successful NEO program has three elements or goals a company wants to achieve with a NEO program (Wallace, 2009). Those goals are a company wants an employee to feel like they made a right choice in applying for the job; new employees are clear on their duties and expectations, and to make an employee feel like a company team members (Wallace, 2009). If a company can achieves these goals, they will reap many benefits.

Benefits of re-affirming an employee’s choice to work with your company includes increased motivation, loyalty, and employees are less likely to quit their job (Hacker, 2004). When an employee understands their expectations, it lessens the “learning curve” and they are less likely to violate company policies and procedures. Lastly, benefits of making an employee feel like company team members includes greater levels of confidence, they feel more comfortable approaching a supervisor when they have a problem, and it helps lower stress and nervousness of being the “new guy” (Hacker, 2004).

NEO Program

Purpose

The purpose of this program is three-fold. First fold is to familiarize (e.g. company mission & a company tour) new employees with their company. Second fold is to provide information on their benefits and company polices (e.g. leave and EO policy). The last fold is providing job specific orientation (e.g. policies, process, and procedures of their job).

Program design

The program is ten duty days long. This program is for all employees (i.e. line workers to management). It will start at 0800 to 1600, Monday thru Friday (one-hour lunch). Classroom will consist of four to six circular tables with five to six employees are each table. Ideally, each table will consist of employees that work in different areas.

Each table of employees makes up one team. Inter-mixed between orientations is various team challenges designed to increase team dynamics and cohesiveness. Teams consist of five to six employees because research indicates that is the best number to build a cohesive group (Al-Rawi, 2008). I picked five to six employees for each team also because my personal experience has taught me that most employees on a day-to-day continuous basis interact with five to six co-workers.

Quality of facilitators/briefers

Facilitators/briefers (F/B) will be subject matter experts in the topic they are briefing. All F/B will possess excellent speaking and writing ability. All F/Bs will have at least 30 hours of group dynamic/team building training. The reason is simple. This program at its core is team-based.

NEO week one

Day one

One day all new employees will be in their seats by 0800. At exactly 0800 an F/B will walk in tell everyone that those people sitting at their table are their new team members. F/B will than tell them they have to two minutes to come with a team name. Once each team has a name, F/B tells everyone to stand up and follow him.

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F/B will lead them to their first team challenge, an obstacle course. The goal of this challenge is to give new employees an event that they can come together and share as a group. Each part of the course will require every team member to participate. Many things are going on during this challenge. Teams are introducing themselves to each other; they are talking and socializing with each other. This challenge begins the organizational socialization (OS) process. OS happens when an employee begin to understand core values of a company and begin to feel like they are part of a company (Yang, 2008). OS is very important to the success of new employees. Socialized employees can better adapt to new procedures and norms than employees who are not as socialized (McLaurin, 2008).

After they complete the challenge, they return to class and watch a welcome video from the company president. It is at this time F/Bs will make introductions and discuss the course outline.

Day two thru four

Days two through four will be a mix of classroom instruction on benefits, company polices, etc…and team challenges. Day two’s challenge will be a scavenger hunt. At this time, they do not know their way around the company. They have a map and list of items they need to acquire. Teams have to decipher a set of clues to find each item. Each team member brings a certain set of skills to their team. Clues are unique to each team depending on a team’s composition and skill set. No one person can figure out all the clues on his or her own. This will force them to work together and get to know each other. Again, the goal is to increase OS with this challenge.

Through solving clues, they will learn about different jobs that other people do in the company. This will allow them to see a bigger picture of the company’s mission and purpose. Another benefit is creating a social network. Once they get into their jobs, they will know people in other sections that they can ask for help with a problem. This might not be possible if they sit through orientation training and do not interact with each other.

The last benefit is they learn where everything is located in the company. Often times new employees spend time looking for places because they don’t know where anything is and often times will not even try to find, for example an exercise room, out of frustration. Using a team dynamic approach will make it a fun way to learn the company layout and still learn everything they need to know about the company.

Day 5

On day five, teams will receive an all day briefing on organizational culture (OC). Schein (2004) defines OC as a “pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough be considered valid and, therefore to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”

Once a new employee learns what is socially acceptable in a company they integrated quicker into that company (Akdere & Schmidt, 2007). For example, you have a company that is hierarchical and expects employees to use formal channels to communicate with management. New employees that quickly adapt to that culture will likely be more successful than those that do not adapt. Research has shown that employees that do not learn a company’s OC are more likely to quit, their job performance suffers, and they are more likely to be fired (Akdere & Schmidt, 2007).

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NEO week two

Week one focused on company orientation. Week two focuses on work center orientation. The class is split into teams based on where they will be working. They will come up with a new team name and team challenges will continue as they did in week one.

Day 6

Each team will go to different classrooms and receive job specific briefing over such topics as safety, environmental conservation, and work center policies. They will have a tour of their work center and meet their co-workers. Lunch is at their work center and it is with all work center employees. This is another step in socializing a new employee.

