HR Stories Podcast - where the Lesson is in the Story

The Story of the Lost Employee - Onboarding and Orientation

September 12, 2020 John Thalheimer and Chuck Simikian, SHRM-SCP Season 1 Episode 3
HR Stories Podcast - where the Lesson is in the Story
The Story of the Lost Employee - Onboarding and Orientation
Show Notes Transcript

Organizations spend thousands of dollars hiring the best candidate only to lose them on the first day. In the Story of The Lost Employee, a new employee finds it hard to navigate his first day at a new job. John and Chuck discuss best practices for onboarding new employees and the differences small changes can make to engage your employee from day one.

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John Thalheimer:

Welcome to the HR stories podcast where there is a lesson in every story. If we listen well, stories help us learn and teach us ways to act. Each year, john tall heimer and Chuck Simikian deliver 1000s of seminars around the country, business owners, executives and HR professionals discussing the fundamentals of human resources, best legal practices and risk reduction activities for organizations. This podcast allows us to dig deep into the Human Resources experience, and see where businesses go wrong. Each episode, we share a different story where a company missed the mark. And then we'll provide recommendations based on our years of working in the Human Resources field. Sit back, listen, learn and act. Welcome to the HR stories Podcast, where there is a lesson in every story. Good morning, my name is john tall heimer.

Chuck Simikian:

And I am Chuck Simikian.

John Thalheimer:

So this is the story of the last employee. Ah, yes,

Chuck Simikian:

you were going to tell us the story of a lost employee. You mentioned it last week. And I think you even mentioned that it has some It was a personal experience you had john yet you're not lost. I see you or at least I hear you. Right. I hear you. Yeah,

John Thalheimer:

I made a loss. You're made it. I didn't make it. Yeah. So I don't know if you remember. Can you think back to the first time or one time where you are a new employee? Do you remember that? What that first day was like?

Chuck Simikian:

My mum, my mum. Yep, I got it. I got it in the brain. I got it in the brain. And it just shot all the way down through through my spine into my heart. And I got it. Yeah. So I

John Thalheimer:

mean, it's interesting, right? Because there's this mixture of excitement and anxiety that happens on that first day. And so I remember on the first day I came to this organization was my first day there. And I was really excited to be there. Because it was the perfect combination. The job was that perfect combination of past experience, and future expectations where I wanted to go. And so I walked in the building at the appointed time, and I introduced myself to the receptionist. And I said Good morning, my name is john tall heimer. And I'm starting my new job today, and I'm not sure how to get to my workstation. And so she asked me what department I worked in and we talked a little bit She goes, Okay, so that's an easy one. You see those double doors behind me? And I'm like, Yeah, she does. Okay, so what I want you to do is I want you to continue walking straight through those double doors and keep walking straight until you smell the dumpster.

Chuck Simikian:

Now, she did not say that Did she really say he

John Thalheimer:

literally said that. And so I followed her instructions, and I saw and smelled the dumpster and she goes, Okay, so your office is directly above that dumpster. I went up to the second floor. And I ended up in a place that we ended up calling cubicle land, right. And so it had 50 or 60 different cubicles there. And I started walking around looking for my hiring manager. When I finally found him, he had that look on his face, you know that look that he had completely forgotten that I was coming in today. So he runs over to his desk. He opens his desk drawer. And this is the My favorite part of the story. He grabs the employee handbook, right? He grabs that employee handbook, and he dusted off he dust it off and hands it to me. And so he goes, look, I don't have time. He didn't say I don't have time to deal with you. But that's what it sounded like. I could you go go to the cafeteria and read this. And so on my way to the cafeteria, I completely got lost and ended up on the loading dock. And as I was on the loading dock, this forklift came from about a foot away and just missed me. It was the craziest first day I ever had. According to the carrot principle, 97% of employees are not sure they made the right decision at the end of the first day. So what I want to do today is I really want to talk about the importance of orientation. And what are those best practices, it really does set the tone for how the employee will interact with the company. They say first impressions are everything. And so what should companies be doing? What kind of examples Do you have chalk, from your orientation? Give us example of a bad orientation from your perspective.

