When I think about all of the times I’ve been hired for various jobs over the course of my life, I have the benefit of 20-20 hindsight to see the enormous impact that training had on my success (or failure) in each job. Although I’ve now worked for Zingerman’s almost seven years, I still remember going through the hiring and orientation process, most particularly as a seasonal, temporary employee at Zingerman’s Mail Order. In fact, my experience at Mail Order is a big part of the reason that I wanted to stick around after that fast-paced, fun, and all-too-brief holiday season!
I firmly believe that having an excellent orientation process helps attract and retain the best employees, as well as set the tone for the culture of a business. ZingTrain Managing Partner Maggie Bayless has written extensively on the topic of training, and following are her recommended seven key elements of a new hire orientation to will help get things going great:
- An orientation class/session that shares the organization's history and where you're headed in the future. Ideally, the owner or general manager teaches this class. If you have a Mission, Vision, and Guiding Principles, this is the place to share them. What are your signature products? What is your approach to customer service? What makes you different from the competition? In a nutshell, what are the most important procedures should new hires know in order to be part of the action?
- An HR orientation class/session that takes care of all paperwork and clarifies how to clock in/out, where to pick up checks, what benefits are available, and where to go with payroll-/HR-related questions.
- A tour of the store and/or facilities, making sure to include the time clock, employee bathrooms, any storage areas, etc. If possible, supplement this with a map that shows where key items can be found and any nicknames that you use for certain areas (next door, the annex, the greenhouse, the dungeon, Antarctica, etc.).
- Clearly documented expectations as to what the trainee is expected to know and/or be able to do at the end of the training period. At Zingerman's, we've prioritized these into 7-day, 30-day, and 60-day expectations, but they could just as easily be Week 1, Week 2, etc. These expectations should be focused on those nitty-gritty things that every staff person needs to be able to do to make it successfully through the day.
- A few tools to measure whether the trainee can meet the expectations. For example, written tests on key products and Frequently Asked Questions. Performance tests on entering an order, ringing up a customer and counting back change, or answering the phone.
- Have clear expectations and training tools for your on-shift trainers. Just because someone is a great display builder doesn't mean he/she knows how to teach someone else to build displays. Give your trainers advance notice that they will be training on shift so that they have a chance to prepare. Most importantly, make sure the trainer understands what the trainee needs to know or be able to do at the end of each training shift.
- Identify whom the trainee should go to with questions or to ask for help -- and encourage the trainee to do so. This go-to person must be accessible and welcome the questions, no matter how "obvious" or "stupid" they seem.
Now, I’m on the other side of the orientation process – I teach our internal Art of Giving Great Service class, which is an orientation requirement for every Zingerman’s employee. I relish teaching this class, because it gives me the opportunity to have a positive impact on the orientation experience of our new hires!