!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Well-Designed New-Hire Orientation

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Well-Designed New-Hire Orientation

One of the earliest HR projects I worked on was updating the new-hire orientation for a healthcare company on Long Island. Their existing program was very much in the style of marching new-hires through the bureaucratic details of learning how to use the phone, signing up for benefits, being briefed about policies and procedures, etc.

To their credit, the company was open to making the orientation process more engaging. Still, we didn't achieve as much progress in humanizing and enhancing the program as I would have liked.

Recently, ManageSmarter.com published a description of the update to new-hire orientation that Vision Service Plan (VSP) of Rancho Cordova CA undertook in mid-2006. With one caveat, this program offers a good model.

The caveat comes up as soon as I mention that VSP calls its orientation the "Onboarding Program." Without going to the opposite extreme of being too cute, I would like to think that VSP could have come up with a more distinctive name that reflected the company's culture and personality.

Leaving the naming issue aside (and the corollary problem of overuse of corporate jargon), here are some of the useful lessons the VSP example offers:
  • Have a nice Welcome Aboard package. VSP sends an email message with "a PowerPoint presentation about VSP's business, goals and culture." Each employee also receives a picture frame with the VSP logo.

  • Start the program with a warm greeting from a senior manager.

  • Include talks by representatives of the organization's various departments, such as sales and marketing. As Shauna Harrington, director of workforce development explains, "It is one thing to understand VSP, but it's also important for everyone to know who our competitors are, what the marketplace as a whole looks like, and what our customers value."

  • Work to maintain the initial enthusiasm of the new-hire. For example, enlist managers and other employees in helping new-hires feel connected to the rest of the organization and engaged in the organization's mission.

  • Give new-hires firsthand exposure to how employees interact with customers. In VSP's case, this means having new-hires sit with customer service reps in the call center. (Harrington points out that a further benefit is that the CSRs feel an extra bit of appreciation.)

  • Provide a tour of company facilities.

  • Use the buddy system. Match each new-hire with a more experienced employee who will take an active interest in helping the new person to learn the ropes, to find out about the local community, and to feel engaged.

  • Explain professional and career development opportunities.

  • Give managers a checklist of the steps they need to take as part of the process of bringing the new-hire onboard.

  • Use feedback from participants and management to continuously strengthen and update the program.

  • Follow up. After 90 days, new-hires at VSP "are invited to a one-on-one meeting with HR after providing input via a new-hire follow-up survey... A few months later, new employees attend required training pertaining to the company's values (Walking the Talk), diversity/inclusion education (The Inclusion Workshop), and coaching/management philosophy (Situational Leadership)."
Harrington reports that VSP's new approach to orientation seems to be helping. Not counting call center employees, there has been a 25% drop in the number of people who quit without notice, who leave VSP for "other employment," and who list "other" as their reason for departing.


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