Induction Programmes - Begin as you Mean to Go On

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Induction Skills Training

More than a Job - Induction with a Difference

Companies spend vast amounts of money on recruitment, getting just the right people for their organisation. Job fairs, heavy-duty advertising campaigns, head-hunters, intensive interviews, psychometric testing, all designed to ensure the match fits.

It's common to then undermine all that effort with mediocre induction programme (assuming there is any at all).

Now, occasionally, induction programmes are creative, engaging, fun and do the job of reinforcing for people that they made the right choice.

However, most induction programmes are dull. And they generally seem to fall into two categories: the read it in the employee handbook variety; or the sit and be talked at version (usually called 'induction training').

The handbook scenario goes something like this: positively everything you are supposed to know about everything to do with the company is crammed into a booklet (sometimes quite an attractive booklet that looks most enticing till you start to read it). These handbooks tend to be either turgidly written, or written for simpletons (or both). Sometimes the handbooks aren't even in handbook form, but are a stack of photocopied pages that are even more difficult to read.

Feeling hopeful, new recruits have a go at reading them. But since they're inadvertently designed to combat insomnia, most give up pretty quickly, or thumb through them looking for the interesting bits (if there are any interesting bits). Occasionally some companies test people on their company knowledge based on the assumption that people have read these tomes; but most don't bother finding out what people got from this form of 'induction'.

Now for the second, more usual kind of induction. This is where companies actually put some real thought and effort into trying to make people feel welcome by meeting them face-to-face. But unless it's well designed and thought through, this is usually a bust as well.

People troop in on their first day and are spoken at anywhere from an hour to three days (or more!). Elaborate PowerPoint presentations, slide shows and OHP acetates are the order of the day. New employees can safely go to sleep, doodle, wonder if they've made the right choice, or simply ignore the information being given to them.

See, that's the key. Information is generally given, with minimal interaction, yet with the expectation that the whole lot will be retained: there's an almost certain guarantee that most of it will not. It does seem as though a fundamental fact is ignored, which is that people can only retain so much information in one go. If you couple that with the likely stress and anxiety of starting a new job, most people's brains will act like a sieve where only selected information is retained, and the rest dribbles away.

All the while that people are focused on their own worries and pre-occupied with their, usually, unanswered questions, they simply can't take in much information. Allay those anxieties and pre-empt those questions and already you will have a far more effective programme.

Indeed, it does seem to us that most induction programmes end up achieving the opposite of what they're intended to accomplish.

As far as Impact Factory is concerned, the purpose of induction is not to give a whole lot of information on Health and Safety, Data Protection, legal responsibilities, the rules and regulations and ins and outs of the company. All those things are very important, but to cram them into people's brains on the first day or two pretty much ensures that the very things that you want people to remember will be forgotten.

The starting point of a good induction programme is to welcome new people and introduce them to the culture of the organisation; to, indeed, help them feel they've made the right decision and to get them to start their new job committed, engaged and productive. Before any hard information is given, people need to feel relaxed and have their worries addressed.

Most people start a new job excited and filled with anticipation, but also filled with a bubble of anxiety about what's in store. Some have a big bubble, some a small one, but most certainly there will be questions such as:

  • Will I fit in?
  • Am I up to the job?
  • Will people like me?
  • What if I make a fool of myself on the first day?
  • How do I work the coffee machine?
  • Is there a coffee machine?

Think back to one of your jobs, where you had that 'first day at school' feeling: excitement mixed with uncertainty. Reassurance, information (the right, insider scoop type of information), clear expectations and not humiliating yourself are what make the difference between wondering if you've made a mistake and wanting to come back the next day.

You may be considering revising your current induction programme, you may be thinking of chucking it out entirely and starting over or you may simply be looking at small tweaks you can do to liven it up.

Here are some things to consider (if you haven't already!)

  • Give people a warm and encouraging welcome.
  • Make it two-way. It's really boring sitting passively being 'done to'. People's attention spans get shorter the less they are involved in a process.
  • Make it personal. Find out what's going on for them.
  • Look after their worries.
  • Use 'local heroes', 'champions' and enthusiastic spokespeople during the programme.
  • Make sure the ethos, ethics and style of the company are reiterated in different ways. Let them know what you stand for.
  • Let them know how things work.
  • Be clear what your key messages are.
  • Get them involved in describing and engaging with whatever your 'product' is.
  • Avoid using exercises that put people on the spot.
  • Avoid humiliating people.
  • It's Ok to let them know about the anomalies, 'shocks' and contradictions in the company.
  • Create an environment that will do some of the work for you.
  • Make them want to find out more.
  • Let them know what the company expects of them.
  • Find out what their expectations are.
  • Be flexible.
  • Have fun.

Here's a little story from Jo Ellen. Many, many years ago I had a Christmas job at a now-defunct department store in New York City called B Altman and Co. After successfully getting through the recruitment process, I had induction training.

The first day was a blur but they had their priorities right on target. Most of the training was about 'the Altman Image'. The Altman Image was all about maintaining the values of the company, what was expected, how we were rewarded and supported, and what customers meant to the store. Much less time was given on the hard skills (time on the till and reconciliation at the end of the day).

Now that job was a good 37 years ago. Not only do I remember most of the training and the job itself (I even remember the name of my floor manager), but that induction training made such a lasting impression on me that I wouldn't shop in any other department store in new York till the day it closed. Talk about loyalty!

Good induction programmes may instil that degree of loyalty; brilliant ones most assuredly will. And bad ones can turn people off before they even begin.

We know that sometimes, people just don't work out in their jobs. It happens. But in our experience, a really good induction programme has a big impact on staff retention.

You need to make all that recruitment investment pay off. Of course there are no guarantees that a well-designed and implemented induction programme is going to work miracles if the fit, after all, doesn't match, but our experience is that when new starters begin their jobs reassured, well-informed and truly feeling part of an organisation they can believe in, then any difficulties that may arise later on are far easier to deal with.

In other words: get the communication right at the beginning and save yourself a whole lot of bother later on!

Impact Factory can work with your company to help design or redesign your staff induction programme.

Additionally, we also train the people who run induction programmes to help bring trainings to life. This involves helping people go 'off script' when necessary, feel more spontaneous, better able to deal with the individuals in the room and really enjoy the two-way process.


Induction Training

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