Poised for Success

Create a new hire orientation based on professionalism, support and making people feel at ease
Illustrations by Tony Healey
Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of New Orleans Bride and New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and managing editor of Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her ever-ready stash of blank thank-you notes. Submit business etiquette questions to Melanie@MyNewOrleans.com.

The best first-day-on-the-job experience of my career was at a large daily newspaper. A Hearst-owned property, it had a robust local human resources arm that was reinforced by additional support at the headquarters in New York. New hire orientation began in the HR department with a meeting to fill out paperwork and discuss compensation, benefits, vacation and leaves of absence, as well as company policies and procedures.

Next, I received a tour of the building and my department from my editor, which also included introductions to department heads and other new colleagues, as well as a quick training session on software and other technology tools. Finally, for anyone who was new to the company that day, HR arranged a screening of a documentary on the history of Hearst from its start by George Hearst — with a large portion paid to the accomplishments of his son, William Randolph Hearst — to the company’s present-day incarnation as a corporate media powerhouse. If memory serves, coffee and cookies were even on offer in the screening room — bonus!

At the end of the day, these orientation processes made me feel primed and ready to do my job and as though I was not only part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newsroom, but also of something bigger than myself.

Due to its immense resources and powerful company history, Hearst was (and still is) able to plan and execute an ideal first day on the job for its new hires by anticipating the needs of the company and the needs of the new employee. But, what if you are a medium-sized or small business without the big budget and huge HR department? With a little forethought and preparation, any company can create an orientation process that makes new hires feel comfortable and gets everyone started off on the right foot.

While the biggest priorities of orientation are perhaps to complete essential paperwork and meet legal requirements, this is also the opportunity to set the tone for a new hire’s tenure. Making new employees feel supported (information and training), included (company history, tour of the building and introductions to coworkers), appreciated (treats!) and equipped to do the job efficiently and effectively is a step in the right direction toward loyalty and retention.

Putting together a new hire welcome packet that includes tax, insurance and benefits forms, an employee handbook, as well as key cards or building codes is a polished and professional way to deliver this information. Getting everything filled out and signed on the first day will positively reinforce that the company has a proactive culture. This is also a good opportunity to promote company pride. Place a few logo items (mugs, koozies, T-shirts, pens, etc.) in the packet as lagniappe.

If it wasn’t discussed during the interview process — either during the welcome packet meeting or while giving the tour — be sure to cover the company’s dress code and computer and telephone use in detail.

Training sessions should also happen during the first week, if not on the first day. This will help the employee feel secure in his or her duties and will decrease lags in productivity.

It might not be feasible to produce a slick company history video, but a brief presentation covering how the company started, where it has been, where it is going and any other mission and goals statements are just as effective.

The objective of orientation is to familiarize your employee not only with their job and the tools the company uses, but also — if planned well —a good orientation envelops them in the company culture and quickly elicits a feeling of ease in an otherwise unfamiliar situation. What better way to accomplish those objectives than to give new hires the tools and training they need, introduce them to the new workspace and their coworkers and share the company’s history and values?

The coffee and cookies are of course optional, but quite effective.