Induction of people new to the organization is a continuing training need for businesses small and large. Much energy and effort is devoted to Induction, often without too much effective return either for the individual(s) concerned or for the organization. This is a shame as the Induction period immediately after joining is a very important one for everyone concerned.

From the individual's point of view it is the period where they find their feet, learn about their new organization, their new job and the people with whom they will be working. It is also the period during which they absorb the culture, ethics and standards of the business and begin to form judgements about what is acceptable and non-acceptable in terms of behaviours and inputs. 

From the organization's point of view Induction is the period which, if used effectively equips and prepares the new joiner for their role and gives them the basic knowledge required to begin functioning effectively and safely at the earliest possible moment. Induction is also the period during which the employer can quickly confirm the wisdom of the decision the individual has made to come and work there and make them feel welcomed and valued.

A poor induction period where the individual is left to fend for themselves is, at best, unsettling for the individual and time-wasting for the organization and means that people take longer to learn what they need to know. At the worst it can lead (and often does) to the New Joiner leaving in the first few weeks or even days, thus wasting the cost of the initial recruitment and making it necessary to duplicate the cost and effort involved to fill the vacancy again.

Problems with Induction 

Many induction 'programmes' are geared only to the needs and possibilities of the organization itself, for example, one day 'courses' run when enough new entrants can be gathered together, often weeks or months after the individual has begun work, has already formed opinions, and imbibed a mixed set of impressions and values, and is often resentful of being drawn away from the workplace for a seemingly unnecessary programme. 

Another fault with this type of course or event based induction is that it tends to be so full of formal, often legislative based information that the average recipient will absorb little and retain even less of what is covered.

Such organization-driven Induction is generally so formulaic that it misses a number of issues:

  • the timing is often wrong for the individual

  • Line Managers are not always happy to release people weeks or months after they have started

  • New Entrants learn by experience and mistakes rather than in a structured way

  • much of the formal procedural/legislative material is generally more suited to other means of delivery eg. Intranet, manuals, leaflets etc

  • information 'delivered' is not necessarily what the new entrant wants or when they want it.

What should Induction address?

One way of devising an effective Induction content is to think in terms of providing three sets of information / knowledge - these are:

  • what the new entrant needs/wants to know 

  • what the organization , as a good employer wants to make known to the individual

  • what has to be made known to the new entrant e.g. legislative requirements, employment conditions etc.

What the Individual wants to know

Interestingly, the key early concerns of all new entrants, irrespective of age or seniority tend to be similar. These early concerns are about very personal issues such as:

  • Who is my boss and what are they like?

  • Who will I be working with? What are they like?

  • What are the arrangements for pay, holidays, meal breaks, flexi time?

  • What is my workplace like? Will I have all the equipment I need?

  • What are the 'rules', standards etc which I need to fit in with?

Until these personal issues are addressed the new entrant will have little interest in, or retention of, other information.

What the good Employer wants to share with the New Entrant

The employing organization will want to ensure that the new employee receives quite a range of information. This is explained by this design:

This represents a lot of information, all of it important, both to the individual's understanding of what is required of them and why and to their competence and willingness to make the necessary contribution. Many people and sources will be involved in providing the necessary information. Careful thought needs to be given to timing and method of delivery to ensure that learning takes place effectively for the new individual.

Legislative Information etc

This is the driest and possibly least interesting information from the New Entrants' point of view, The Health and Safety at Work Act, The Data Protection Act, Intellectual copyright, Food Hygiene Regulations and other compliance issues may all, or in part, be necessary knowledge. They are not, however, appropriate information to impart during the crucial first two or three days, and particularly not in a course situation. Much better to have this information readily available in one or more permanent formats e.g. intranet, video, booklet etc, and to make sure that an opportunity is structured and provided whereby the new individual has a chance to access the necessary information. The involvement of the Line Manager as overseer, and/or the use of an Induction Checklist which can be signed off on receipt of the information will ensure that the necessary information is accessed by the New Joiner.

Methods for Induction Training

A range of methods exists which can contribute to effective Induction. The methods available include:

  • formal input sessions

  • intranet information and access

  • computer-based CDs

  • text-based self-study material

  • projects

  • planned work exposure.

Sensible use of a mixture of these methods will:

  • balance information delivery

  • engage the New Joiner's early enthusiasm for learning about the organization and the job

  • reduce the input necessary from Line Managers and others

  • ensure that learning and information transfer takes place for the new joiner.

Timing of Information

It is realistic to assume that for their first couple of days the new joiner will make a limited contribution in the job itself. Most of their attention will be focused on getting settled in. The diagram below shows the likely balance of learning and work contribution over the first month of employment. 

It will, of course, be important that on their first day, the new joiner gets to their workplace and meets key people. One very effective way of making the best use of these early days is to have a learner/new joiner focused package available which, once given to the individual, can be used by them to shape their learning by visits, reading, access to the intranet and organization documentation. This package could be based, as a number which DBA have developed, on an agreed checklist of information/learning to be experienced by the new leaner, based on the headings given earlier. The checklist can indicate the 'what', 'where' or from 'whom' it is to be acquired and give an indication of when during the first few weeks of employment the learning is to take place. Other more formal inputs can be scheduled between the individual and their Line Manager.

Personal Responsibility

The self-driven Induction package based on the checklist mentioned above makes use of the individual's enthusiasm and interest, takes the chore of Induction away from the busy Line Manager. By programming necessary get-togethers and using the checklist to sign-off training received it legitimizes the New Entrant's search for information. Such an approach to Induction is very much in line with current thinking on lifelong learning and personal responsibility for learning. It also provides a clear seamless link to continuing training development and, where appropriate, a career progression. The latter stages of the package can contain an analysis, against a competence framework if one exists, or against some other agreed form of list. Having completed this assessment the individual can, with their Manager and trainers, where appropriate, agree a Personal Development Plan for the first six months to a year of their employment.

In conclusion
Induction is necessary to the rapid, effective integration of New Joiners. Badly handled it can be costly in terms of early leavers, demotivated individuals, wrong learning taking place, mistakes made and problems created.

Well designed Induction can capitalize on the investment in recruitment, motivate New Joiners and ensure that the organization benefits from the early integration of effective and competent employees.

DBA 2002