Chuck Simikian:

Oh, wow. I don't know if I could talk what you just gave. I mean, and let me get this clear. You were not working for waste management company.

John Thalheimer:

No, no, I was working for a big corporation. I won't mention the name. And literally there was a gigantic dumpster that sad at the end of the loading dock. And so we had to go through right past it to get to our offices, and invariably it smelled it didn't always smell but invariably, probably one Once or twice a week, because they were throwing in the kitchen stuff in there, they were just throwing food that would just sit in there and it would really smell it.

Chuck Simikian:

Sure, sure. I gotta tell you I've not had any bad personal stories. I have had the opportunity early in my career. And I think I told you I worked at long john Silver's, you walk in, and the manager office is about as big of a as a closet. It's, it's just nasty. And they sit you down in front of a TV with a videotape. And then slide it in and say watch this. And it sounds all like I hear your area, you know, kind of wavy, and the pictures kind of staticky. And that was the orientation I got there.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah. And I'm assuming that probably after about a half an hour, 45 minutes of watching that tape, you were directly sent to your job? Or Yes.

Chuck Simikian:

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I was taught to how to wash dishes. And from there, it was all I think you used a lot, you use the term off. Off mic today, you called a tribal knowledge. So basically, it was alright, this is what you do. This is how you do it. And it came from the other employees, I never actually had a formal training or formal orientation. Yeah.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah. And unfortunately, that's a problem with a lot of organizations. They don't have a formal process. You said before we started the there's a difference between orientation and onboarding? Could you kind of expand on that, so kind of the audience knows where, what what we're talking about today?

Chuck Simikian:

Sure. So when I talk about difference between the two, I'm not speaking so much that they are on polar opposites. They're one in the same they, what would be the word they complement each other. So orientation is just a piece of onboarding. So a company that does an onboarding that could last anywhere from a week, two weeks, a month, two months, maybe six months. So onboarding, is the process of starting an employee from beginning to several months out orientation is really at the very front of onboarding.

John Thalheimer:

Okay, so it's that moment, like a kind of that first couple days, or they're getting oriented to the company, right? It's all about orientation to the company, understanding who the company is, how they're supposed to behave, how they're supposed to work?

Chuck Simikian:

Absolutely.

John Thalheimer:

So where do you think most companies go wrong? You had to kind of pinpoint, this is what I've seen most of the time, what would it be?

Chuck Simikian:

Sure. And as we've talked to our listeners, before you and I teach classes all around the country, in human resources, employment law, we get a lot of questions, and we hear a lot of stories. so chaotic, disorganized experiences, can definitely be the death of an orientation for someone, you know, orientations in organizations at times are going to squander those I would call the precious moments. And instead of using that experience as an opportunity to connect emotionally with the new hires, you then just overwhelm them with boatloads of materials and information. So I'd say probably the least effective well, least effective orientation is no orientation, which is basically what you got. Right? But outside of that orientation, when someone comes in, okay, sign here, sign here, sign here, sign here. Let me walk you around. Alright, there's your orientation. And you're kinda like, Whoa, what just happened? That's probably the least effective type of orientation.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah, and I definitely think that we've seen that and so when do you when when does the orientation process start for you?

Chuck Simikian:

Wow. Okay. That's a great question. That's a great question. I would say the orientation process starts Well, if you want to get really theoretical, you could say the orientation process starts with the branding and the job posting. And you can tell a lot about a company starts building that connection, based on that job posting. When you come into the interviews, the the way you are treated, is it professional? Are you going are you given an agenda, even an orientation Are you given an genda is a typed out, Is it nice? Is it a company letterhead? Or is it handwritten? Okay? So all those micro moments leading up to your very first day of when you are going to get paid. And there's even the onboarding. And let me clarify, we're talking about onboarding, new hire paperwork. So sometimes some companies that electronic version of on new hire paperwork, sometimes you just come in, you fill out your new hire paperwork prior to orian tation. So all those moments lead up to a, an orientation experience, because you're trying to paint a picture of what the company is like to work for, and ease the anxiety. That's the word you use earlier of that new hire.

