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Employee Induction Programs

So, your business is booming, you’re looking to employ new staff and you’d like to implement an Employee Induction Program or Employee Onboarding Program. But what makes a good induction or onboarding program? Some of the biggest global corporations have very positive and engaging programs, but your business isn’t on that scale. What can you do for your new recruits to make their first day constructive for you and them?

Throughout my employment history, I’ve seen some doozies, ranging from reading the Policies and Procedures Manual ALL DAY (yawn), to an engaging CD that took about one hour, taking me on a tech-tour into every department, the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) and where the toilets and canteens were located (don’t underestimate the importance of coffee and its link as a diuretic!). I’ve also been introduced to new employers through the buddy system, and of course, some, in my experience, have had no induction programs at all.

Let’s have a closer look at some of the programs that have made up my new employee induction experiences.

Making your new employee read the Policies and Procedures Manual doesn’t work as employee induction. I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t. How can you expect the newest member on staff to sit at a desk and read and retain the information contained within? It’s not going to work. All that’s likely to happen is that your new employee will probably wonder what sort of employer you are, and is probably planning out the resignation letter in his or her head, already. Right there on the first day. I know that’s certainly what was filling up my headspace when that happened to me. I felt unvalued and left alone, forgotten.

A CD-based induction program is pretty old-school technology now, but it does highlight an effective way to fill up your new employee’s first hour or so. I remember being blown away. I’d never seen anything like it before (this was some years back!). I thought that this employer, an education institution with over 1000 employees, was great, and I felt that I could really do well there. And I did. I worked there for nearly seven years, navigating my way from reception work in one department to a project worker in another, as well as being able to take on the team leader’s role in an acting capacity every now and then. My success there was not solely based on their induction program of course, but I am choosing to make that link.

The buddy system is not a bad idea for your new employees. Make sure that they’re with someone during the lunch break, someone to show them around, how to work the photocopier and coffee machine and other important, intricate details within your office. But how long do you assign one employee to this new one? And what if they don’t hit it off? True, your staff members are not at work to form thick-as-thieves friendships, but relationships are a key factor in any work environment. However, you’d also need to ensure that the buddy is relaying correct information that actually lines up with your organisation’s values, as well as policies, to your new recruit. The buddy assigned to me at one job had a massive chip on her shoulder regarding this employer and informed me that the allotted time for lunch breaks was one hour—I found out later during my first week that lunches were forty minutes. My buddy resigned about a month after I’d started.

Indeed, what does make a good induction program? And what is the difference between what I know as employee induction and what seems to be the trendier phrase labelled ‘Employee Onboarding’? Realistically, there is no difference. It’s just another way to rebrand an organisational process in order to make it seem new, different and exciting.

As my four examples have demonstrated, no matter what you call your program to integrate new recruits into your organisation, induction/onboarding is essential. The key reasons are that inductions:

  • provide a sense of familiarisation for the new employee to the organisation

  • provide an understanding of how job performance contributes to the organisation as a whole

  • highlight how the business contributes to society (i.e. goods, products and services)

  • help to reduce anxiety in the new employee

  • lead to early sense of attachment to the employer, which can lead to a long-term commitment[i]

If your induction program is tailored to your organisation and up-to-date, your new employee will benefit. Take it one step further, and make sure you plan into your schedule regular follow-ups with your new employee on their first day, during their first week, second week, first month, second month and every month until the end of their probationary period. This ensures your recruit understands their role and the organisation itself, and can highlight to you, as their manager, where your new recruit may be struggling in their new role.

Induction or Onboarding Programs don’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get it right if you are a small or medium sized business. Organisationally branded videos and wiz-bang online programs are lovely, but it’s not the end of the world if you can’t afford them. We are the YouTube generation after all: there are ample free videos relating to workplace inductions available if you look for them. Additionally, insurance companies and state OH&S agencies (like WorkSafe in Victoria) provide many resources such as videos and information booklets free for any organisations to use.

Every organisation has the ability to create an induction or onboarding program that fits their workplace, their budget and makes being a new recruit a whole lot nicer. And if you still aren’t sure how to pull it all together, The Fiddes Group can help you to develop a program that ticks all the boxes and will make your business better.

[i] Nankervis, Compton, Baird & Coffey, 2011, Human Resource Management, 7th Edition


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