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 organization’s needs; and (iii) a detailed presentation, perhaps, in a brochure, of the organization’s policies, work rules, and employee benefits.
Purpose of Orientation
Firms are known to spend a few weeks or even months on orientation programs. 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 about entering an organization. They worry about how well they will perform in 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 programs reduce the anxiety of new employees by providing them information on the job environment and on supervisors, b) introducing them to co-workers, and 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, the 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.
4. Turnover of the newly hired employees 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 program 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, the effectiveness of an orientation program can have a lasting effect on absenteeism and turnover.
First developed in the U.S. during the early 1970s, orientation is gaining popularity. Several blue-chip companies are orienting their new hires.
A firm needs to make four strategic choices before designing its orientation program. They are
(i) formal or informal,
(ii) serial or disjunctive and,
(iii) investiture or divestiture.
1. Formal or Informal
In an informal orientation, new hires are directly put on the jobs and they are expected to acclimatize themselves with the work and the company. In contrast, orientation can be formal too. In formal orientation, the management has a structured program that 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 program, 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 program 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.
2. 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 a 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.
3. 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 behavior upon, the orientation becomes 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 the 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.
Orientation programs range from brief, informal introductions to lengthy, formal programs.
In an 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 programs 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 program 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.