Working Wise: Staff orientation tips

Dear Working Wise: I manage an independent quick-service restaurant and I wrestle with motivating and retaining good staff. Do you have any suggestions? Signed, Hungry for good people

Dear Hungry: You don’t get a second chance to make a first good impression.

Providing your new staff with a comprehensive orientation will ensure they feel welcome and confident in their new role. Your new people will be more likely to stay if they understand and like your business and workplace culture.

A good orientation will start your new people off right—giving them confidence in themselves and their employer. You can build on this strong foundation as your staff learn more about the business and how they can contribute.

Staff orientations should include a tour of their worksite, introductions to co-workers, and time for the new employee to ask questions and clarify expectations. You should ensure that all relevant staff (co-workers, supervisors, etc.) know when the new person is starting and that his/her workspace is ready.

Be sure to let your new people know that you promote fair treatment and resolution of conflict. Let them know from the beginning that you have workplace policies regarding ethical practices and harassment.

Orientations can take as little as a few hours to as much as a few days. There can be a lot to cover—so be sure you’ve scheduled enough time.

You may want to cover the following information.

The organization: history, products, services, customers, mission, values, policies and structure, expectations of staff, worksite tour, and introductions to key people.

Employment information: pay schedule, pay scale and raise increments, tips and uniform policies (if applicable), benefits/bonuses, vacation pay and holidays, sick leave and absentee policy, employee training and promotion policy, employee development opportunities, and disciplinary policy.

Job information: work location, job description, tasks, probationary period, introduction to the work unit, safety orientation, operating procedures, work standards, tools and equipment training/orientation, hours of work, scheduled breaks, who to ask for help, and questions.

Integration: help your new employee feel like they belong. Fostering positive work relationships and a sense of teamwork are great ways of retaining workers. Employees who feel a strong social and emotional connection to the workplace are less likely to want to leave.

You can encourage stronger links among your employees by:

l Introducing workers to the whole operation, not just their work unit

l Explaining how the work units serve and support each other

l Setting up a mentoring or buddy system

l Having regular staff meetings with time for employees to talk

l Holding staff social events

l Supporting employee clubs or recreational teams and community volunteerism

l Cross-training or creating cross-functional teams

l Encouraging and supporting staff participation in community events

I’ve focused mostly on the importance of a solid employee orientation. If you would like some other ideas on how to reduce your staff turnover, check out the Beyond Pay and Benefits booklet on the ALIS website:

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services. This column is provided for general information.

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