Service Staff Orientation Programs: Get the wrong people OFF the bus, and keep the right people ON!
By Jocelyn Low
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Are you happy with your current new employee orientation program? Are your new employees truly inspired by the program? (How many of them are still employed with you after just one year?)
I am going to take you on a bus tour called ‘Service Orientation for New Hires’. This is not the same thing as ‘Job Induction for New Hires”. And here’s the difference between the two:
Job induction is giving new employees what they need, to get going on the job. Job induction includes job role and function, HR policies and procedures, company protocols, IT and security passwords, and other important job related details.
Meanwhile, Service Orientation is about connecting new employees to the company, to the culture, and to their new customers and colleagues. A strong service orientation program answers questions like these: What is our service vision? Who are our most important competitors? How is our service different from others in our industry? What is the service culture are we building? How can you, as a brand new employee, help make our service culture even stronger?
When these questions are posed – and answered – during a service orientation program, new employees develop a better understanding of the business, and a stronger emotional connection with the team.
Here are three examples from highly effective service orientation programs.
Globe Telecom, one of the largest phone companies in the Philippines, integrates Uplifting Service principles into their eek-long “Globe Onboarding Program”. This program includes two days of job induction and three days of service orientation. Following the induction, service orientation is devoted to understanding Globe’s vision, mission, and values and to an intensive frontline immersion experience for each new employee.
During this unique immersion experience, all new hires are placed directly on the frontline of service to observe interactions with real customers and gain ‘first-hand’ exposure to many customer service situations. New hires learn how Globe manages customers of all moods and manners. This direct customer-facing activity so soon after employment can be uncomfortable, especially for those who will ultimately serve as members of the back office team and who may never again interact directly with customers.
When the immersion day is done, new hires can be seen closing their eyes, taking deep breaths, and appreciating more fully the importance of those who work daily on the frontline of service, and those who provide them with vital daily support. This service orientation program is lively, practical, and builds empathy and respect for each other.
Singapore Press Holdings, only includes new hires in their week-long orientation program after they have been on the job for at least six months. This unique program called “SMOP” (for SPH Management Orientation Program) encourages the development of strong internal service partnerships. The new employees are brought together from all departments: editorial, marketing, production, distribution, human resources, finance, facilities, IT and others. During the program, employees teach each other how their jobs function, and they see together how each department has an impact on the others.
On the final day, SMOP starts at 4 a.m. to experience the entire newspaper creation and distribution process; from the editorial room – where news and writing decisions are made, to marketing where advertising and space allocation decisions are made, to production where the paper is printed and bundled, and finally to delivery, where the daily paper is loaded onto trucks and distributed to stores and households throughout the country. As a result of this unique experience, new hires gain a much bigger picture of the newspaper process and see that success is not only about achievement in ‘my department’ or ‘your department’, but is all about how we work together throughout the organization.
Here’s the third example. An unusual one. Zappos, a highly successful online retail company, uses their orientation program to help the right people get off the wrong bus. New hires are exposed to roles and functions that may be beyond their comfort zones to assess their alignment with the corporate value “Deliver WOW Through Service”.
The company empowers new hires who don’t fit with the culture to “quit” at any time during the orientation program, and receive a cash bonus for choosing to leave! So, anyone who thinks the culture isn’t a perfect match can choose to exit – and do so with a smile. As a result, the company ensures that new employees who stay are truly committed, and closely aligned with the culture. This translates into higher employee engagement, longer staff retention, greater productivity, and better internal and external service. Clearly, these results are worth the company’s investment in this unusual approach.
An effective orientation program evolves from trial and testing and requires fine tuning over time. At Uplifting Service, we have developed these guidelines to help organizations build service orientation programs that align new hires to their respective corporate culture and values.
Proven Ideas for an effective new hire Service Orientation program:
• New staff orientation begins during recruitment. The company’s values are clearly visible on the company’s website, in all communications with applications, and are actually demonstrated in new hire selection activities.
• Job induction (policies, procedures, computers, passwords, workspace, etc.) are prepared in advance and ready for the new employee on Day 1.
• Orientation is a well-designed process to share information and ideas over time. It is not a one-time event.
• Managers are prepared to articulate the value of the new employee in their specific role, not just recite the job functions.
• Orientation activities consistently and clearly connect to the organizational vision, values and business concerns.
• New staff are taught the fundamental business model of the organization – who are the customers? What are the products and services? How do we delight our customers? How do we satisfy our colleagues?
• New staff members are introduced at department or business unit functions as “new stars” in the organization
• Orientation activities use various media and activities to appeal to different learning styles
• Key leaders are visible and have a role in orientation activities, not just perfunctory appearances.
• Success stories about the organization and about employees are shared to illustrate the culture in action.
• Orientation includes a 90-day development plan for each employee. What should this person know and be able to do after 3 months?
• Orientation includes training in core language, skills and behaviors (for example common service language and improvement tools, and fundamental communication skills).
• New employees are assigned mentors or “buddies” to answer questions, model culture, and help navigate the organization.
• The orientation process has built-in “checkpoints” to gather new employee feedback and to provide helpful feedback to the new employee. Checkpoints also allow new employees to depart “with no regrets” if desired.
• The orientation process gives employees an opportunity to experience other departments and functions, including access to customers, suppliers or partners.
• New employees work on small teams to investigate key business concerns and propose new ideas from a fresh perspective during their first 6 months.
• Social media is leveraged to build new employee cohorts, network with colleagues or share organizational messages and information geared for new staff.
• Managers are trained to understand, lead and support the new staff orientation process.
• Orientation activities are fun!
What do you remember about your organization’s Service Orientation program? What made a real impact? What did you enjoy? What do you think was missing?
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