Who’s The New Kid?: Making the most of your new-employee orientation.

By Mikke Pierson and Rich Rubincam of ZJ Boarding House

In our last article we talked about how to hire the right person for the job. Hopefully you’ve found the best-qualified individual and offered them a job — but your work isn’t done. Now it’s crucial that you start them off on the right foot and set a positive tone. You need to give them the information and tools they need to become an effective part of your team.

As an employer, it’s important that you’re organized and prepared for the new employee and their orientation. Remember to emphasize their personal growth, and that success and accomplishment is through solid two-way communication. It’s your responsibility to give them a way to be successful in your business. The first few days on the job for the new employee will create the initial — and often permanent — attitude toward you, the company, and its services.

We’ve found it very helpful to have a “new employee checklist prepared so that you don’t miss any key steps when assimilating a new hire into your regular staff and operations. The checklist we created includes a quick-reference sheet — we write down important information like their legal name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, rate of pay, phone number, and which time card they were issued. We also create another sheet that outlines schedule availability, since many of our employees are in school and only available part-time.

We photocopy their driver license and Social Security card, and have them fill out a W-4 form. Depending on your business, you can customize your own checklist as needed, but it’s a good idea to have one.

Next we give every new employee a basic job description and have them sign that they’ve received it. If you aren’t using job descriptions right now, you should really think about making the effort to start using them.

A good job description clearly spells out what you expect from each employee and helps give him or her a better understanding of what they need to do to succeed at your company. Job descriptions also give you a way of having employees be accountable for their behavior, work ethic, and career growth on the job. There’s software available to help you do this.

The last paperwork task we do is give every new employee their own copy of our employee manual and have them sign that they’ve received it. This manual is a guide to everything we want employees to know about working for us. It tells about our history and growth. It tells about how and when we pay, what our hours are, and explains our vacation policies and which holidays we’re closed. It also tells new employees what we expect and don’t expect from them, and what they can expect from us. Writing your own employee manual can be a large task and needs to be checked for legal accuracy, but it can be a valuable tool in helping a team of employees all work well together. Once again, look in to some of the commercially available software to help you put together your own manual.

Place your copies of all this paperwork into an employee’s personnel file. A personnel file keeps important documents organized that relate to an individual employee. Keep it under lock and key for confidentiality reasons. We often refer back to an employee’s personnel file for different information. A few times we’ve had to look up stuff for different government agencies. Even after the employee no longer works for us, we keep these files in case something comes up — which most often is someone calling for a reference check. Remember that employees have a legal right to see their personnel file, so don’t put anything in the file you’re not comfortable with them seeing.

Next, go over some basics of the new hire’s job and their new work environment, including the written job description. Make sure they understand what you expect. New employees require help and guidance, so encourage them to ask questions whenever possible. Stress the importance of commuunication early on and tell them never to assume things — they should ask questions first, not later. When explaining some rule or procedure, be specific and be sure to tell them “why as well as “what. Stress the importance of customer service every opportunity you have. It’s also a good idea to tell the person what they should expect on day one, week one, and over the coming months. Describe a typical day to the employee, give them a tour of the shop, and introduce them to all the key people at the business and the rest of staff. Remind them that it’s a group effort at work and that teamwork starts immediately. Explain whom they should report to if they have questions and whom their immediate supervisor is, and tell them that you’ll be checking in with them regularly to see how things are going. Be sure to give them an opportunity to ask questions or make comments.

Once you have gone over the basics with the new hire, talk with them about their future at the business and what their role is. Let them know they’re now part of the team, about the rewards of working for the company, and how to attain them through commitment, motivation, and productivity. The goal as an employer is to maintain close personal contact and interest with each and every employee — every day. Their growth as an employee, an individual, and as a human being will ultimately mean positive growth for your business as well. Assure them that you’ll be there at the beginning of that road, the middle, and the end as well.

The next step in new employee orientation is usually training. How this is done will vary from business to business. Some companies have very rigid training programs. Others train on the fly. The best advice is to have someone who’s considered a veteran or a manager spearhead the training of the new hire instead of a coworker. Training is truly a continuous process, and getting a new employee up to speed may take a week, a month, or even a year. In reality, training should be an everyday event. There’s always something new to learn.

New employee orientation should be a major priority for retail shops to assure that they have the right salespeople on the floor at all times. It’s an important step that takes time and dedication on your part. Properly orientating and training the new employee will help you give your customers the service you want to enable your business thrive and grow. If you consistently follow an effective system, your staff will be happy, driven, and dedicated.


This is the second in a series of articles brought to you by the Board Retailers Association to help educate retailers across the country. The Board Retailers Association was formed to support boardsport retailers in a variety of ways: to give members group discounts, to provide a unified voice with manufacturers, to help promote consumer awareness and shopping at boardsport retailers, and to help educate boardsport retailers. For more information or to join the Board Retailers Association, please go to www.boardretailers.org or call Roy Turner at (910) 509-7475 ext. 112.