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Dear Workforce How Can We Spice Up Orientation Sessions?

Our new-hire orientation sessions are somewhat dull. They last two to three hours, and impart lots of company information with a couple of videos to break up the lecturing. How we can spice up these sessions?
February 28, 2004
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Dear Jazzing:

Orientation programs are really the first opportunity to set the stage and create a smooth transition for new employees into the workforce. The session or sessions you run are a great opportunity to represent the organization's culture. This introduction should not be taken lightly. A good orientation can catapult a new employee to be extremely productive or deliver a sour note that makes an employee question his decision to join your firm.
Orientation programs can run from a few hours to several months, depending on what you want to accomplish during that time. There are a few things to consider:
1) How difficult is the learning curve for the new employee? How long will it take them to be considered fully productive in their work environment?
This is an important aspect, because if you plan to invest in building a more intensive orientation program, you'll need additional time and money. Also, if the sessions extend past their current timeframe, this may take employees away from their jobs, thereby reducing their productivity. You'll need to show how this investment will be worthwhile to the company. Perhaps you can show how you can shorten the learning curve and/or reduce downtime.
2) What special vernacular, terms, or nuances will they need to understand to become fully productive in their work environment?
It is important to remember that new employees may not understand how the organization works internally, such as who key people are in the company. Is there information only relevant to your company or their department that would be useful for them to understand prior to starting their job?
3) What special skills will they need in their new job that they may not have already?
Similarly to the terms and nuances, would it be helpful to have special skills for their new job? If you have people from different departments coming together for orientation, you may see a common theme in missing skills among the new employees. You could recommend a workshop or seminar to build this skill. In this way you are shortening the learning curve when they start their job.
For ideas, I would survey employees who have been with the organization for three to six months to see what they think. You'll get a lot of insight from them. Secondly, I would talk to the managers you support. Find out what would be useful to them when they receive new employees. Lastly, get away from having orientation as a transactional event. Perhaps you can have the employees complete the majority of the necessary paperwork prior to the actual orientation. That way, you can lessen the boring stuff.
Overall, you should consider orientation as an ongoing experience instead of a one-time deal. By working with your managers, you could develop a program that not only starts new employees off on the right foot with the basics, but continues on through their first six months, ensuring that they are as productive as possible--thereby reducing downtime, reducing costs, and potentially increasing revenue for your company.
SOURCE: Don Gaile, principal, DMG Consulting Co., New York City, New York, March 27, 2003.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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