The orientation process: Start new employees off right
By Mark Bradley

Once you have hired the best candidates, starting them off on the right foot is critical to getting a fast return on your investment. Orientation will not only benefit your new hire, but also your company, your team, and-most importantly-your customers! The people on your team are like links in a chain, so it's crucial that every new hire is set up to succeed from Day One, to avoid becoming the weakest link.

By investing some time to provide your new employees with an orientation process, you will ensure they become aware of all responsibilities, expectations and hazards to begin supporting your company right away. Furthermore, it will make it clear that everyone in your company is accountable to processes. If you ignore systems and processes, your employees will follow your lead, and when your employees ignore your systems, you can be sure that your company's safety, productivity, and quality will suffer.

In this article, we'll review some guidelines that will help you implement a successful post-hire and orientation process. Not following a post-hire and orientation system will result in wasted productivity. Employees will be confused, hesitant, and unengaged, and your turnover rate will rise. Supervisors become frustrated, as will your customers. The risk of accidents increases, as does the cost of maintenance and repairs.

Remember, most people follow the path of least resistance. As soon as you ignore a process, your people will start to pick and choose processes that they think they can ignore, and your company will pay for it in lower productivity and profits.

Make sure your new employee signs an employment contract, and that a copy has been added to his file before his first day. A good, clearly written employment contract can prevent disputes or legal problems that can end up costing your company a lot of time and money.

After your new employee has signed the employment contract, send them a welcome message via email or letter. This letter should help you eliminate problems on the first day by including the following items:
Start date and time
Required personal protective equipment
Required tools and equipment
A reminder to bring driver’s license, abstract, and any required certifications on their first day (for office files)

Prepare the right forms and policies
Your office should prepare all the required forms and paperwork for the new employee’s first day. Be sure to provide an employee handbook or operations manual, including health, safety and employment policies. Require your new hire to read and sign off on:
Health and safety policy
Terms of employment
Receipt of employee handbook
New employee orientation procedure
Personal protective equipment sign-off
Benefits waivers, if applicable

Office staff should also be sure income tax source deduction forms are completed, and the new employee is added to the company’s vehicle insurance policy, if applicable.

If your company provides personal protective equipment PPE to its employees (safety boots, safety glasses, gloves, respirator, etc.), prepare these items so they can be issued on the employee's first day, along with the sign-off form already mentioned. All new or current employees must sign off when they receive company-issued PPE. This practice will reinforce your commitment to safety, and will help protect your company in case of an accident or incident.

The employee file To keep your records organized, you need to ensure that an employee file is created for each new employee that contains all their information and forms, including:
General employment information
Performance appraisals
Training and development
Health and safety
Employee relations
Employee separations
Other relevant documents

If your new employee is required to operate any equipment or vehicles, you must include photocopies of his or her driver's license, driver's abstract and all certifications.

Organized employee files are critical for maintaining good employee records. In the case of an accident, investigation, lawsuit, or other unexpected event, you will not regret having invested the time and effort required to implement an employee information filing procedure. Avoiding even one significant fine or penalty by producing the proper paperwork in a clear and timely manner will save your company months, or even years, of work trying to recover the costs.

Providing an orientation
Every new employee must complete the orientation process, regardless of position, experience, or whether or not he has already received health and safety training in the past. Additionally, employees who are switching roles within the company must also complete an orientation. This is because their new role will involve a new set of health and safety considerations.

A basic orientation must include the following items:
A review of your company’s health and safety policy
A tour of your yard or shop, including washrooms and water facilities
Location of first aid kits, medical facilities, fire extinguishers, and fire exits
Review of your emergency evacuation plan and meeting place
Review of your policy regarding lunch and break periods
Location of area where personal belongings may be kept (i.e. clothes, personal tools, lunch)
A review of personal protective equipment
Procedure for reporting unsafe conditions and jobsite hazards
Procedure for near miss, non-injury accidents
Review of the accident reporting policy and form
Disciplinary policy
Introduction to the equipment, tools, and other hazards that the employee will be working around
Review of the schedule for any legislated training
Obtaining the employee’s signoff on health, safety and all other applicable policies

The best way to ensure that everyone receives a proper orientation is to effectively delegate this responsibility to your supervisors, who must have a clear understanding of the importance and benefits of this initial process.

Final thoughts
Confusion, disappointment, injuries, fines; there are many potential consequences of not applying a proper orientation process. And what does it boil down to? Waste. Wasted time, productivity, and profit. Applying a proper orientation process will go a long way to eliminate this waste. Instead of being confused, your people will know exactly what needs to be done to get started right every time. Instead of being disappointed by experiencing a disorganized first week, and rethinking the decision to join your team, your new employee will be confident in his or her role, and respect your commitment to process. It isn't always easy, but winning isn’t easy either, and when it comes to ensuring the success of your business, failure is not an option. As long as your team members understand the importance of working efficiently and how it benefits your company, and thus benefits them, they will learn to value following these important systems and processes.     

Mark Bradley is president of The Beach Gardener and the Landscape Management Network (LMN), both based in Ontario.