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How to run an employee induction

A staff induction is an important part of the hiring process; Startups has some tips for integrating recruits into your business

As your business grows, it’s likely that you’ll have to take on new members of staff.

Even if you’ve started out on your own and it’s going well, at some stage you’ll probably have to hire additional employees if you want your customer base, and revenues, to increase.

When you come to take on new starters, you’ll have to induct them into your business. The staff induction process is designed to welcome a new hire into your company, and familiarise them with your rules and culture.

The induction can last any length of time, from hours to weeks, and the new hire can be asked to all kinds of things – from shadowing their new line manager to going out for drinks and dinner with the rest of the team.

There’s no legal requirement to run an induction – but it makes solid business sense. Ally Maughan, who works closely with small businesses as a HR consultant with People Puzzles, told us that, in her experience “many firms which don’t bother to do inductions run the risk of people not fitting in and leaving – so you either waste money on agency fees, or waste your own time.”

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Start the induction early

When you’re interviewing prospective recruits, use the interview as a ‘mini-induction’ to give them an idea of the standards you expect – so they can hit the ground running if you hire them.

Dominic Ceraldi, HR manager at firm Pimlico Plumbers, says: “We’re pretty tough in the interview process, so when somebody gets offered a job they are aware of our standards. We impress it upon them so much that, by the time of the induction, they usually know what we expect from them, particularly in regards to personal appearance.

But bear in mind that this approach doesn’t always work – as Dominic was quick to point out: “I had one fellow come to interview all suited and booted, looking like he’d just stepped out of Burton’s window. He was offered a position and invited to an induction. On the day of the induction I was lost for words – he was unshaven, dressed in army surplus gear and even had the commando beanie hat on! I rescinded the job offer on the spot.”

Go into detail

Explaining your company’s ambitions and culture is undoubtedly the most important part of the induction.

Scott Martin, the entrepreneur behind the meteoric rise of Coffee Nation, told us: “During my inductions I would talk to all new starters in groups during a half-day, about the values of the business. What does ‘taking proper coffee to the nation?’ mean – obviously I knew, and I could tell them.”

If your company does anything quirky, make sure this is explained, or else the new starter might get the wrong end of the stick – as Iain McMath, managing director of Sodexo Motivation Solutions, can testify.”I know a company that supplies beer on Fridays. Once, it was the first week of an induction for a particular person, and this wasn’t put into context. The new starter decided that he would help himself, and had a bit too much to drink. He was in telesales, and clearly, the link between the alcohol intake and his output was inversely proportional!”

Make the induction challenging

Running a staff induction isn’t all about giving speeches – you also have to provide active challenges which engage the inductee.

According to Ally Maughan: “You should get people doing things as early as possible, even if it’s something like proofreading. Doing some actual work on your first day is important, work that’s relevant to your job description. My view is, in the first three months, a new starter should have done everything on their job description.”

Active training can also be a great way of showing a new starter what you expect – a point Scott Martin was quick to make.   “From 2006, every new starter, no matter what their role, was trained as a barista [coffee maker]. Even though we didn’t make coffee that way – we provided self-service coffee machines – hand-made coffee was a benchmark for us.”

Make it fun

If you don’t provide some light relief, the induction process can drag – and the inductee can lose focus.

So it’s important to think of ways you can make the induction fun. Simon Brownbill, partner at national accountancy firm HURST, told us that at his company, “each new team member is formerly introduced to their new colleagues at the team brief, where they are asked to share an interesting fact. We’ve unearthed all sorts of hidden gems, from fluent Japanese speakers to tenuous celebrity links. All new starters are required to write a tongue-in-cheek staff profile on the intranet too.”

It’s important not to take the fun aspect too far though, as Iain McMath told us about a bank he know, which ran an induction “all about how they were relationship-led. The HR director of the business, who was running the induction programme, had been moved over from the States to the UK and he decided, as a bonding exercise, to take all of the new people on their first night to a lapdancing club.

“Out of the 20 people, about eight of them were women! They’d spent the day talking about the values of the business, and ruined it by going to a lapdancing bar! That was culturally OK in the US (apparently), but not in the UK. About half of the people didn’t stay, because they didn’t like the culture. The HR director got sent back to America soon afterwards.”

Prepare for the unexpected

Even the most meticulous induction programmes can go awry – so it’s important to be flexible.

Dominic Ceraldi of Pimlico Plumbers recalled one particularly memorable induction day: “I was halfway through an induction with a plumber, when we were interrupted by Boris Johnson! Boris was visiting our premises in the midst of a Mayor of London candidacy campaign, and he came over to me to introduce himself. Boris, in his own characteristic style, then asked the new employee all about Pimlico and what he expected from the organisation. The new plumber’s expression was a picture!

“Boris brought an unplanned dimension to the induction but it turned out be an ice-breaker too. I particularly enjoyed his anecdote of how he hoped Red Ken would give him a thorough induction when he took over his job at City Hall later that month!”

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