Nowadays, maintaining competent and happy employees at work takes a lot of effort on the part of employers. Although unemployment is on the rise, and more and more people are in dire need of jobs, finding an efficient worker that embodies professionalism is indeed a Herculean task and when an employer seems successful in recruiting the best person for a job, it will only be revealed in time when the worker begins performing his tasks.
As in most situations, the first impression usually sets the expectations of people. An employee’s first day on the job is usually preceded by an employee orientation so expectations on both the employer and employee are set. Employers must prepare well for such an orientation because it is one way to send a clear signal to the employee that the organization is committed to his success (Mossman, 2005). As early as orientation, a worker can predict if he will stay on with the job for a long time or not.
Employee Orientation is an avenue where both employers and employees can freely discuss the organizational goals and the worker’s job conditions and description. Employers introduce the organization to the employees and the information provided varies from one organization to another.
Importance of Implementing an Effective Employee Orientation Program
Klein (2000) defines orientation programs as “a form of employee training designed to introduce new employees to their job, the people they will be working with, and the larger organization” (p. 48). These may take the form of formal training programs, informal orienting activities by peers or supervisors, or a combination of both. Organizational-level orientation intends for employees to feel welcomed and that they are now part of the organization; learn more about the organizational mission and vision, culture, language, history, and structure. Employees come to better understand the basic workplace principles and policies (Klein, 2000). “One of the surest ways of causing unwanted turnover is turning new employees loose with little or no orientation or personal guidance in finding their places in the company. Even a trained professional can feel abandoned when left to survive alone and unaided in a new and possibly strange environment.” (McConnell, 2006, n.p.).
Orientations are fresh opportunities for employers to establish open lines of communication with new employees. For these new hires, early days of employment are relatively free from the influences of coworkers, and they have not yet formed strong opinions regarding their jobs, the company, or management. Since they have needs to be addressed to help them attain a level of comfort in their new situation and the orientation may be the best venue to raise and meet them (McConnell, 2006).
Jaunch & Sekaran (1978) point out that from a managerial perspective, understanding the relationship between professional orientations and job satisfaction is necessary for reducing turnover rates and increasing the chances for goal attainment (Everly & Falcione, 1976). It is interesting to note that from the beginning of employment, employee orientations have been singled out as crucial in determining employees’ job attitudes such as job involvement (McKelvey & Sekaran, 1977).
Types Of Orientations: On-Boarding And On-The-Job
New employees are usually subjected to organization-level orientations as they go on-board the company. This is where a macro view is given of the whole organization in terms of the philosophy and principles the company adheres to and the policies they uphold. As the employees disperse into their own designated units, on-the-job orientations and job training ensue to help them be effective in their assigned tasks. This is considered the beginning of formal job training where specific skills are gained in the performance of their specific jobs.
Wanous & Reichers (2000) differentiate orientation and training in three ways. First, orientation is more concerned with context performance or behaviors that may be elicited in employees from the company orientation discussions that are not necessarily part of their job descriptions. Training on the other hand is more concerned with task performance. Secondly, orientation typically occurs upon the employees’ entry to the company while training occurs all throughout one’s career. Lastly, orientation occurs during a period of high stress associated with entry to the company, while training occurs when these issues have already been resolved and the employee is much more comfortable as part of the organization.
Elements of an Effective Orientation Program
The most impressionable period for employees is usually when they first come on board the company. An effective orientation program helps them get off to a good start. McConnell (2006) gives the following descriptions of effective orientations:
- The initial orientation should already create a favorable impression of the company and the people behind it.
- From the start, the company’s expectations of employees’ performance and conduct need to be conveyed.
- An overview of the work environment including services, facilities, and conditions of employment must be provided.
- Compensation and benefits programs and where employees may obtain necessary details pertaining to their employment should be presented.
- A detailed discussion of pertinent policies, rules, and regulations including a review of the employee handbook, if one exists.
- Expectations of the kinds of clients or customers the employees will be dealing with and the emphasis on providing satisfaction to them.
- Emphasis on the importance of teamwork, cooperation, flexibility, and ability to adapt to change.
Factors To Be Considered
Employers and Managers should not fail to consider unspoken agreements that may be solidified during employee orientations. It would be better to get these out in the open for better clarification among all the employees concerned.
Employees’ values must be aligned to the company’s. Differing values create conflict and will impede goal achievement. According to Mishra and Morrissey (1990), the following factors propagate trust: open communication; giving workers a greater share in decision making; sharing of critical information, and true sharing of perceptions and feelings.
In every employment, employees consciously or unconsciously expect a kind of “psychological contract” apart from the expectations the job usually presents – benefits and compensation for a particular job description. This psychological contract usually includes open and honest communication, managerial support, and challenging and interesting work. Employees are becoming increasingly aware of the non-monetary rewards that companies can provide them. It is generally important that the job not only fulfills their economical needs but their socio-emotional needs as well. “This implies that recruiters need to go beyond a discussion of compensation and benefits and highlight aspects of their organization that job candidates will find intrinsically satisfying.” (Lester, Clair & Kickul, 2001, n.p.).
Evaluation of an Effective Orientation
It is obvious that an effective orientation is one that successfully informs the new hires of what is to be expected of them and they comply accordingly. However, too much detail may cause confusion and boredom in the orientation participants, and motivation for the job may be affected. Orientation programs should be effective in promoting the image of the organization. Good camaraderie must be established during this initial interaction with co-workers. A high level of professionalism must be exuded so the employees may idealize the values and principles the company stands for. In the long run, job satisfaction is the target of employees. Jauch & Sekaran (1978) identified three commitments to various constituencies spurred from employee orientations. Organizational Loyalty is characterized by the acceptance of organizational goals and policies presented early on during the orientation period. Peer Loyalty is identified as the strong desire to experience companionship and friendliness with coworkers, supporting and valuing each other. Professional Identification is one’s pursuit of membership to an elite circle of professionals who embody competence, responsibility to the profession and to the people it serves.
Recommendations to Managers
From the orientation period onwards, employers must be cognizant of and responsive to their employees’ perception of their psychological contracts with the company. Things such as meaningful work, recognition, creative freedom, and opportunities for personal growth are desired by all employees. Management must maintain open and honest communication with employees, bearing in mind their socio-emotional needs and concerns, and being encouraging enough to boost their self-esteem. Lack of communication is ultimately problematic because it suggests to employees that management may be susceptible to perceived psychological contract breaches across a variety of areas because the basic issue of communication is not met. Employers must be able to invest more time developing and strengthening healthy relationships with their employees in various districts so they are kept abreast of their progress in both personal and professional areas.
In line with understanding employees’ needs and concerns, employers should be ready to invest in their professional and personal development. Regular training and participation in seminars or enrollment in courses shouldered by the company (whether partial or full) may be perceived as part of the job, but it should be communicated to the employees that although the application of their learnings will highly profit the company, ultimately it will redound to their own benefit. This knowledge from training is bound to increase their as well as the company’s market value.
An effective employee orientation program is an organizational event that is worthy of the investment of time and effort. Aside from welcoming new employees on board, it is one venue where dissemination of the necessary information and expectations is appropriately done. It opens the lines of communication between the employers or managers and the employees and sets the tone that their professional relationship will move to.
Being clear about expectations frees both parties from doubts, helping them to get off to a great start on a clean slate. Employee orientations present these expectations in black and white. It is now up to both employee and employer if they can maintain it and not muddy up the clean slate with grays.
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