How do you engage your employees from day 1? 10 orientation sins and strategies

When new employees first join an organization, they are typically very excited or in the "honeymoon" phase. However, this can quickly dissipate when employees realize they are out of their comfort zone, which can lead to disengagement or even resignation.

How do you prevent this cycle from occurring among new hires? An effective orientation.

At the American College of Healthcare Executives' 2015 Congress of Healthcare Leadership in Chicago, Paul Grossman, senior vice president of content & solutions of Integrated Loyalty Systems, said a carefully constructed and efficient orientation program can help new hires maintain excitement and pride in their new job and set them on a path to success.

According to Mr. Grossman, new hires who received a summary of the organization's mission and how it relates to their job said they were able to significantly contribute to the organization four weeks earlier than others. New hires who felt engaged in their orientation program figured out how important decisions were made six weeks earlier than others, and new hires who had a thorough overview of their job responsibilities from another person felt they were able to significantly contribute 25 days earlier than others.

"This has real dollars and cents value to an organization," Mr. Grossman said.

However, many organizations fail to implement effective orientations or engage their new hires in the very beginning of employment. This often yields negative results, such as disengagement from work, feeling disparate from the organization's culture or picking up negative habits.

Below are the top 10 deadly sins of orientation, according to Mr. Grossman:

10. There is no defined message.

9. It is an information dump.

8. The orientation session is unorganized, unpolished, unprofessional and uninteresting.

7. The entire session is comprised of a series of guest speakers.

6. There is no integrity or continuity.

5. The session is made mandatory to attend as soon as possible, preferably on the first day.

4. It is a monologue for the leader, not an active dialogue.

3. The leader spends too much time talking about consequences for breaking rules or failing to comply with policy.

2. There is no transition to on-the-job training.

1. My manager didn't even know I was coming! Often times, organizations fail to understand the importance of orientation to new hires, and expect them to retain a lot of important information and learn on the job. They may even ask employees to try to "sneak" out of orientation early to get on the floor, according to Mr. Grossman.

There are several concepts and strategies organizations can take to avoid these pitfalls, according to Mr. Grossman.

1. Communicate your culture upfront. Share the organization's mission and values with the new hires, and most importantly, show them how the jobs they will be doing help the organization continue to fulfill them.

2. Treat new employees exactly the way you want them to treat patients and each other. Just as it is important for the frontline staff to be prepared to treat patients by understanding their needs, leaders running orientation should be prepared with all of the necessary materials and a planned itinerary.

3. Create emotional buy-in. Capitalize on great success stories from the organization and tie them to the core of the mission of the healthcare organization. This will motivate new hires and show them they can make a real difference in peoples' lives.

4. Involve senior leadership. When senior executive leaders take the time to speak to new hires, answer their questions and share their own experiences at the organization, new hires feel valued, respected and proud.

5. Connect it to day two. Showing new employees how the things they learn during orientation relate to their specific job must be formal and built in to orientation.

6. Follow basic principles of adult learning. The most effective orientations follow the BABE principle: the brain can only absorb what the butt can endure. Frequently switching activities — including questions, discussions and videos — will help sustain interest and attention and enhance learning.

7. Orientation on day one. If you let people in the field before orientation, they can develop negative habits and engage in behaviors that are inconsistent with the culture and values of the organization. It is important to let the managers doing the hiring know the dates of upcoming orientation sessions so they can plan accordingly and sign up new hires for the orientation session nearest to their start date.

8. Tap into the power of pride. By showing new hires that the organization is truly a great place to work, they will be proud and excited for their new job, and subsequently more motivated and engaged.

9. Make orientation material applicable to all. Although there may be a tendency to center a significant amount of orientation material on clinical roles, new hires from a variety of departments of the organization will be in attendance. Paying attention to just the needs of one group out of many makes the others feel neglected, bored and as if they are wasting their time.

10. The information should be practical. The best orientation guides are portable, include definitions of acronyms, jargon, nicknames and phone numbers. Additionally, instead of focusing on defining every aspect of every new job, guides should have sufficient information to direct new hires to different resources.


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