Proper Orientation: 2 great tips for training and retaining employees
Early in my career I had the pleasure of attending the Disney University in Orlando, where I took Disney’s Approach to People Management course. Where better to learn how to create a world-class culture than Walt Disney World. The concepts and principles I learned there totally redefined how both my companies, John Robert’s Spa and The DiJulius Group, created our corporate cultures and helped us build a strong internal culture with highly engaged long-term employees.
ORIENTATION IS CRITICAL
A critical part of a new employee’s career is their orientation into the company. Psychologists have shown that during periods of orientation, people are particularly susceptible to adopting new roles, goals, and values.
Your new employee orientation training should not be about policy, breaks, and where the bathrooms are. Rather it should be an emotionally compelling orientation into the company’s values, mission, purpose, and storytelling. The story of why the organization was created, what wrong was being made right. The company’s backstory and early days. Its struggles and how it overcame them. The rags-to-riches stories of today’s rock star employees who started years ago at entry-level positions. Where the company is today and the amazing place it is headed (vision of the future). And, most important, the vital role new employees can play in helping the company achieve that and what’s in it for them.
As Howard Schultz once said, “Most people come to work for a company having had previous work experiences. In many cases, their experience has been bad. As such, they enter with cynicism, and the burden of proof is on leaders to demonstrate that this is a different place.”
So how do you make your orientation training fun and exciting, where your new employees go home bragging to their family and friends about the amazing organization they just joined? Here are two of my favorite best practices.
Most new employee orientations spend a great deal of time covering all the boring policies and procedures of what not to do to avoid getting fired. While some of this information must be covered, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a Five Diamond property in Pennsylvania (and a former client of The DiJulius Group), had a very clever way for that information to be learned instead of sitting in a classroom.
I have learned many techniques from working with Nemacolin. One of my favorites is the scavenger hunt they have their new associates experience. It is a competitive scavenger hunt on this huge resort where each new associate has a list of 50 things they have to discover, find the answers to, and take pictures of. In the course of the scavenger hunt, I realized two things: 1) it is a lot of fun, and 2) the new associates are learning a lot about the history of Nemacolin. What a great idea!
Any time I hear a great idea, I replicate it within my organization. Both my organizations’ orientations now include a scavenger hunt across all our locations. We take a group of new employees, typically 8 to 12 in a group, pair them up, give them a list of about 30 things to discover or find the answers to, and have them get pictures of every item on the list. This achieves many things: the new employees have a great deal of fun; they work with another team member; they learn a lot about our culture, legacy, and heroes; and they visit all our locations and meet many existing employees who go out of their way to help the new employees get their answers and pictures.
I learned another great lesson from working with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company: they put all their existing employees through the orientation process again. I immediately brought this idea back to my companies, and we instituted a re-orientation for all our existing employees every other year. If you were hired in 2017, you would retake our orientation training in 2019, 2021, etc.
Mixing experienced employees with new hires has had so many incredible benefits we didn’t even anticipate. During key points in the orientation, experienced employees share great testimonials, telling stories of what it was like when they joined the company. This immediately creates a bond between new and seasoned employees, which results in new employees having friends at work, and reduces the typical anxiety of being a new employee.
Most of all, it reinvigorates our seasoned staff. Many experienced employees have expressed great surprise at how much the orientation has improved, and how much of our legacy they had forgotten about. They are reinspired by our story—where we came from, what it took to get us here, and where we are headed.
John R. DiJulius III, author of is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Contact him at 216-839-1430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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