Get off to a good start

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I have not witnessed many good employee orientations or on-boarding processes in the landscape industry. The usual process has the new person look at videos, fill out paper work and take a drug test. Then after three to four hours they are sent out to the field to fend for themselves, never to be seen again until they quit, get fired, beg for a raise or worse, get injured.

I would highly recommend you take another look at your orientation/on-boarding system and see how it can have a positive effect on your new team members. I’m not suggesting this process only last 90 days, as it really should be for several months until they are literally on board with the culture.

At minimum this should include a clear explanation of the company’s values, culture, dos and don’ts, what are the success behaviors expected, as well as a review of the employee manual and safety rules. Here are 10 action items to improve your on-boarding process.

1. Have all materials and assigned items ready. Anything a new employee should have will be ready and waiting for their arrival or at very least in short order. Get them gear – a uniform, hat, PPEs, employee manual, etc., before they get there. Depending on the position, other items such as credit cards, assigned vehicles, a computer, or an email address may need to be ready, too.

2. Take a photo and display it. Take a picture of the new team member and have it on a nice space where everyone can see it and say welcome! Send the local paper a press release about your new addition if appropriate.

3. Cover basics before entering the field. Have a sit down review of the safety program, the company vision, mission and core values, along with the employee manual. Cover all of the legal required areas including Equal Opportunity Employer, sexual harassment, FMLA, etc.

4. Have leadership or owner involvement. Leadership should be involved in your orientation or on-boarding process. Always remember people are watching the leaders and where they spend their time. The general manager of the Ritz-Carlton, who is the highest-ranking person at the facility, is personally involved with every orientation. They actually give a portion of the presentation on the history of the Ritz-Carlton chain and how the logo came about. Just think what an impact it would be to have the owner of the company spend a little time with all new employees.

5. Have a mini-boot camp or training crew entry point. Here is where it’s critical to take the time and host a hands-on mini boot camp with two to four hours of training exercises. Have designated crews equipped to handle a new employee with very specific areas to teach them, and have very specific fundamentals clearly spelled out along with a certification-verification process that assures the skills were learned.

6. Give regular and specific feedback. If for any reason the new hire is not performing to your standards or expectations, they will receive a sit down coaching session before the end of the 90-day on-boarding period. Make it clear what is expected of them and what will need to be worked on to remain an employee.

7. Identify training objectives. They will receive the appropriate training that comes along with the position during the on-boarding period. Review their basic training expectation and make certain these skills are learned during their first 90 days. The foreman/ supervisor will assist the new hire with the training needed to learn these skills. They should be required to demonstrate these skills on their own with a certification process.

8. Place an emphasis on safety. They won’t be asked to do things they’re not qualified to do. If they’re asked to do something and don’t feel comfortable doing it, have them contact their supervisor. Have them always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.

9. Get feedback/input from the new team member. The new hire will be able to give the company some feedback through a confidential survey. Have them fill out a survey and also allow for feedback during their weekly “touch base.”

10. Assign a coach or buddy. Assign a coach or buddy to help them become a successful safe and productive team member. The coach will touch base with them weekly until they have got their feet on the ground or around 90 days. After that there will be a monthly “touch base.”

The author is co-founder of The Harvest Group.

October 2016
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