A common shortcoming of many induction or ‘on-boarding’ programs is a failure by HR to adequately tailor the process to meet the needs of the wide variety of circumstances from which new candidates have come.
Just as there is no uniform job applicant, inductions cannot be carried out as a blanket process for all employees – the process should be tailored to address the particular needs of different groups. In the Western Australia Department of the Premier and Cabinet online toolkit for employers, the key differences to be factored in for various groups are identified as follows:
Graduates are likely to be eager to apply the theoretical knowledge gained at university to the work environment. Harness this enthusiasm by including interesting but achievable projects. Assigning a more senior staff member as a mentor will provide the additional support required during their integration into the new role.
School leavers are unlikely to be familiar with full-time working life, and will require a very detailed outline of work processes and employer expectations.
Employees from non-English speaking backgrounds may require inductions that address language barriers and cultural differences that are relevant to the workplace. Existing staff may also need to be educated on such matters.
Employees with disabilities may have special requirements and benefit from co-worker and disability awareness training.
Indigenous staff may benefit from cross-cultural awareness training for all employees. Where possible, involve existing indigenous staff in the induction process and consider flexible work arrangements that may be required to meet cultural obligations.
Senior managers may require general induction information and specific information to address their previous experience and current knowledge gaps. An emphasis on establishing productive relationships with existing managerial staff would be a useful focus.
Internal candidates and existing employees moving into new roles run the risk of being overlooked when it comes to inductions. It can be assumed that they are already familiar with organisational culture and knowledge, but any person starting in a new role should be provided with information and support to prepare them for changing duties or more senior responsibilities.
Fixed-term employees or independent contractors should also undergo an induction and orientation process as they may, for example, eventually apply for permanent appointment. Timeframes will vary depending on the length and nature of the appointment or contract.
Regional, interstate and overseas recruits may benefit from information that integrates them not only into their new role, but also into the community and local services as well. Employers may like to ‘go the distance’ and consider information sources that help these new employees find accommodation, furniture or transport.
A popular feature of many induction programs is to assign a ‘buddy’ or mentor to support the process. However, it must be noted that giving an employee a mentor should not in any way replace the more formal on-boarding process – strong leadership will always be needed to bring new employees up to speed with the organisation.
Nevertheless, assigning a buddy to a new appointee is an effective way to assist integration and help the new staff member feel more comfortable in their new role. Buddies can assist with social integration by making introductions to peers and colleagues on a more casual level, and also informally answer the ‘what’s what’ and ‘who’s who’ style questions.
When assigning a buddy, it is important to consider “the best match or fit” in relation to personalities, experience and knowledge. When establishing a buddy support program, it is also important to consider providing potential Buddies with some training and guidelines in relation to their roles. The training should include clarity about the amount of time a buddy should dedicate to their role and whether this time should be assigned during work time or only during formal breaks and how the additional responsibilities may impact the buddy’s own job commitments.