It’s easy for new employee orientation to become dull and flat. After all, we’re presenting the same policies over and over again. Sometimes we get tired of hearing ourselves talk about meal breaks, harassment, safety, standards of conduct and overtime. Let’s take a look at how you can take the boring out of your new employee orientation, and design something engaging.
In today’s blog I will focus on style. In two weeks I will talk about how to make your company culture a part of your orientation and how incentives can help inject some fun into your orientation.
SAME OLD SAME OLD
At my last company, we kept things simple with orientation. And by simple, I mean boring. Several of us in the department took turns handling orientation each week, and we went through the employee handbook page-by-page, hitting on the main points of each policy. It was no wonder that new employees would sometimes nod off. On more than one occasion I was tempted to summon up my best Ben Stein impression and say, “Bueller? Bueller?”
When I got to my current company, I was given the task of presenting the new employee orientation. There was already a PowerPoint presentation set up by the person who did orientation prior to me. For my first few orientations, I kept things the same as they had been. In all my work history, orientation had always been a bit dry, so I hadn’t even thought of the possibilities beyond that. But something started to change as I became more comfortable with the material. I started to add some of my personality to my presentation, and I threw in a couple interesting HR stories. Pretty soon I noticed that people weren’t falling asleep, and I was even getting a few laughs.
IT’S ALL ABOUT STYLE
At my company, employees complete all their new hire paperwork with their manager and then attend orientation within the first month of employment. By the time they are sitting in my orientation, they have received the employee handbook, worked some shifts and had some on-the-job training. Orientation serves the purpose of making sure they understand policies and company culture, and it gives them the chance to ask questions about what it takes to be a successful employee.
Have you ever sat through a presentation where the presenter read the entire thing from their notes or straight off the PowerPoint slide? I’ve sat through many such presentations and find that the only thing they are good for is curing insomnia. Such presentations would be just as effective if the presenter handed the attendees their notes and let them read silently on their own. Orientation is a time to educate employees about your policies, but it is also about getting employees invested in company culture. Unless you want to send the message that your company is a boring place to work, reading straight from your notes will not work.
The first big change I made at my current company was that I decided to stand up. At my old company, we did the presentation seated at the head of the table. Once I changed that and stood up during orientation at my current company, I noticed a huge change in my energy level. I could move around the room, point to things on my slides and more easily engage with the new employees. I started to remember why I was a theatre geek in my younger days—I liked being in front of an audience, and I especially liked the rush that came from being in front of an audience that laughed and reacted to what I was saying.
I also made the bold step of not looking at my slides. I occasionally glance at the screen to make sure I am on the right track, but I have worked on committing much of the material to memory. This helps me keep things more conversational. I ask questions and interact more with new employees. I also regularly stop to ask employees if they have questions or examples they want to share. Most adults are not passive learners. We want to interact more with the material rather than being lectured to. Make your orientation reflect this type of learning typical of many adults in the workplace.
Don’t be afraid to insert your personality into your presentation. I am a book geek who also loves Doctor Who. I pride myself on working the TARDIS into discussions of our shoplifting policy, and I have sometimes compared my excitement over a new version of the employee handbook to getting a midnight copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I have yet to get a Downton Abbey reference in my orientation, but I am working on it.
IN THE END…
It can be very easy to fall into the trap of a boring orientation. After all, you find yourself presenting the same material many times. But investing the time in livening up your orientation can pay off. Not only do you have employees who pay closer attention to what you are presenting, but you might actually have fun presenting. Since improving my orientation style, I have noticed that employees seem to remember key policies better, and I even recently had an employee tell me he started watching Doctor Who because of one of my references.
For more on making orientation fun, stay tuned for my next post in two weeks, where I will discuss company cultures and incentives.
What do you do to jazz up your new employee orientations?