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Why orientation period is important for employees

Businesswoman climbing ladder. (Photo: Courtesy)

Success is generally defined as the progressive realisation of clearly defined goals and objectives. Career success therefore is the attainment of set career goals. Each step taken up the career ladder is a milestone that is worth celebrating.

However, unbeknown to many, each step presents unique challenges that must be conquered by any individual who wishes to actualise success in his or her chosen career path. After navigating the job-search hurdles with endless applications and interviews, a job offer is certainly not a mean achievement.

Transitioning from job-seeker to employee is normally the next big challenge and should not be taken for granted. This is true for all new hires irrespective of whether they are fresh graduates or seasoned career builders.

The secret to a successful career launch in a particular organisation lies in the effective utilisation of the orientation period. Employers have a responsibility to devise orientation for new employees that is tailored to suit the intended role.

Human resource professionals define the orientation period as an introductory stage in the process of assimilating new employees and making them feel part of the existing workforce. Employee orientation is organisation specific but commonly ranges from one month to 90 days.

Orientation is primarily the role of the new employee’s immediate supervisor. Some of the objectives of the orientation period include the enhancement of employee commitment to the organisation, minimisation of employee fears and anxiety, evaluation of the employee’s culture background and ease of acculturation, and also checking their attitude towards structured work in general.

It is very important for any new employee to clearly understand the role of the orientation programme in order to avoid on-boarding misfires, which could jeopardise their future prospects.

Effective orientation programmes are essentially interactive. This means performance evaluation should be continuous and feedback provided to the new hire.

Culture-mismatch

Areas of weakness should be established by both parties so that the knowledge gap can be filled during training. Assessments can be oral and unstructured or in evaluation test form, or even in the form of a questionnaire.

The outcome of the evaluation during orientation can lead to: i) the extension of the orientation period to give room for improvement. An extension gives the new hire a second opportunity to achieve the orientation objectives; ii) termination of the on-boarding process, especially where the evaluation outcome point to a total skills or culture-mismatch; iii) transfer to another department in the same organisation, a subsidiary or a sister company.

This is common if the hire has the requisite skills for the intended role and is also agreeable to the transfer. Finally, in the event the orientation exercise is rated satisfactory by both the new hire and the supervisor, then the individual is confirmed.

As a career builder, it is also important to create a checklist of the ‘must do’ and ‘must know’ during the orientation period. Such a list may contain a name tag or any other form of identification, organisation structure, procedures and policy manual, job description, clear KPIs, understanding of salary dates, product catalogue, clock-in and clock-out times, and preferred mode of communication such as email, notice board memos, calls and texts.

The critical role played by orientation in building a successful career cannot be over-emphasised. Make a point of learning how best to utilise the orientation period as you take up the next job.

 —The writer is a career coach and co-author of The Career Code. Email: [email protected]

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