John Thalheimer:

For sure, yeah, there's a lot of anxiety, I'm glad you use the term moments or micro moments, I love that term. There's a great book, if you haven't read it, I recommend everyone go out and read it. It's called the power of moments is one of those books that changed my life. But what they talked about is they talk about these transitional moments in our life. And think about orientation, it is a transitional moment we are moving from or moving into a new role, which means a new work environment, which means new work colleagues, means new work processes. And that's really hard for us to adjust. And so in the book, The Power of moments, they talk about john deere. And so in the United States, everyone knows who john deere is, we understand their foundation, we understand that their their tractor company and all that kind of stuff. Over in the Asian Pacific market, they had a challenge because people didn't know who john deere was. And so they wanted to help their employees understand who john deere was. And so they created this thing they called the best first day ever. And I love their concept and how it works. And so basically, it starts even before you start working even before day one, you will get text or email or phone call from your orientation guide. Basically just one of your co workers reaching out to you. And asking, answering all those questions that you're afraid to ask HR of, you know, where's the best place to park? What do people where they're where's the best place to eat all those types of questions. When you get there on day one, that person is standing in the lobby, and says, Hey, I'm so and so welcome to john deere. They take you to your workstation. When you get to your workstation, there's this gigantic sign that says Welcome to john deere. Now, the cool thing is because that signs there, everyone knows that you're new. And during that first day, they come back, and they touch base with you how you doing Welcome to the place, I can't wait to get to meet you, oh, we can be working together, that kind of stuff. And so then you turn into your workstation. And you look and your computer, your workstation is all set up. Now, I don't know about you talk. But how many times have you gone into a new position. And all you have is a desk and maybe a chair? Right? I mean, I I worked for a large company. And that company was terrible. Make sure that the employee had what they need your computer set up, it's wonderful. You see on the screen saver, these wonderful pictures of john deere tractors and farms and farmers. And so you open a computer up and that first email that you got was a letter was a email from the CEO. He said video, there's a video link on it telling you, the CEOs now telling you about the company, about their mission, their history where they expect to be. And at the end of it, he says, Look, if there's anything I can do during your tenure here, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. That's a really powerful message from your CEO. Right? And so it gets better. And so then like around lunchtime, your manager stops by and says, Hey, you know, I really want to have lunch with you. But I can't do it today. So I want what I want you to do is I want you to have lunch with the team you're going to be working with. And so you sit down with this team, and you find out all the things that they're doing and working on and gets you really involved and excited about it. You come back and on your desk is this gift. And you open up the gift and is a self it's a replica of the first john deere self polishing plow with the values on it. How would you feel at the end of that day child? Yeah. How would you feel?

Chuck Simikian:

Oh, absolutely valued, absolutely. involved in it reminds me of a couple of great orientation programs I've been involved in.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah, I know. We were talking. I know you worked at Disney. And I know Disney does things right. So tell us about dating. What did they How did they do it? Right? Sure.

