The value of employee orientation

Employee orientation plays a critical role in employee training and development, but I have just realised that it is taken lightly in many organisations.

In most cases it is taken as just one of those processes that should be done for the sake of fulfilling it. But what really is the importance of undertaking this process?

To begin with, let us consider what employee orientation is. The simple definition of employee orientation is that it is a procedure for providing new employees with basic background information about the organisation. The point to note in this definition is the fact that the information is about the organisation and not part of the organisation.

In some cases, on the first day when new employees assume duty, the human resources department goes through the ritual of making the employee complete HR forms before being taken around the various departments to be introduced. Thereafter, the employee is handed over to his/her department with the view that they are productive from day one.

What then is the role of the human resources specialist and the line manager in the orientation process? The HR specialist’s foremost task is to take the new employee through the first part of the orientation process. This normally involves explaining matters like working hours and other general working conditions.

The new employee is also provided with an employee handbook, which gives the employee an overview of the organisation’s HR environment. The employee should be made aware of other conditions such as employee benefits, personnel policies and the organisation’s operations. The employee can now be introduced to staff in the organisation before being handed over to the department’s line manager.

Once that has been done, the role of the line manager comes into play. It is now the responsibility of the line manager to put in place an environment in which the employee fits into the team. Orientation at this level will now be job-specific.

In order for the employee to be productive in the shortest possible time, a mentor should be chosen from among the best performing employees who will work with the new employee. The role of the mentor is firstly, to take the new employee through the department activities before zeroing down to the employee’s job.

The mentor’s qualities should be such that the new employee is free to ask where he/she needs help while doing the job. This normally takes a period that is equivalent to the employee’s probation. Assessment mechanisms should be put in place to monitor the employee’s performance which will be useful when assessing the employee at the end of the probation period.

It is important to realise that organisations should not underestimate the importance of employee orientation. This is so because if employees lack basic information about the organisation, they will take time to fit into the system. It has been noted that employees who are not properly inducted usually do not stay long as compared to those that go through well-planned orientation programmes.

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