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Although induction is recognized as a critical activity for new starters, my experience has been that few organizations do it well. There is probably no excuse for poor induction when your staff is in one location and new starters can report to the training department for face-to-face induction. It becomes more difficult to run a slick induction operation, however, when you have offices geographically dispersed.
This issue I discuss an induction program on which I am currently working for an organization with 30 offices spread across continental Australia. The organization has a high turnover of staff within its remote offices requiring frequent, ongoing induction.
I recommend a two-phase process for most organisations. Phase One is local, in-house induction commencing on day one and running for up to a week.
Phase One induction follows a checklist in which the topics are entered eg, ‘computer login procedures’, the name of a responsible person who will show the newcomer how to login to the corporate computer system, and a date column to show when the activity has been completed. Topics included in Phase One are ‘survival topics’. That is, topics that need to be covered if new starters are to be effective immediately.
Phase Two is ongoing for weeks or months depending on organisational needs. I’ve decided on a one week local induction and two to three months for ongoing induction, at least in the trial stage.
Scoping the Content
Determining content coverage is always difficult in that it is necessary to cover what is important and essential. It is easy to pile too much into an induction program to the extent that newcomers are overwhelmed with information, much of which becomes meaningless.
Legislative requirements relating to harassment, secrecy and security, occupational health and safety etc should be covered as soon as possible as should topics like conditions of service, attendance policies and so on.
As different occupational groups have different priorities for information, it’s useful to identify needs using subject matter experts. By using SMEs you increase the buy-in from the new-starters’ team members and reduce resistance to the time off routine duties inductees need for induction.
You could use a decision-matrix chart to help you with the identification process. It looks something like this:
TopicVery ImportantModerately ImportantSomewhat ImportantFor Future Reference Office securityPhase One Purchasing StationeryPhase Two Organisational StructurePhase Two Topic nProvide Reading List
The idea is to work through a process of elimination until you have identified what MUST be incorporated in the Phase One checklist, Phase Two activities, and those topics that are nice to know, but can be read about later. Using this process helps you ensure you don’t miss critical topics.
Classroom attendance for my client is not an option. If it is an option for you, then it’s largely a matter of finding someone to deliver the topic content in an interesting way using a variety of methods.
I’m a great believer in multiple media whether used in a classroom or with distributed learning. (Not multimedia!) Multiple media encourages interaction from inductees, better accommodates different learning styles and is more interesting for learners and trainers.
I’ve decided to design a program that includes:
•Internet/intranet activities and online quizzes at the end of each topic •Video-conferencing •Moderated, threaded discussion lists •Self-paced discovery learning activities •Email autoresponses to queries
Obviously consideration needs to be given to the costs involved in induction. These comprise salary costs for time off the job, materials costs, supervision costs, telecommunications costs etc. In this case, the organisation has a very sound Wide Area Network (WAN), desktop PCs and video-conferencing facilities in each of its offices, so by using the existing infrastructure, they can provide for all of these methods without additional expenditure.
On the first day of commencement, new starters will be assigned ‘Buddies’ from their work teams. Buddies will introduce the new starters to the key people and places they need to know about and give them the Phase One Checklist to continue on days two through five.
On each of those days inductees will spend at least some of their day meeting the Responsible People shown on their checklist. For example, one of the Fire Wardens will show inductees where the fire escape routes are and the locations of fire hydrants and other safety apparatus.
The union representative will discuss the union, its services and fees. Someone will run through the process for booking, obtaining fuel, and maintaining company vehicles.
After they have obtained a login for their computer, inductees will be directed to the Induction/Orientation Site where they will work through their Phase Two program while completing assigned tasks. Their first task will be to send an email to their Induction Officer advising that they have access to the system and are ready to begin their induction program.
Some of the tasks will require participation in video-conference sessions, discussion lists, and self-directed research among the wealth of corporate policies, procedures etc available across the corporate intranet. These tasks will have a problem-solving focus and a few will be closely related to their occupational group. For example, inductees who work in the accounts payable section will be asked to find a procedure relating to accounts and to answer a specific question. This will familiarize them with the Electronic Performance Support System and the organisation’s policies and procedures.
Designated Induction Officers in each Australian State and Territory will monitor inductees’ progress. They will receive electronic notification when inductees complete online quizzes and email them when arranging video conferences or discussion lists to give them research and presentation tasks. Where practicable, subject matter experts will participate in video conferences and discussion groups to answer questions and give examples.
While all this may sound like hard work, once the ‘inductionware’ is produced, tested and validated for reliability and user friendliness, it will be quite a simple process.
Like any human endeavour, the outcomes will be determined by the effort stakeholders make in implementation. The best designed induction system in the world, on or offline will only work if the key players become involved and remain involved.
This induction program will resolve numerous audit and employee criticisms about induction either not being done or being done poorly. And it should be completed just in time for Christmas.
Robin is a human resources and development specialist with 20 years experience. He provides an online HRD advisory and epublication service and writes numerous articles for various magazines and organisations.