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November 11, 2016
The Two Extremes of New Hire Orientation
 
I’ve been around. (Not in a sleazy way, you dirty-minded moolyak.)
 
I just meant that as an ad copywriter and marketing guy since 1995, I’ve had a lot of jobs. And one of the many things I learned along the way (besides scoping out the closest bathrooms and when to get in line for Free Lunch Fridays) is the importance of New Hire Orientation.

Some companies do it well. Others, not so well. I’ve had some pretty interesting experiences with NHO — from the really bad to the really good. Let’s talk about them, shall we?

A Really BAD New Hire Orientation
This job was with a mid-size, “family”-style agency — which basically means that you’re already an outsider. So you’d think that they’d have a well-thought-out process for bringing in new people. (But you’d be wrong.)

Day 1 meant a quick walk around the office, with very brief introductions and lots of new names and job titles swirling in my head — soon to be mostly forgotten. (I tried, really. But 40 people in 20 minutes is too much.)

Then I was placed in a cubicle. Fine, I wasn’t expecting a big corner office. I’m here to brainstorm and write and change the world, one ad at a time — not to lounge about in a luxurious mini-mansion.

But wait a minute; you might as well take this empty office. For now. We might have to move you out. But take it, and we’ll see.

So this filthy office — with ratty carpet and a desk full of dust and paper clips and crumpled paper and a file cabinet full of folders older than I am — was mine. And of course, that P.O.’ed my new colleagues, unbeknownst to me at the time. But how could I know that — when I was on the complete opposite end of the building?

That day, I had lunch with my boss and another VP-level guy. A pretty basic lunch; they were cool. So maybe this would be OK.

Nope. Turned out that I was basically the wrong fit — and my boss basically knew it from the beginning. And the president of the agency even told me, on my last day (which came much sooner than I had hoped), that “Yeah, we really didn’t set you up for success here.”

#NoDuh

In summary: Barely any orientation or help settling in made me feel kind of unwanted and unsupported from the get-go. Let’s be clear; I don’t need to be coddled. But a couple hours of “Hey, here’s how things work around here,” might have made a huge difference.

A Really GOOD New Hire Orientation
Not unsurprisingly, my best NHO was at my current position. Although two-and-a-half days — starting at 7:45 a.m. the first day, and 8:30 a.m. the second two days — was a bit scary for this late-riser, the promise of breakfast treats (and a steady paycheck) had me saying “Let’s do this.”

It was a full agenda — but nothing longer than an hour, with plenty of breaks and free food to keep us going. A pair of energetic HR trainers kept it light, and speakers from each department came in to brief us on the company and its values, products, competitors, and more.

We even did some of those freshman-orientation, team-building kind of activities that sound kind of lame at first, but end up being pretty fun.

What else? A tour of the offices (on three floors). Laptops and cases for everyone. Key fobs for access to the offices. And a lot more that basically made us feel welcomed, valued, and prepared to get started.

I think it’s fair to say that that’s the kind of company culture that probably most people would love to experience in their workplace.

Epilogue
As our department continued to grow, I decided to develop my own “Marketing Department Orientation” to cover team-specific things. My presentation covered important items such as our department’s history, our processes and systems, and the really important stuff — bathrooms, kitchens, supplies, parking, treadmills, and even local lunch suggestions.

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Got a terrible — or great — orientation experience to share? Put it in the comments below!

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With 20+ years of experience — both at agencies and "on the client side" — Harley David Rubin has enjoyed many challenges and opportunities in his career. He's currently freelancing, with an eye toward starting his own creative communications company. And he loves to share the stories and "wisdom" he's accumulated over the years. (Because what writer doesn't love talking about himself?) He's truly thankful for the opportunity to write for TalentZoo.com, and he's happy to connect via LinkedIn or even on Twitter at @hdrubin.
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