Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Orientation - The Basis of a Strong Foundation

I have always appreciated the value and importance of a proper, thorough orientation for new employees, regardless of the level of your position when joining the company.

A proper, well thought out orientation is no less important to the manager joining your team than it is to the first-time employee, perhaps more so.

As a manager, you are counting on him or her to model the behavior consistent with the brand, and in doing so, to lead by example and help to reinforce and instill in your employees the fundamental principles of your brand, and what defines it and differentiates it from other hotels.

That point was probably never more apparent to me than when I joined a new company a number of years ago and received virtually no orientation whatsoever.

Let me paint the picture for you.  My role was at a corporate level, rather than at a hotel specifically.  I had inquired in advance of arriving for my first day if there was anything that I should orchestrate related to my orientation, and was told “no”, that would not be necessary.  I was asked what time I usually liked to arrive at work, and when I said that I like to be in the office by 7:00am or 7:30am, I was asked to come in at 8:00am, at which time I would be met by the president of the company.

I arrived a few minutes before 8:00am and was able to access the floor that the company offices were located on, but there was no one out front, at reception, so I made my way down the corridor to where I had previously met with the president of the company, in his office.  

The president was seated at his desk, in his office, with the (glass) door closed, I approached, knocked and he gestured for me to come in, at which point he invited me to have a seat across from him.  I did so and after a few minutes of exchanging cordialities, he stopped abruptly and looked at me and said; “so, what can I tell you?”  Fortunately, I had prepared a number of questions that I had hoped to have answered through the course of my first day of orientation, and so I began to ask my questions.  

Periodically, during the next 20 minutes or so, as I was going through my questions, the president would stop to check his voice mail, make a few notes, or, make a call, and I could see that he was becoming annoyed as he had other things that he clearly wanted to address, that did not include talking to me. 

Without any warning he got up and asked me to follow him, said he would show me around.  We walked around the perimeter of the offices and he stopped to introduce me to the handful of people that had arrived early that day, first names only and without telling me what their role at the company was.  We continued on until we reached what I was to discover was my office, at which point he said to me; “and this is where you will work out of.”  He gestured for me to go on in at which point he said; “okay, we’ll talk some more later,” and he left.

I spent the next couple of hours with the company directory organizing my own orientation, and I remember thinking at the time what a missed opportunity it would have been, had I not been the kind of person to take charge of the situation, as well as being someone who sees the value of properly orientating people to the specifics of their job, the tools or resources available to them, the expectations for the position, and, the values and guiding principles that are the foundation of the company.

Sure, I managed to flush all of that out over the next couple of days, but imagine how much more powerful it would have been for me to hear that message delivered by the company president.

It’s another reminder of the important role that the hotel general manager should play in the orientation of every employee. 

It has, and continues to be a priority that I meet every employee before they are hired and I have also always played a key role in employee orientations, using my time with the new-hires to focus on our commitment to service and to lay out the foundation of our values and guiding principles and to ensure that each and every employee understands their role in contributing to our mutual success.

Not to do so would, in my opinion, be a missed opportunity.  After all, this is your culture we’re talking about, can you afford to leave it to chance?

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