Tim Sackett: New Hire Orientation and Pre Flight Safety Instructions

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You know when you get so comfortable with something that you stop paying attention? Quick, tell me what leg of your pants you put in first when putting on your pants? See! You’re an idiot and you just reached down to act like you were putting on your pants because you had to know the answer. The reality is you didn’t know because it’s something we do every day and we no longer pay attention to this simple detail.

I was traveling recently when this hit me. Our lovely, overly flamboyant, flight attendant — by the way, I love it when the flight attendants are overly flamboyant, it somehow makes me feel safer and more fabulous…but that’s for a later post — was going through his pre-flight routine, similar to this (here), but more corporate.

I wasn’t paying attention, knowing where my life vest was and how to put on my mask first before assisting the overly sweaty guy next to me. I started feeling bad for not paying closer attention, not because I wanted to, but because I felt for this person doing their job and the average effort they were putting into it. I mean when that guy at Chipotle is doing his job average of putting my burrito together I sure as hell am paying attention to him!

That’s when it hit me. We (HR Pros) do new hire orientation like pre-flight safety instructions. We put together all the right information, script it out fairly well and then we put in our average effort — not because we’re average — but because it’s average information to us. We get it, we put it together, we understand it, we bought the t-shirt. Think about it. When was the last time you sat through a new hire orientation where you didn’t want to shoot yourself 15 minutes into Fred from Risk Management’s explanation of OSHA certification logs? All of this and we expect our new employees to listen to this average effort and actually make eye contact and be engaged.

You want to know what to do? Have non-HR folks do new hire orientation and don’t allow them to present their own area of expertise. Why will this work? Because if you were told you had to give an operations presentation right now as a HR Pro, you would be challenged, you would be nervous, your heart rate would go up a little bit — you would probably spend a little time getting to know the material, ask a lot of questions, and in the end provide a fairly decent presentation on what someone would really have to know about Ops — that wasn’t part of Ops — would have to know. The real stuff, and you would seem interested, because it’s new to you.

So, please put back your tray table and bring your seat to their upright position — it’s time to change things up.

Tim Sackett is the Executive Vice President for HRU Technical Resources and a regular contributor to the blog Fistful of Talent. He is awesome.

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