Way back in 1986 my partner at the time, Felix Dlamini and I did an article on induction for the IPM Journal. Thirty years on and although the complexities of employing people have increased, when it comes to employee induction, far too many employers still do not realise what a valuable tool it is.
In the 1986 article we stressed that in the political climate of the time, employee loyalty was difficult to achieve and should not be taken for granted. Looking at the strikes of the past few years, that hasn’t changed!
We argued that employees are not convinced that they receive fair treatment and they can easily be persuaded that they do not. If management fails to communicate the good that it does, that good will be lost. No change here either!
We stressed that an induction programme is one of the most powerful communication tool available to management and we asked why induction training received so little attention.
One reason was that policies and procedures need to be determined before one can begin preparing an induction programme. Although a fundamental requirement for good labour relations, management at the time often did not publish policies and procedures because they:-
- perceived themselves to be too busy (i.e. no time available – because they were ‘fighting fires’?!); and
- felt that some things are best left unsaid (“If we make public statements we can’t change our minds later!”)
Believe it or not we still hear these arguments today!
We stressed the benefits of re-inducting employees from time to time. Situations change and so do the employers values, policies procedures and operating requirements. Those changes need to be communicated and what better way to do it than via employee induction. The benefits far exceed the costs, so much so that some businesses make it a practice to re-induct employees annually after leave or during quiet periods.
The benefits of induction training which we listed 30 years ago are still very relevant today:-
- Preparing an induction programme forces management to define/update its HR policies and procedures and ensures that these are properly communicated.
- By publishing these policies and procedures, management shows that it is committed to ensuring that they are uniformly and fairly implemented.
- The induction process informs everyone of their rights, responsibilities and obligations and cuts out the “I didn’t know factor”.
- It provides an opportunity to educate employees on the nature of the business, where the money comes from, where it goes to and how it is used in the running of the business. It also can be used to explain how and why each employee’s contribution to the business is important.
- It creates an opportunity to educate employees as to the importance of good customer and employee relations. Today, employment equity considerations and the need for a diverse workforce can also be covered in induction training.
- If management are so inclined, it provides them with an opportunity to make policy statements on issues of national concern. In the mid 80’s it was the political situation, then HIV/AIDS and today corruption is the big issue.
- It spells out the rules so everyone knows what is expected of them. Since the inception of the LRA of 1995 with its emphasis on fairness in disciplinary matters, this has become a key concern for employers.
- For a dismissal to be fair, the commissioner must satisfy himself that:-
- a rule exists;
- it is fair and reasonable;
- the employee knew the rule and the consequences of transgressing it;
- there is evidence that the rule was indeed transgressed; and
- the rule has been consistently enforced by the employer.
- For a dismissal to be fair, the commissioner must satisfy himself that:-
Once an employee has gone through induction, the employee will know what behaviour is considered acceptable and what is not.
- Longer serving employees can be reminded of the things they might have forgotten and updated on the changes in the business, which might have occurred.
- It creates an opportunity for employees to ask questions and to clear up misunderstandings. It also provides them with a platform to report inconsistencies and examples where policies are not properly implemented. If these complaints are promptly investigated and acted upon a lot of goodwill will be created.
- Induction training helps to create a sense of belonging, team membership and mutual respect between management and employees. After all, let us not forget that the primary purpose of induction is to help the new employee feel at home in his job and to become fully productive as soon as possible.
In the 1986 article, we stressed the need for departmental induction by the new employee’s immediate supervisor. This is still critical today. If supervisors don’t take the time to induct new employees properly there is a good chance that they will pick up bad habits.
A friend of mine, Mini Khumalo the now retired HR Manager of an international company, told a delightful story of his induction into a Durban company by a co-employee. This entailed him learning where to hide when the foreman was looking for him and learning a long list of excuses for staying out of trouble!!
A further point is that first impressions are very important and the induction process creates the employee’s first impression of the employer. In 1973 while at Lever Brothers, I was tasked with the job of streamlining the induction programme. It had been a two day course and I was told that it must not exceed one day. I made the necessary changes and was very pleased with myself.
However, the very weekend after running the first induction programme which had gone well, I bumped into an ex-Lever employee at a social function. She asked me where I worked and when I told her, she remarked. “Oh, I used to work there until I had my baby. (Four years previously – 1969. In those days it was customary for pregnant female employees to resign their jobs – employers did not grant maternity leave.) “What a marvellous company! I remember they put us through a three day induction programme and really made us feel at home. I still feel a loyalty towards Levers – I always buy their products – I wouldn’t dream of using anyone else’s!”
New employees of Disney World in the United States have a three month induction. During this induction they spend time in all departments including a stint as a sweeper wearing a Mickey Mouse suit! When they eventually get posted to their jobs, as say a buyer or accountant, they understand the workings of the whole business. Disney is one of the most successful businesses of all time. Why would they pay such attention to induction if it was not important?
If business was difficult for employers in the 80’s, it is even more so today. Globalisation has put pressure on businesses to become more competitive while political instability and a weak Rand make doing business in South Africa difficult. Add to that labour legislation makes it easier for employees to challenge their employers. Employment equity considerations have also added a new dimension to the employment relationship.
The potential for misunderstandings and disputes has never been greater nor has the need for proper induction training of employees!
Bruno, a pioneer in industrial relations training, is director of Bruniquel & Associates who have a generic induction programme that can be inexpensively customised to your Company’s needs. This programme is ideal for companies who employ 50 or more employees.
Bruniquel & Associates (Pty) Ltd
For more information please click here.