you were a new employee? You were excited, wide-eyed, and full of
anticipation mixed with a bit of apprehension. No matter how long
ago you began your public service career, things havent changed.
The new employee of 2002 is just as excited and just as nervous as
something else has not changed much either. It is the fact that most
agencies do not organize or implement an orientation program that
effectively captures a great opportunity to convey the
organizations vision and expectations.
employee orientation programs are paperwork festivals in which the
new employees are placed in immediate risk of developing a hernia
because they are loaded down with pounds and pounds of paperwork.
Much of the orientation process involves lengthy monologues by
speakers reviewing a host of policies and instructing the employees
to turn to page 42.
organizations do no formal employee orientation at all. Rather, the
newly hired employees are dropped into a workplace wilderness and
are expected to create their own orientation programs by trying to
find people who will be able to answer their questions, show them
the location of the restrooms and show them how things are really
Newly hired or
newly promoted supervisors fare even worse. The lack of orientation
for people who are the direct representatives of the organization
and, therefore, its pathfinders in preventing or, unfortunately,
creating liabilities, generally do not receive the training and
confidence building they need to begin their new work.
organize and create a spectacular orientation program represents
precious moments lost to the organization, the employee, and the
employees family. According to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals, which found for the plaintiff in an employment case where
training was not provided, a failure to train also constitutes
reckless indifference and an extraordinary mistake.
orientation program minimizes the paperwork and emphasizes the
vision. It conveys the commitment of the organization to ethical and
innovative public service.
It should begin
with a transplant of knowledge to the employees about how valuable
their role is in making a difference in their community, and how
very dependent citizens are on the services provided by the
It should begin
with a clear presentation of the fact that counties and cities often
serve vulnerable people, including children, the elderly, inmates,
unconscious persons in auto accidents, mentally ill persons and
others who need to be protected or secured. No matter where an
employee works, an overall look at the scope of agency services is
valuable for developing an educated team member with a positive
a great time to involve members of the employees family. The best
performing employees share their enjoyment of work as an integral
part of the other key elements of their lives. If the employee and
the employees family understand the work and have a chance for
their questions to be answered, the employee will be more effective.
The converse is true as well. An employee who is frustrated at work
may well carry that frustration home and create a compounding
dysfunction in their family life.
time to begin financial planning and retirement planning with an
employee than at the time of hire. It is to the agencys advantage,
as well as to the employees, to develop financial responsibility
early in the persons career, discussing the wonders of deferred
compensation or the availability of the credit union. Perhaps the
agency might take the step of automatically establishing a deferred
compensation account and seeding the account with a deposit of
some relatively small amount in order to encourage the employee to
begin the savings habit. The account could be cancelled if the
employee chooses not to participate.
opportunity also exists to introduce the employee to charitable
giving through payroll deduction. Many organizations participate in
United Way campaigns. Highlighting this participation right at the
beginning of an employees career also works to the agencys
advantage by instilling a sense of community responsibility that
does not stop at 5 p.m. on Fridays.
importance to the employees, the family, and the agency is health.
The orientation is a great time to begin a discussion of what should
be high on an agencys agenda disease management and wellness.
Perhaps arrangements with the health insurance provider or a nearby
hospital for the distribution of a gift certificate, good for a free
health-risk assessment, for a smoking-secession class, a
mammography, or a prostate cancer screening could be featured.
Hopefully, the agency offers a Weight Watchers program or some
fitness activity that can ultimately contribute to an employees
being healthier and more productive.
priority policies should be reviewed, including workplace violence
prevention, the agencys policy against sexual harassment, race or
How to start a
great orientation program? Invite a sampling of employees, including
new employees, to participate in an orientation focus group. What
knowledge would have made your first months on the job easier? What
could we have done? Critique your current efforts constructively and
respectively. Survey agencies in the neighborhood for best
practices. Consider a joint orientation with a nearby agency. Many
of the subjects will be common to any number of counties or cities,
such as ethics and high-priority policies mentioned previously. Such
a joint program can later feature breakout groups to focus on each
individual agencys benefits or programs.
including video tapes and CD-ROMs that the employees can take home
to watch later with of their families. There is also no reason why
general information about the organization could not be viewed at 2
a.m., on a home computer via the Internet.
sure that every manager and executive in the organization
understands what is happening in the orientation program and why it
is so important. Invite them to attend and to hear the county
administrator for elected commissioners explain and greet the new
employees, and express the agencys expectations about their
contribution and value.
program can be a precious moment gained in helping employees
represent the agency effectively and ethically, instead of a boring
process that leaves the employees disoriented and comatose.
The HR Doctor
hopes that you are never disoriented!