Chuck Simikian:

I want to tell you about Disney. There they, they have a class your first day. First of all, I've worked at Disney. I've worked at Universal here in Orlando. And then I was HR director of Nickelodeon hotel suites. Each place. Yeah. And and and it was great. Yeah. You're laughing? Yes. I

John Thalheimer:

am laughing

Chuck Simikian:

the best day ever. Yeah, there was a song the best day ever. SpongeBob. Right. Yeah, they ever. So at each place, we had some similarities. So but the neat thing about Disney and I want to tell you about the Nickelodeon orientation. And what we implemented very similar what you did at john deere. But first to Disney, Disney didn't call their orientation orientation. They call their orientation, traditions. Oh, and before you could even work in the park. Before you could go get fitted for your costume. As they call, you had to go through traditions. Every player they call them cast members, whether they were custodial food and beverage frontline operations, maybe they were a manager, maybe they're a VP. If they were coming in from the outside, they were hired, you went through traditions and traditions class, we spent the whole day just talking about the tradition of The Walt Disney Company, the Walt Disney World company, can try to connect the culture and the emotion of why we did the things we did at Walt Disney World, where that history is why we do what we do out in the parks and why we're going to ask you as a new, hire a new cast member, to do these certain things, say these certain things act this certain way. You're tying the story, I have a good friend Mike Donnelly from the Donnelly effect, he tells me that orientation is so important because it connects the story, you've got to connect the story of what the company is, why your customers are there, and why your employees are there. And when you connect all three of those, your employees will start providing world class service. That's how important orientation is to Disney.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah, and I think that's great. And I think everyone's kind of has to walk away, the audience needs to walk away going, am I doing a good job, telling our story, our driving purpose, our vision, our mission? In our orientation process,

Chuck Simikian:

Every company has a story, the founder. And and once you start talking about, let's say, the founder and why they started the company in the business, people start to connect with that people connect with stories. The other things I liked about what you said about john deere, when I was at the Nickelodeon resort Nickelodeon hotel, we implemented a number of touch points, including calling people the day before part of it was to remind them because sometimes people would forget, but people appreciated that phone call. They knew they were being expected. So people would show up, we would, you know, the first day at Disney universal and Nickelodeon. We didn't go into, oh, here's our rules, here's our regulations, here's our policies, it was all about, here's our culture, here's a tour of the company, we would buy everyone lunch on that first day, you don't need to bring money, we're going to the company cafeteria, it's free. Today, it's on us. All those little things were huge. And then at the end of the day, john, we would do a tour of the property. And when they came back into the orientation room, standing in front of the room, was a manager from each department ready to say, Hi, I'm here for john and alfreda. And Susan, you know, come with me. And it was their manager or representative from their department. So people felt very, it was not a good day when a manager did not show up. We were very upset. And we would let them have it. But it was great. The employees loved it. Oh, and there was one other thing you said about the john deere and I'm hoping our audience gets get some really great tips and tricks. The general manager of the hotel would come down and speak to every orientation class, welcoming them.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah, I think that's fantastic. I think that's important, right? The sending that message. When I was at QVC. We did a two day. It wasn't orientation. This was beyond orientation, but it was basically a leadership program for every employee. And we loved when the leaders came in and told their stories. And so we would put them in throughout the two days. We would have them come in sometimes some of them stayed the whole day. Some of them would just drop in for a moment, but it was so important for the employees. perspective Oh, wow. That's how they saw this value, or that's how they saw this. And that's how it impacted their workplace. So it became really important on there. So I think that's really good.

Chuck Simikian:

Cool. You know, one other thing I was thinking about, at the end of the day, we took a picture of the orientation class. And with their permission, we would load it up on our Facebook page, our HR Facebook page, we would send it out amongst the employees, email, and we would, we would post it in the newsletter that came out every month. And that was fun. It was the Hey, today's orientation class, and we would pose in front of a large SpongeBob background. People absolutely love that. But these are the magic moments, you know, when that new employee is gonna decide to stay engaged, or become disengaged, they start making those decisions. You know, even before you get there, like you said, but definitely at orientation. That's why it imprints on them the importance and the culture of the company, and you'll have a great opportunity and orientation to make that impression.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah, I think it's the difference between like, a couple of differences, I think it's a difference of, am I going to be treated as a human being? Or am I just another cog in the wheel? Right. And so I'm introducing them to the story. And one of the examples I love using is, so let's go say you go to a friend's party, and you go up to the front door, and you're knock on the door. Somebody The door opens, and you walk in? Well, now you're like, Okay, I don't, I know, no one here. So now I'm looking around trying to find my friend. And it's not a great experience, versus you show up to your friend's house, he or she opens the door, and says, Welcome, let me go introduce you to the key people that you need to know at the party. And here's the food, here's the things, here's what you need to know, to be successful with that party. It's the same thing with orientation. I know being successful at a party may not be a thing for you, but get the point of view. Right,

