How to Ruin a Great Recruiting Effort with the “Orientation From Hell” – Part II

This is the second of a two part series on how to “close the sale” after a world class recruiting effort Sales Reps know it – First impressions are everything! HR professionals need to know it also. Many corporations miss an opportunity to make a great first impression and to “close the sale” on a newly recruited individual by providing a lackluster orientation! They also inadvertently slow the new hires development and the time it takes for them to reach their expected productivity. THE ORIENTATION TOOLKIT Below are some orientation tools you might find a welcome addition to what you currently do. Not all tools work in every situation so put together your own mix of tools and then test it to see what works and what doesn’t. TOOLS TO “CELEBRATE” A NEW HIRE Part of HR’s job is to educate managers on the importance of making new hires feel welcomed and important. Managers and employees need to take a larger role in “closing the sale” and owning the process of assimilating the new hires because their talent will improve the teams’ chance of meeting it’s goals. Managers should consider using one or more of the following “celebration tools” to raise the enthusiasm of and for the new hire.

  1. A phone call from the CEO/ GM welcoming them to the organization
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  3. An invitation by the CEO/ GM to visit their office on their first day (or the CEO stopping by their work space)
  4. A letter from the CEO/ GM welcoming them to the organization
  5. Cake and candles on the first morning to celebrate their joining the “family”/team
  6. A new hire luncheon (breakfast/dinner) on the first day to meet the team
  7. Welcome banner for their cubical signed by the CEO and all
  8. Take a Team Picture on the first day and have it signed by all
  9. Give them a Tee Shirt signed by all
  10. Place a Notice/Ad in the Local Paper welcoming them to let everyone know of your new team member (like consulting/law firms do)
  11. Give them a Plaque – Celebrating their First day
  12. Give them a “2 for dinner” certificate to tell their spouse or friend about their new job
  13. Place a welcome Note/picture on your corporate Website
  14. Put new hires’ pictures in our local ads or in regular corporate advertising
  15. Send their spouse/kids first day welcome gifts, corporate products or cards to make them feel they are part of the team and to build support for the new company
  16. Have other spouses call and welcome their spouses
  17. Have a new employee lunch for spouses during their first month
  18. Have a “No forms/ video/ manuals” policy during the first day/week. Consider sending them to their home to read prior to starting or let it wait until at least week 2
  19. Give them a “new hire” pin/hat to let all know they deserve special help. The pin/hat also entitles them to ask “dumb questions”
  20. Give them a “pre-dated” 5 year pin to show them we expect them to be part of the team for a long time
  21. Give them a “meet everyone card” that requires (rewards) them for getting the initials of all key team members on the card during the first ___ days
  22. Give them a “new hire” reserved parking spot to celebrate their first week
  23. Give them a License Plate Cover for their car announcing their new company TIME TO PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS Many workers encounter delays and frustrations in getting “the tools and training they need to start off running in their new job. By increasing the effectiveness of Orientation programs delays can be minimized and workers can begin producing days or weeks earlier than under traditional programs. Most of these TTP tools need to be used before the new employee starts.
  24. Change the managers’ and teams’ performance appraisal and reward systems to include time to productivity for new hires.
  25. Prior to starting, get the new hire their E-mail address, password, telephone #, ID card, corporate credit card, a departmental org chart/telephone directory etc.
  26. Allow them access to certain corporate web pages prior to their “start day” so they can begin the learning curve before they actually start the job.
  27. Provide them a Glossary of acronyms, buzzwords and on-line FAQ’s so they don’t have to ask uncomfortable questions about these buzzwords (they are afraid to ask because it might make them seem like a dumb hire). Knowing these words might also decrease the number of errors on the job.
  28. Assign them a departmental “mentor” to assist them during the first month in getting answers they need. An alternative is an orientation team to own the process.
  29. Give them a copy of our mission/vision statement, our departments short term plan. and org chart prior to the first day.
  30. Give them telephone directory (updated with their name in it if possible).
  31. Ask them who they would like to meet during their first week and have the meetings already scheduled.
  32. Have their business cards mailed to their house before their first day.
  33. Give them a “Help Source” Card with the names/E-mail addresses of people with a reputation as “helping types.”
  34. Do a survey of your past “new hires” and identify their problems, frustrations and things they would liked to have “More of/Less of.” Do the same at exit interviews to see if poor Orientation played a part.
  35. Develop a “new hire” network of new hires and recent hires so a recent hire can act as a Big Brother/Sister for a brand new hire.
  36. Develop a set of success measures and metrics so that the process can be continually improved and those that helped in orientation can be rewarded. Include training, MIS and operations to ensure all details are measured.
  37. Pre-assess the training needs of the candidate and schedule the required development before the candidate starts. Give the new hire the tools they need as fast as possible in order to succeed.
  38. Pre-schedule a series of one on one meetings with the new hire to identify their frustrations and problems before they get out of hand.
