Every organisation, large or small, should have a well-considered programme to introduce new employees to the company and help them build a degree of familiarity with their new workplace. This is referred to as an ‘induction’ programme and includes two specific aspects – , orientation, which focuses on getting the new employer familiar with the office environment, and socialisation which covers the establishment of building working relationships with their new colleagues.
However, designing an appropriate and cost-effective induction package can often be a huge challenge. A delicate balance has to be struck between providing all the information that new employees need (and are able to assimilate) without the employee being diverted from the essential process of integrating into their new environment.
The purpose of induction is to ensure the effective integration of staff into the organisation and research has shown that induction programmes increase staff retention. In order to provide a good induction programme, the following elements need to be considered:
- Physical orientation – pointing out where the facilities are
- Organisational orientation – showing how the new arrival how they fit in the organisation’s strategy and goals
- Health and safety information
- Details of the organisation itself – history, products / services, culture and values
- A clear outline of the job/role requirements and an explanation of the terms and conditions of employment (although this could arguably have already been covered in the interview process)
It is a common misconception that only new employees need an induction to the company. In fact, it has been proven that a specifically tailored induction can be of great value to current and former employees, such as those returning from long-term absence or maternity/paternity leave, senior appointments, or recently promoted staff. Tailor-made programmes should also be available for contractors brought in for a specific purpose.
The dangers of not having an induction programme were identified in a Harvard study, which found that new employees did not really understand the organisation itself or their role in it, in turn leading to
- poor integration into the team
- low morale, particularly for the new employee
- loss of productivity
- failure to work to their highest potential
In extreme cases, the new employee leaves, either through resignation or dismissal.
The question of who should be involved in the creation and delivery of an induction programme is often left until to the Human Resources department, yet this has proven to lead to a generic ‘one size fits all’ type of induction, which has far less value than a more personalised approach. There will be slight variations between companies depending on size and variety of products or services, but the ideal approach seems to be an integrated induction requiring input from a number of areas within the company.
Typically, the inductee’s future manager or supervisor will oversee the explanation of departmental organisation, the requirements of the job, the purpose and operation of any probationary period and other internal processes. Human Resources would cover those aspects typically referred to as ‘housekeeping’ – this would include ensuring all contact details, payment details etc had been recorded accurately. Explaining legal health and safety issues could also be covered by the HR department, although (if one has been appointed) this would ideally be the Safety Officer’s role.
Many inductions make the common error of getting the manager or supervisor to provide an escorted tour of the department and introduce fellow workers, yet it has been found to be more beneficial for team building to actually nominate a colleague with roughly equal status in the company. These people also have been found best to give day-to-day guidance in local procedures for the first couple of weeks, as it creates a mentor-like arrangement giving the new employee someone to ask questions without having to repeatedly report to the manager.
Having given an explanation of the department’s role in the country, the direct manager should ideally then invite a senior manager to give an overview of the organisation, its history, products and services, quality system and culture. This allows the new employee to see the company as having a sense of horizontal integration.