Starting Off On the Right Foot

Successful employee orientation sets the stage for keeping your mission on track.

Whenever I hear about someone holding an orientation session, I think about the opportunity it represents to start over. For the employees, it’s a new beginning on their career path. For the organization, it’s a chance to finesse the way the corporate mission gets actualized. But orientations have to be done right to be effective. That means avoiding these common pitfalls:

Information overload

Too many orientations try to cram 10 pounds of material into a five-pound bag. Orientations should provide only what is important to know “right now.” Benefits, bathroom locations, appearance standards … they’re all good to know, but they’re not critical to an employee’s long-term success. Think about filling that five pound bag with three pounds of information—and leave the employee wanting more.

Insufficient connections

People want to be part of something that is necessary, larger than themselves, and is considered important. During orientation, draw an explicit connection between these employee needs and your business needs. Think of your business as a skyscraper. Everybody’s working at the top, but new employees are walking into the bottom floor and wondering how they’ll fit in.

Lack of specificity

The sweet spot in a dartboard is dead center—and that’s what you should aim for in orientations. Communicate “what this place is” to your new hires. Who you serve and how, when, where, and why you serve them are critical bits of information, but they belong in another meeting.

Boil orientations down to:
“The purpose of our organization is to ___________. We accomplish that by ___________ so that we achieve _________.”

Filling in these blanks will define the core-value philosophy that distinguishes your business from others like it and, in the process, will help your employees start off on the right foot.