Priorities in new hire orientation

By Robin Thomas, JD

Most employers spend a lot of time
and money on the recruiting and hiring process: 
finding qualified applicants, interviewing, checking references, and
creating an acceptable offer.  But, the
process does not end once the new employee has been hired. 

A program to
assimilate the employee into the new job is a primary ingredient for reducing
future employee performance problems and turnover.  However, management attention is often
diverted to all the necessary new hire paperwork needed to ensure compliance
with today’s maze of employment laws. 

Unfortunately,
too many organizations become overwhelmed by the paperwork demands and neglect
the fundamentals of the orientation process. 
A better approach is to put the focus on welcoming and integrating new
hires and on laying the groundwork for improved performance and retention.  Below are seven tips on how to coordinate
orientation and new hire legal compliance into a balanced process.

Engaging a new team member

An effective orientation program makes the new hire feel
comfortable and introduces the organization’s culture, supervisors, coworkers,
and work expectations.  New employees who
get a positive first impression and “buy into” your culture are more likely to
be loyal, cooperative, and interested in your organization’s success.  While you must adjust your approach based on
your company’s size and management philosophy, the following action steps
provide guidelines to help you cover the right bases.

  1. Make new
    employees feel welcome and part of the group.
      For example, make sure the new
    employee’s workspace is ready and that keys,
    badges, and any necessary entry codes are provided.  Assign an e-mail address and computer
    password, if applicable, and add the employee to the internal telephone
    extension lists.  Appoint a co-worker
    advocate to introduce the new employee around and answer questions.  In addition, have your top officials at
    the highest possible level take the time to meet every new hire, or at
    least send a personal welcome note. 
  2. Provide an
    overview of all operations.
     
    Include a review of the corporate history and organizational chart,
    a discussion of products and services, and a tour of the facilities.
  3. Communicate
    information about the organization’s goals and culture.
      Retention rates improve when employees
    feel informed about, and buy into, corporate plans and goals.
  4. Provide detailed
    information about the new hire’s position.
      New employees should be given a clear
    outline of their job description, title, and duties, as well as
    performance goals with appropriate benchmarks. 
  5. Assign new
    employees meaningful work.
      Many
    employers make the mistake of giving new employees “busy work” when they
    first arrive to “ease” the entry into the job.  This approach often backfires by leaving
    the new hire unchallenged or even bored.
  6. Carefully
    review important policies and benefits.
      Every new hire should receive
    information about the organization’s policies, procedures, and benefits as
    soon as possible.  For most
    organizations, the employee handbook is the source of much of the
    information needed.
  7. Some policies such as sexual harassment, drug and
    alcohol use and testing, and safety are so important that many employers
    conduct special training on them. 
    In addition, if the employee will be participating in the
    organization’s health insurance plan (and the employer is covered by
    COBRA), an initial COBRA notice should be provided to the employee, and
    any covered spouse, explaining coverage rights under the law.
  8. Complete
    necessary paperwork, but don’t let it dominate the orientation.
      The first day is often the most
    convenient time to have a new employee fill out required forms.  Some forms, such as the employment
    eligibility verification (Form I-9) and withholding allowance (Form W-4),
    are required by law.
  9. Other forms may be needed to administer your
    policies, such as those for benefits enrollment and beneficiary
    designations, direct pay deposit authorization, and employee emergency
    contact information.  Federal law
    also requires you to provide information on your new employees to your
    state new hire directory.

Nurture your newbies

The bottom line is that it is
expensive to find, train, and replace employees.  HR experts estimate that turnover costs from
30% to 50% of an employee’s first year pay. 
Some suggest that the true cost is closer to 100%.  Clearly then, most of the actions you take to
facilitate the transition for new employees are worth the effort.  An effective welcome and new hire integration
process can help ensure a better retention rate and thus be highly cost
efficient. 

Remember, these
actions do not have to be elaborate, or difficult, to be effective.  None of the seven tips suggested above are
expensive, although they do require careful advance planning for proper
coordination and implementation.  The end
result you want is a professional setting that makes the new hire feel as
comfortable as possible.

For anyone interested, Briefings Publishing Group markets a
system designed to ensure that all hires are the correct hires. Read how this
unique system incorporates hiring techniques from the best, including Bill
Gates and Ross Perot. For
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Robin Thomas, J.D., is
Managing Editor for Personnel Policy Service, Inc., 159 St. Matthews Avenue,
Suite 5, Louisville, KY 40207, and can be reached at editor@ppspublishers.com,
or 1-800-437-3735.  Personnel Policy
Service markets group legal benefit services and publishes HR information
products, including the Personnel Policy Manual and HR Matters newsletter. This
article is not intended as legal
advice.  Readers are encouraged to seek
appropriate legal or other professional advice.

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