New Hire Orientation Programs Suck

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Have you heard of the welcome wagon? It’s an informal neighborhood welcoming committee that greets you when you move into your new home.

Ken and I bought a home in 1999 and a few neighbors stopped by the house, dropped off a plate of cookies, and delivered a pamphlet with the names of our neighbors and their children, personal phone numbers, and information about local pizza and Chinese delivery.

I suggested, “You can put this on the internet.”

I was thinking GeoCities or a simple email distribution list.

“That’s not very safe,” my neighbor said.

That’s when I learned that the welcome wagon is a stupid concept. Get out of my house. I’m too busy unpacking my stuff and getting acclimated to hear about the best local dentist and the neighbor down the block with too many cats.

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I think about the welcome wagon when I’m asked about new hire orientation programs. Human Resources departments want to roll out the red carpet and provide guidance, assistance, and advice to new employees. We want to make the transition easier, and we want employees to be productive as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, in the real world, transitions are complicated. Instead of assuming that our new employees are emotionally and intellectually mature, Human Resources departments want to create training courses on how to ‘manage change.’ When a new colleague arrives at our company, we want to assign her a lunch buddy.

So stupid.

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Not that anyone has ever asked me, but when I start a job at a new company, here’s what I want.

  1. I want a network username and password that actually works. If I can’t access my company computer and email account on the first day, I know my time at your organization is limited.
  2. I don’t want to spend the first two days of my job in HR orientation hell. Use technology and video to automate as much as possible.
  3. Please let me go to lunch with my new team and learn their names before I attend the mandatory sexual harassment training class. I can’t harass them if I don’t meet them first.
  4. I don’t want to walk out of new hire orientation with a pen, a tote bag, a stress ball, a mug, and digital clock for my desk. Please don’t spend company money on that crap.
  5. If you want me to sign eighteen forms on my first day of work, you should really send me those forms before my first day.
  6. Don’t assume that I will have a difficult time navigating my way through the company, the culture, or the political infrastructure. You hired me because I’m awesome — not because I need someone to hold my hand.

The best way to avoid an awful new hire orientation experience is to make your own job and orient yourself.

If your next job is the one you create, what will you tell yourself on your first day?

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