What is Orientation?

Induction, also called orientation is designed to provide a new employee with the information he or she needs to function comfortably and effectively in the organization. It is a planned introduction of new hires to their jobs, their peers and the company.

Typically, orientation conveys three types of information – (i) general information about the daily work routine; (ii) a review of the firm’s history, founding fathers, objectives, operations and products or services, as well as how the employee’s job contributes to the organisation’s needs; and (iii) a detailed presentation, perhaps, in a brochure, of the organisation’s policies, work rules and employee benefits.

Purpose of Orientation

Firms are known to spend a few weeks or even months on orientation programmes. The idea is to make the new employees feel at home’ in the new environment. It is a well-known fact that employees feel anxious on entering an organization. They worry about how well they will perform on the new jobs. They feel inadequate when they compare themselves with the more experienced employees, and they are concerned about how well they will get along with their co-workers. Effective orientation programmes reduce the anxiety of new employee by providing them information on the job environment and on supervisors, b) introducing them to co-workers, and by encouraging them to ask questions.

The ease with which employees adjust to a new job and work environment is, often, a function of the expectations they bring to the job. If expectations are realistic, adjustments will be relatively simple. If, however, expectations are unrealistic or unreasonable, adjustment will be more difficult. In the latter case, orientation can be instrumental in modifying employee expectations.

In one study of considerable importance, researchers discovered the following about new employees:

1. The first days on the job were anxious and disturbing ones.

2. ‘New employees initiation’ practices by peers intensified anxiety.

3. Anxiety interfered with the training process.

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4. Turnover of newly hired employee was caused primarily by anxiety.

5. The new workers were reluctant to discuss problems with their supervisors. Employee orientation is aimed at minimizing such problems.

Orientation seeks to expose new employees to all areas of the company. This prevents inductees from getting overspecialized. Induction makes new hires become productive to the company quickly.

Finally, a good orientation programme will create a favorable impression of the firm and its work. Just as a favorable first impression of an individual helps to form a good relationship, so a good initial impression of a company, a co-worker, or a supervisor can help a new employee adjust better. Further, effectiveness of an orientation programme can have a lasting effect on absenteeism and turnover.

First developed in the U.S. during early 1970s, orientation is gaining popularity. Several blue chip companies are orienting their new hires.

Orientation Programme

A firm needs to make four strategic choices before designing its orientation programme. They are (i) formal or informal, (ii) serial or disjunctive and, (iv) investiture or divestiture.

Formal or Informal: In informal orientation, new hires are directly put on the jobs and they are expected to acclimatise themselves with the work and the company. In contrast, orientation can be formal too. In formal orientation, the management has a structured programme which is executed when new employees join the firm.

The choice between formal and informal orientation will depend on the management’s goals. The more formal the programme, the greater the likelihood that the new hire will acquire a known set of standards. That is, the new member is more likely to think and act like an executive, a management trainee, or a management professor. But an informal programme is desirable to maintain individual differences.

Innovative ideas to solve organizational problems and healthy questioning of the status quo are likely to be generated by a person who has been inducted informally.

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Individual or Collective: Another choice to be made by the management is whether the new hires should be inducted individually or in groups. The individual approach is likely to develop tin less homogeneous views than collective orientation. Individual orientation is more likely to preserve individual differences and perspectives. Orienting each person separately is an expensive and time consuming process. It also denies the new hire the opportunity of sharing anxieties with fellow appointees.

Collective orientation of the new hires solves the problems stated above. Most large firms tend to have the collective orientation approach. But small firms, which have fewer new appointees to socialize frequently use the individual approach. Individual socialization is popular even with large finns when they hire executives whose number is small.

Serial or Disjunctive: Orientation becomes serial when an experienced employee inducts a new hire. The experienced employee acts as a tutor and model for the new hire. When new hires do not have predecessors available to guide them or to model their behaviour upon, the orientation become disjunctive.

Each option has its own advantages and pitfalls. Serial orientation maintains traditions and cus­toms. Consistent use of this strategy will ensure a minimum amount of change within the firm over time. But, maintenance of status quo itself may breed resistance to change. Further, if the experienced employee is frustrated and apathetic towards work and the firm, it is likely that he or she would pass on the same to the new hire.

Disjunctive orientation almost stands on the other side of the spectrum. Such induction is likely to produce more inventive and creative employees because the new hire is not burdened by traditions. But this benefit needs to be weighed against the potential for creating deviants, that is, individuals who fail-due to an inadequate role model-to understand how their job is to be done and bow it fits into the grand scheme of the company.

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Orientation programmes range from brief, informal introductions to lengthy, formal programmes.

In informal orientation, new employees are instructed to report to the HR department for an explanation of company policies before being referred to the immediate supervisor for an on-the-job briefing on specific work procedures. Informal orientation tends to be brief- lasting one hour or even less.

Formal orientation is elaborate and is spread over a couple of weeks or months. Most formal programmes consist of three stages-(i) a general introduction to the company, often given by the HR department; (ii) specific orientation to the department and the job, typically given by the employee’s supervisor; and (iii) follow-up meeting to verify that the important issues have been addressed and employee questions have been answered. This follow-up meeting usually takes place between a new employee and his or her supervisor a week or so after the employee has begun working.

A formal orientation programme is shared by the HR specialists and the supervisors. The former covers such areas as organizational issues, employee benefits, and introductions, while supervisors outline mainly job duties.