I’ve been thinking about new employee orientation lately. We’ve had four new people join BERG since the start of 2011 and we’re about to add two more, so there’s been a lot of orientating going on here.
When I worked at a company with more than 600 employees and was directly responsible for hiring and training a team of 10 employees, we had a very in-depth orientation programme that lasted for weeks and had been continually refined over a couple of decades.
New employee orientation for a small, relatively new company like BERG is obviously a very different thing. For one thing, since we’re so much smaller, it takes a lot less time to learn about the organisation and the people in it. That doesn’t mean, of course, that it’s any less important to have some sort of induction process.
Early in 2010, shortly after I started working at BERG, Matt Webb – being the wise and good company manager that he is – had me start compiling a checklist of all the things we needed to make sure happened when a new person joined us. At the time it was mostly geared toward short-term contractors since that’s mostly who were joining us in the spring and summer of 2010. Since then the list has grown and evolved and its focus has turned toward full contract employees. It seems like every time a new person comes on we think of two or three more things that need to be added to the list. The checklist is divided into four categories:
- Things the new employee needs to be provided with (keys, an email address, computer kit, access to the network server)
- Things the new employee needs to provide us with (biog and headshot for the website, details to get on payroll)
- Things the new employee needs to know (who everyone else is and what they do, general company policies, how to request holiday, location of the first aid kit)
- Admin that needs to happen (add their details to various spreadsheets, get them on payroll, add them to the blog rota)
I’ve been wondering if there’s anything else that we’re missing – other things we should be doing to ease new people into the BERG culture besides having a checklist. I had a quick browse around the internet which wasn’t particularly helpful – most of what I found was either blindingly obvious or not especially relevant for very small companies like BERG. I did stumble across a couple of things, though, that seemed relevant for companies of any size and worth sharing.
The first was from William H Truesdell who, in 1998, wrote on The Management Advantage Inc’s website:
Explain your organisation’s mission and its philosophy of doing business.
- “The way we do things around here…”
- “We believe that our customers are…”
- “Nothing is more important than…”
Those would be good things for a company to think about and have an answer to even if they aren’t doing it for the sake of new employee organisation. It seems to me that last one in particular – “Nothing is more important than…” could give a lot of great insight in the space of just one sentence to a new person joining the organisation.
The second thing was from Alan Chapman on businessballs.com. Chapman has quite a lot of material there about new employee orientation and training which emphasises ‘whole-person’ development, and he suggests saying something along these lines to a new employee:
“You’ve obviously been recruited as a (job title), but we recognise right from the start that you’ll probably have lots of other talents, skills, experiences (life and work), strengths, personal aims and wishes, that your job role might not necessarily enable you to use and pursue. So please give some thought to your own special skills and unique potential that you’d like to develop (outside of your job function), and if there’s a way for us to help with this, especially if we see that there’ll be benefits for the organisation too (which there often are), then we’ll try to do so…”
A little later he says,
So much of conventional induction training necessarily involves ‘putting in’ to people (knowledge, policies, standards, skills, etc); so if the employer can spend a little time ‘drawing out’ of people (aims, wishes, unique personal potential, etc) – even if it’s just to set the scene for ‘whole person development’ in the future – this will be a big breath of fresh air for most new starters.
Based on my experience, I think he’s probably right.
That’s a little bit of BERG’s still very new and very evolving New Employee Orientation story. If your company does anything interesting or creative for new employees that you’ve found to be helpful, fun, innovative, etc, we’d love to hear about it!