Chuck Simikian:

right. And I'm very successful at parties. People like that love me, they gravitate towards me. I know. I'm the most popular one. I just like in high school. I was so popular. Yeah. Alright, so john, I know we're getting short on time. But I do want to do a shout out to some of the companies, someone's listening and listeners probably thinking to themselves, well, we you guys worked for big companies, you had these big orientation programs, we might hire someone once every couple of weeks, every couple of months, we can have a formal orientation program. And for those folks, I would say, Yes, you can. And I think about that party analogy. You know, the one person coming in, and I'm thinking maybe you can add to this, you could still do a formal orientation, but it could be different. Welcome the employee, you're going to talk to them about the history, you take them to a conference room, offer them some coffee or tea or a nice beverage, and then you have a printed agenda of you're going to take them on a tour. Maybe it's an agenda of who they're going to meet today. Maybe you set up micro meetings, 10 minutes, here's accounting, here's marketing, here's what they do. And so you they, the new hire understands they might end up being warehouse. But now they've had a chance to see all these different offices, how they all fit in at the end of the day, then they get their onboarding and orientation. How does that sound? Any thoughts on that? No, I

John Thalheimer:

love that. And I work that company I worked with the with the smelly dumpster. I ended up moving up and I ended up being in charge of how do we onboard people. And so I had the experience, I'm like, wait, we're not going to do it that way. And so we created a 90 day plan. And a lot of that was right. We didn't have a big budget. But a lot of that was what you were talking about. We had certain people they needed to meet the first week, certain people they needed to meet the second week. These are the tasks that they needed to be able to do on the first week. These are the things because you're building them up. I want everyone to think about it as a welcoming moment into this person's life, right? And you want them to feel welcome. When people come in to your organization, they have to adjust to the culture there. And if you don't introduce them to that culture in some way, you don't tell them the story, then they're not going to be there. I was thinking when you're talking about that founders story. And so at QVC one of the things we learned was how QVC was founded and it was founded by a gentleman going down to Florida hearing HSN. And going, gosh, I think I can do that better. And so bringing that idea back and said, Okay, this is how we're going to do it better. And so that became ingrained. One of our values was, can we continue to make this better? Right. And so that story tells the story of that value. And again, it's being a good storyteller to go, Oh, hey, this is it. And so even if you don't have a lot of money, it's not about the money. It's about how you make them feel at the end of that first day.

Chuck Simikian:

I mean, I know we could keep talking about orientation for a while. at Disney, and universal, the folks that taught orientation, we're not managers. That's another piece of trivia. Most folks don't know, we, when I taught traditions, as they call it, a Disney and they continue to this day, top hourly employees from in the park, that they might run Dumbo, or they might do Pirates of the Caribbean. But they're recruited to come in, they're trained. And so the new hires are not just meeting some manager, some HR person doing orientation. It's actually one of their peers. And that's kind of a neat little twist on that.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah, that's great, right? Because they can kind of tell you that experience from an employee standpoint of view versus an HR standpoint of view. Now, HR has a role. Definitely. I love that Disney takes it and kind of goes, Okay, well, who are they going to hear this message best from? Right, you're gonna hear from a co worker, right? And so maybe when you build your orientation program, you build co worker conversations into that thing, okay, you're gonna have a conversation with so and so. And they're going to talk to you about this particular thing, right? And so then you build that up on there, right? Definitely a good thing to do.

