HAVE YOU CONSIDERED? : New Blood & Commonsense

Our human resource adviser wants to implement an induction programme for new staff. Currently the introduction of new recruits is largely left to their manager. Is more formal induction process worth considering or is it just another ‘HR good idea’?

It sounds like you may be little distrustful about your HR person’s idea. However, planned approach to induction can definitely be worth shot. It certainly adds value for the company if new recruits can hit the ground running. Also, research shows people who have good initial experience in new role tend to stay longer while those who’ve had bad experience are not only more likely to leave but to cause disruption en route.
New recruits want to know some quite basic but important things. What is expected of me? Where will I be working? Who will I be working with? Where can I get my lunch? Who can I ask/trust if I want to know something? To begin with, they don’t want huge detail. They just want to know those things that will enable them to operate reasonably effectively without looking dumb.
The process can be kept fairly low key. It would include an introduction to their manager or supervisor so they know who to report to. If that manager runs through the person’s job description with them, it can help them feel recognised and also ensure they understand what is expected of them.
Again, research shows that these are fundamental and critical stages in person’s initial engagement with an organisation. It’s important to review the content of the person’s employment – eg, how their pay is structured, holiday and sick leave entitlements – partly because in their enthusiasm to take the role, such details might have been glossed over.
Next, the person needs to see where and with whom they’ll be working and get to know the general geography of the surrounding area so they know where to go for what they need. It can be very effective to team them up with ‘buddy’ at this point. After initial familiarisation, it’s also important they start to work on something, so they can have some personal space and an opportunity to integrate with their surroundings.
Research shows critical need for new employees is to demonstrate they were worth hiring. An overly ambitious induction programmes can fail if not well implemented. Better to keep it short, sharp and effective while ensuring the new employee’s commitment and engagement.

Our company manufactures sportswear and, despite working in highly competitive market, has created niche in New Zealand and to some extent Australia. I think our success to date has been through healthy application of commonsense and practical experience. Lately, I’ve been researching ideas for the future by reading current management books and have discovered common theme around ‘world-class performance improvement’. However, the concepts seem somewhat theoretical and potentially bureaucratic. Are we missing out on something important?

The concept of ‘world-class performance improvement’ or ‘world-class manufacturing’ has appeared in many guises including Total Quality Management, Kaizen, Six Sigma, Self Empowered Teams, and 20 Keys to name but few. All are systems for improving the performance of an organisation’s processes and usually have manufacturing focus.
However, the concepts can also be usefully applied in an office environment, provided this is coupled with good dose of commonsense to avoid bureaucracy. The general background to the development of these programmes was the manufacturing success achieved by Japan after World War 11. number of American and European consultants worked in Japan to help rebuild its economy and then transferred their experience to other parts of the world.
Although varying in makeup, the core structure of these programmes is based on the continuous improvement of key pro-cesses in the organisation. The main aim is to head off the competition by being able to meet customer’s needs quickly and effectively – both Toyota and Sony are good examples. An essential element is improving teamwork by enhancing skills in effective communication, decision making, definition and improvement of process flows, and statistical analysis.
Work teams meet at least once week and review the output and performance of their work with those of other benchmarked teams in the organisation as well as overall business targets. They analyse work pro-cesses, brainstorm ways of reducing time or cutting waste, make appropriate changes, then measure outcomes to check if real improvement occurs.
The result is increased engagement and motivation within the team and increased innovation within the organisation. The knowledge they gain is transferred to other teams in the organisation. It all works very well provided its implementers understand what they’re doing and don’t inadvertently create an unwieldy or overly rigid system. So it’s worth considering. M

• Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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