  39. Provide an historical perspective of the firm and our industry. Provide them with corporate and divisional business plans and goals and objectives. Show them their role in the plan. ANTICIPATING & ANSWERING THEIR QUESTIONS Under traditional orientation programs most questions are asked by the candidate while they are in HR and generally they are asked only on the first day. Through focus groups and surveys possible questions can be anticipated and answered before the candidate garners the courage to actually ask the question. By expanding the time for questions, providing assimilation help over several weeks and making it easier to get answers you will improve a new hires productivity and lower a new hires frustration level.
  40. Assign a “Welcome coordinator” or concierge that they can call before they start their job.
  41. Give them access to the company Intranet or call center so they can learn about the firm and it’s benefits before they start.
  42. Give them “Silly/Dumb” question “coupons” to give to people. The coupons can help ease their fear of asking “dumb” questions.
  43. Identify questions specific to their particular job through interviews with previous hires in their job class.
  44. Designate the recruiter as the HR person responsible for helping the candidate get answers to most of their questions before they start as well as after their beginning date. TOOLS TO MAKE THEM PART OF THE TEAM Helping the manager understand what the worker expects (why they accepted the position) and how to best manage them is almost as important as helping the worker understand the firm’s culture and the team’s expectations. By helping managers understand the need to develop an early strategy on how to assimilate, manage and develop the new hire HR can make a significant strategic contribution.
  45. Plan an hour of uninterrupted time with the manager on their first day.
  46. Pre-schedule a series of “no cancel” meetings with the boss and key team members during the first month.
  47. Give the new hire $25 certificates to give to the top 5 mentors that help them the most during their first week/month.
  48. Get the manager to ask them for a “What they dislike list” – and then develop a what they want “More of/ Less of” list and then manage to it.
  49. Ask them about their Dream job and how they can best be managed. Periodically manage toward it.
  50. Develop an individual “Challenge” plan for the first 3 months to ensure that the employee is continually challenged in their job.
  51. Develop an individual “Growth/Development” plan for the first 3 months to ensure they are developing at an acceptable rate.
  52. Assigned a recent hire from the team as a mentor to ease the transition
  53. Have the CEO/GM do the orientation presentation to show the new hires how important they are to the organization.
  54. Give them 5 “free lunch coupons” to use on co-workers so that they will rapidly get to know them and the local restaurants as well.
  55. Expand the recruiters job description to including staying in touch with “their hires” and using their knowledge to help managers understand and manage their new employees.
  56. Give them a “Rouges” gallery (pictures of the whole team) on the intranet (or hard copy) of all team members so it will be easier for them to put names with the faces they meet. ADDITIONAL ASSIMILATION/ORIENTATION TOOLS
  57. Gather competitive intelligence information from their old firm for example: Why did they join the firm? And who do they know that is good and should hear about the firm opportunities?
  58. For future recruiting and to ensure a great fit ask them Why they took the job? Were/ are there reservations? What do they want to accomplish in their new job? What are their career goals?
  59. Require the person who got the referral bonus to help “orient” them during their first 2 months
  60. Don’t let the “intern”/HR Benefits person do the orientation! Dump the dull videos and take out the boring stuff (Have a comedian do it if necessary like they do in comedy traffic school)!
  61. Do a frustration (barriers to productivity) survey among the new hires at the end of the first, third and sixth month. Manage to the results.
  62. Benchmark other firms best practices (Corning, 3COM, HP etc).
  63. Use orientation as an intelligence gathering process. Find out all you can at time of hire. Ask them who at their old firm is good and ready to leave, what are their best practices etc. Ask them why they took the job and why they rejected other firms. Feed that information back to the recruiters to help improve our recruiting process and to managers so we can improve on how we manage our new hires.
  64. Extend orientation to at least a week (to as much as 6 weeks) so that you don’t initially overwhelm them with information. Stop doing it in one day.
  65. Give them a list of the “best” restaurants, schools, childcare etc. in the neighborhood to help them feel comfortable with their new neighborhood.
  66. If they have relocated, consider getting the spouses and kids of your current employees to help orient them to the “cool things” in the community.
  67. Develop a New Hire electronic chat room/listserver/ Web page to help them help each other. Consider forming an affinity group and pay for their lunches.
  68. Do a post-orientation survey and ask them what they want more of and less of from orientation. Ask them to write down any new ideas or solutions they have on how to improve orientation and use them.
  69. Consider mass customization where you varying the length, type and content of orientation depending on the job, the importance of the hire and the geographic area.
  70. Develop the capability to do orientation “remotely” using the Intranet and teleconferencing
  71. Vary your orientation with the country and culture. Use technology like teleconferencing to do worldwide orientation to make non-US hires feel part of the team
  72. Anticipate new hires and be able to offer “instant” orientation, Just In Time rather than having to wait for a pre-scheduled starting time.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



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