Chuck Simikian:

You're not Disney, you're not universal. You're not going Nickelodeon, you're not QVC you are you. So take what we've said, Put those things in place, create that connection, talk about the culture, and the clarification. And of course, the compliance of what's needed. I would say compliance would probably be towards the end of the day, but you do what works for you. And I would think we've given some really great tips. It's been a great conversation. I love it.

John Thalheimer:

I definitely i do i do i don't want people to walk away there is a compliance piece that you have, right? There's there's the I nines you got to get filled out. There's the W two fours, you got our w twos, you need to fill out all those really important things that you have to do as part of your orientation program, but I don't want you to be like, okay, you come in, do this paperwork, do this paperwork, do that paperwork, do that paperwork. Okay, great. Okay, now goes to your manager.

Chuck Simikian:

Yeah. A cup of coffee. Oh, they're so they're, I think there's a coffee machine in the back and they go and there's sugar spilled. And there's, you know, so you want to make it a fantastic experience, because they are judging the company. Well, and you've said it, I've said it, whether they made the right decision or not. So the orientation has to be clean, polished. And a great experience overall.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah, so any final words Chuck, like so what actions should I be taking? Again, I always go back to that. But what actions as a company should I be taking around orientation?

Chuck Simikian:

Well, I would sit down, I'd evaluate the process, I might pull in some recent new hires, and and survey them. How was your orientation? How was your onboarding? Because remember, rotation is just part of that. The whole onboarding piece, talk to them, get their opinions first, and then start rolling it out. Get senior leadership's approval to revise your onboarding and orientation program. And some people might say, well, that's too expensive, that's too expensive. But once again, you're wasting a lot of time recruiting and selecting people just to have them come on board and have a horrible onboarding and orientation experience. Well, it's a pay me now or pay me later. type of thing.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah. And I think what you want to do if you're in human resources, you're an executive, what you want to do is set it up. So when they get to the manager, the manager doesn't have to worry if they've started picking up the cultural vibe in the stories and that kind of stuff. The managers going just based on their position is going to be much more technical oriented. This is how you do your job. And so you want to teach them okay, these are the proper behaviors. This is why we do it. This is our purpose. This is our mission becomes really important, I think right but

Chuck Simikian:

don't create the orientation program in a vacuum. involve the recent new hires involve senior leadership get their buy in, but also involve Those managers that after you're done with orientation, you don't want them going to the manager. And they're talking about everything they learned in orientation managers like what they told you that, huh? Oh, that's a you need to involve everyone create it as a total team effort.

John Thalheimer:

Yeah, absolutely. I think those are good, good things. All right. So I think we're heading up for the end of the day time. Now chocolate anything any last? Well, we've talked about your last words, I think my last words is make them feel welcomed. You're bringing them into your community, make them feel welcomed?

Chuck Simikian:

Absolutely. No, I don't have anything. The only thing I could suggest, john, is that, folks, you don't need to go it alone. If you want some help with your orientation program, your onboarding program, you want to take a look at everything from creating a connection, building your culture, to the compliance and clarification of the role that new employee is going to have. We can help here at the HR stories podcast, we would love to help you send us an email help at HR stories, podcast COMM The info will be in the show notes, and we will get right back to you.

John Thalheimer:

That's great, Chuck. Yeah, so everyone, have a great afternoon and we will talk to you soon. Thank you for listening to HR stories podcast. The material presented in this podcast is for informational purposes only. Chuck and john always recommend using the employment lawyer to handle any legal HR issues. We do our best to double check sources. Make sure the information we are providing is accurate. We may eliminate or embellish without changing the basic narrative to make the story easier to understand. In certain circumstances, we may change in identifying information to protect the innocent. If you have any questions, please reach out. Reach out to us at help at HR stories podcast calm. Thank you for listening to the HR stories Podcast, where there is a lesson in every story.