You and your new employees: have you made a mutual commitment?

February 14, 2018 4 mins read
You and your new employees: have you made a mutual commitment?

A close friend of mine decided to take the plunge recently and walk down the red carpet into the waiting arms of her boyfriend-turned-husband. For those who are unaware, a wedding ceremony is a complex program on its own, but a traditional Chinese wedding is like a labyrinth of unspoken rules, hush-hush regulations, power-play and guests’ list that runs into the hundreds. Unfortunately, as I’ve relocated recently, the only thing I could do in this part of the world was to provide undying support via WhatsApp, from butterflies-in-the-stomach to the-caterer-just-called-to-say-the-first dish-has-to-change!

In between many concerns, one that showed up the most (and churned out the most number of tearful emoticon) was the nagging concern that she’s missing something traditional-and-important. For example, in the Chinese context, it could be the sequence of who’s-who during the traditional tea ceremony, or the amount of red-packets (a symbol of good luck) to prepare for the younger relatives who will in turn offer tea to the newly-wed as a sign of respect to the “new joiner”.

A New Family and a New Commitment

This led me to think about how we “orient” a new employee (old habits die hard, apparently). She’s going to step into a new family and it’s going to be one of the biggest commitments in her life. It is not surprising to be feeling fearful. Through it all, the biggest fear she had was to be seen as a failure on the most important day of her life, similar to how a new employee may feel on his/her first day at work.

Thankfully, they are now happily on their way to Maldives for their honeymoon. This gave me some time to reflect on the parallels I could draw with new employee orientation and hopefully reduce the use of tearful emoticons when new employees are WhatsApp-ing their friends.

Re-define the First Day of Work

After the wedding ceremony, my friend enthused over a cousin-in-law who guided her on the dos-and-don’ts of her husband’s family, and was the first person to accept her as part of the family even before the couple got engaged. Traditionally, most employers will engage and prepare employees from their official start day. Whenever possible, involve and engage would-be new employees prior to the official start date:

  • Coffee with the immediate team members
  • Some preparatory work for reading
  • Assigning a mentor/buddy and letting them connect earlier

In addition, these provide a much-needed anchor, allowing the new employee to build new information on them as the orientation program progresses.

Turning Orientation Programs on its Head

I’m sharing this insightful article about orientation program from Harvard Business School, First Minutes are Critical in New-Employee Orientation. As the Gen-Y, Gen-Z and Strawberry generations enter workforce, I strongly recommend a more customized orientation program rather than a cookie-cutter program.

Why am I Doing This Again?

Even when ageing uncles and aunties dished out endless advice my friend took in on board and analyzed the steps.

Along the way, insert pit-stop points where the new employees can reflect on the motivation in joining the organization and there should be compatible plus from the company to allow the employee to meet and achieve this motivation.

Make it Worthwhile, Make it Fun

One of the more common pieces feedback I’ve heard is that sometimes new employees cannot fathom the reason behind some of the programs, and they listened for the sake of listening. Without clear objectives and motivations it is likely that a re-training may be required when the new employee actually needs to use the knowledge. In my wildest dream, I’ve always wondered how things may change if we were to tie-in a portion of the trainers’ KPI to the satisfaction level from the new employees. Would things be done differently?

Stay Committed to Each Other

The orientation program, like the wedding ceremony, is but the beginning of a journey. After the confetti floats away and the huge orientation file slams shut, the journey begins. There have been more than enough researches on the exorbitant costs of wrong hires, but I believe the article I’ve shared earlier would have drawn your attention to the cost AND opportunity cost of a right-hire-oriented-wrongly.

As the workforce changes, it may be necessary for an organization to re-look at the orientation programs. Here’s a sneak peek of the orientation program of the #1 company in the world to work for here.

Morgan McKinley