An Employee Orientation Process Supporting a Lean Culture

Developing a lean or continuous improvement culture must be all encompassing and a well-designed employee orientation will nourish this development. Effective employee orientation programs are also enduring; they are more long term than short. Unfortunately, most organizations completely execute the employee orientation process within one or two days. This makes the employee orientation program non-conducive towards adopting the expected culture and even turns off these valuable resources.

All organizations need new employees at different times and value stream workers are exclusively hired outside of the organization. At this time they are expecting to learn how the organization functions, what it values, and the current direction. They do not only want to fit in they would also like to demonstrate how they are able to contribute. But if the values and principles are not clearly demonstrated they will start to fill in the blanks, most of the time going against the expected culture.

The introduction period and process is an extremely vulnerable time. If all you have to offer is the explanation of policies and company benefits then the organization loses an extraordinary opportunity to adapt and even promote the expected culture. This acclimatization of values and practices, developed to ensure the success of the business, is facilitated with the first impressions of a new employee.

I was involved in a world class organization that developed a well-designed employee orientation for new people to easily adapt their continuous improvement culture and effectively learn required processes. Here are the main steps of their program:

Standardized New Employee Orientation Program

They started with past new employees feedback where they provided non-value added steps. This was information the new employees felt they did not need as it was obvious or did not help them in understanding values and practices or what was required to do their job. Only the value added steps were standardized. The new employee orientation important steps were outlined using a flow chart. The importance of this format (much like posting a Tweet) is in the amount of wording that can acceptably fit within a process box. This forces the people, who will be teaching during the orientation sessions, to standardize only the key points. This standardized new employee orientation also enabled any of the leaders to teach the program and guarantee the same messages were presented. Finally, because it was standardized it could be continuously improved.

Introduction of Coaches

This started with their direct manager who would explain he/she were there for Support, Teaching, and Promoting the continuous improvement culture and other related job requirements. They were then introduced to each of the members of the Management Steering Team who were the leaders responsible for governing the organization. This leader introduction was not completed as a group, the introductions were dispersed throughout the week to provide repetition and unity of the continuous improvement culture. Each member also reinforced they were there for support.

Process for Training and Continuous Learning

During this important step the TWI (Training Within Industry) Trainers, who were going to be responsible for their training, were introduced. They started by explaining the orientation training process and reasons for it. The training process was; four days of training for their position – return to new employee orientation classroom – provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. It was deliberately simple and there were key points and reasons for each of the three training steps presented. The TWI Trainers would then go on to explain the TWI 4-step process of training. Finally, they would explain the importance of and how each employee is involved in continuously improving standardized work through identifying new key points and important steps.

Customer Orientation

For this important step someone from Sales (who is part of the Management Steering Team) provides an outline of how these particular new employee positions will impact the customer for quality and service. It is not a general presentation of the customer base and market share numbers. The Sales person will present how their positions are part of an articulated internal supplier and internal customer system. They will also be shown how this system will enable them to continuously improve the objectives of quality and service for all customers. They then learn the process of how they will receive “good and bad” information about quality and service so that they can take this information to specifically increase quality and service through their problem solving efforts.

Standard Work for Leaders

People are hired from the outside at different times throughout a year and the employee orientation process is 90 days so there has to be a method to ensure there is follow up of new employee progress. This is completed by outlining standardized work for each Management Steering Team Member, not only Human Resources. They prepare for their daily Gemba walk by HR providing simple visual management as to where each new employee is within the 90 days. Each Management Steering Team Member has a follow up schedule to provide Support, Teaching, and Promotion (Gemba STP) of what they were assigned as their Leaders Standard Work. This provides valuable feedback and engagement for the new employee.

Human Resources Follow Up After the 90 Days

Immediately after (1 to 2 days deviation tolerance) the 90 day orientation process HR assembles the new employees back into the classroom to receive their feedback, suggestions, and general comments related to the orientation process and what they perceive of the values and practices. This feedback is then taken to the Management Steering Team. The Management Steering Team also invites all of the employee orientation teachers so they can brainstorm orientation process improvements and determine how to implement the suggestions from the feedback. New employee attrition is also presented by HR and if required a higher level target is set.

This new employee orientation program worked very well for this organization. It integrated many of the principles of lean. The benefits were reduced turnover, increased productivity, and improved quality. All of these benefits were the result of employee engagement which came from their ability to contribute to the overall strategy.

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