Day 7 & 8

Day seven and eight are hands-on days. New employees will learn how to use their work center equipment and tools, if they are line workers. They will be able to practice and they will run through various work scenarios to better familiarize them with what a typical day-to-day workload.

Staff worker (i.e. supervisors and managers) will learn about specific supervisory and managerial responsibilities for their work centers. They will go through a series of role-played scenarios of common supervisor/manger issues. Actors will be F/Bs and employees will be evaluated on how well they handle each situation. However, it is a non-threatening process. Feedback is critical and designed to make new supervisors/managers better at their job and highlight any areas that need to be improved.

Day 9

As on day five, day nine will focus on OC. However, it will be over work center specific OC. A key aspect to teaching OC will be to stress that company OC, as a whole, may be different from the OC of your work center. These can be different because each work center has a different purpose and way of doing things which effects is OC. Making employees aware of differences in company OC and work center OC will lessen any confusion or disappointment (Akdere & Schimdt, 2007).

Day 10

On day ten, the entire class will come together, to discuss what they have learned over the last two-weeks. After a facilitated discussion, employees receive a certificate of completion and the F/B will show a video from the president congratulating new employees on completing the program and welcoming them on-board. After that, they will attend a company-wide picnic where everyone attends (new employees and their supervisors/co-workers) to mingle and reflect on their experience with the NEO program.

Assessment of the NEO Program

Pre-NEO program assessment

Before an employee starts, they will take a Team-KSA assessment test created by Stevens and Campion (1994). Their test (Stevens & Campion, 1994) measures essential knowledge, skills, and abilities that are predictive of working effectively in teams. It is 35- multiple-choice question test. It takes 30 to 40 minutes to complete. This test provides a baseline for each new employee. The goal is to see an improvement in their over team-KSA score at the end of the NEO program.

Active assessment of NEO program

I will use direct observation during competitions and over the rest of the orientation training. I will place one of F/B to shadow each team but they cannot interact with them. They will be watching how they interact and communicate with each other. After the competition, we would sit down, compare notes, and see how what worked and what did not work.

In addition, F/B will receive constant feedback from other F/Bs on the quality of their briefings. The purpose is not to criticize or tell the F/B what they are doing wrong. Its purpose is to improve the quality of each briefing. In my personal experience, an extra set of eyes is always helpful.

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Post NEO assessment

There are two parts to post assessment. In part one, employees fill out a course survey. The first survey has each new employee rating the overall experience and any suggestion to improve orientation. They will also rate each briefing and team challenge. I will use these surveys to evaluate the program and make adjustments as need based off employee comments.

In part two, employees complete a team-KSA assessment test. They will also take this test at three, six, nine and twelve month period. The purpose is to see if their team-KSA score stays constant or improves over time. This will be a true test of the program if employees retain what they were taught over an extended period.

Continuing Education

While a good NEO program gets employees off too good start, research has shown that overtime employees forget or begin to ignore NEO briefings, this especially true concerning OC (Akdere & Schimdt, 2007). Much of the continuing education will deal with general company training (i.e. EO, suicide awareness, workplace violence, etc…). However, training is in four-hour blocks for five days. To accommodate shift works there will be an a.m and p.m. sessions.

As with the NEO program, they will be broken out into teams. Throughout training, teams will be given challenges they need to complete. Some will be mental and others will be physical challenges of varying degrees of difficulty. Again, the purpose is to promote socialization and networking among employees through these team challenges. Ideally, as before, teams will be made of people who have never worked together before.

Performance appraisals

The one important difference between continuing education training and the NEO program is that continuing education training is part of their annual appraisal. Continuing education evaluators will be looking at several different factors.

The first factor is – does an employee demonstrate good teamwork or not. We will be looking at followership as well. Each team will have a member of senior management on it. However, that employee will not be a team leader. Preferably, the team leader will be an employee that is under consideration for a supervisor or management position. This serves two purposes in the evaluation process. First is can a senior manager display good followership.

It is my belief that the more you follow the more you lead.

The second purpose is evaluating a team leader’s potential leadership ability. Often employees have leadership ability but are never afforded a chance to use it. In addition, to teamwork and leadership ability we would be evaluating how well they communicate with team members.

I call this method “performance appraisal in motion”. I believe that carefully designed team challenges will bring out the best or worst in a person. It is my opinion that only when a person is interacting with others can we see their true personality and ability.

Conclusion

Training new employees is vital to a company’s success. The purpose of the NEO program outline above I believe has the necessary elements to ensure that success. New employees will learn through team challenges and interaction with others the value of teamwork. Continuing education will reinforce lessons and values taught in the NEO program. Finally, adding teamwork to performance appraisals gives employees’ added incentive to espouse the concepts teamwork, leadership, and followership.


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