UK: First impressions last.

UK: First impressions last. - How can firms make the most of induction courses?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

How can firms make the most of induction courses?

A new employee's first few days at a firm are usually spent trying to make a good impression on his or her new employers. Similarly, the way in which a company introduces itself can go a very long way to determining the new recruit's enthusiasm for, and effectiveness in, the new job. The induction course is often a key part of the firm's efforts. While some courses are a gentle stroll through basic company facts, others bombard the new recruit with the values and standards of the company's corporate culture. So what, exactly, makes a good induction course?

Norman Murray, consultant with the Industrial Society, thinks he knows.

Good induction, he says, 'is a process of getting people aligned with the business culture, the job task, and getting them integrated with team colleagues'. Such a task cannot be completed quickly, he cautions: 'Think how long it takes to commission a new machine. You have to do even more with a human being.' However, many companies are in more of a hurry and see the quickest possible route to excellent customer service as the highest priority. 'New people must be ready to do the job instantly,' says Mandy Clarke, training manager, product development at Midland Bank. 'As needs have changed, so have our training methods. We want to build confidence and sound customer skills in our new recruits from the start.'

Dixons, the retail chain, adopts a similar tack. It is implementing a restyled induction course which it links directly with in-store training.

The aim of the week-long residential course, for part-timers as well as full-time staff, is to familiarise them very quickly with the basic skills of working in a shop, while at the same time absorbing Dixons' slogan: 'My customer, my responsibility'. Part of Dixons' rationale is that retailers can lose new staff very quickly. 'They would often leave because they did not feel confident,' says David Longbottom, group director of human resources. 'The company's new structure is more focused on basics and gets people up and running more quickly. It is much more live and active than before and it is helping with retention.'

There are some facts which cause even the most enthusiastic new employee to stifle a yawn. Health and safety legislation means that over 90% of introductory courses are obliged to mention the key issues. Lincoln-based Simons construction group, for example, takes it further and makes all workers on new building sites attend a short induction on the subject, as must visiting architects and others going on to the site for the first time. In spite of a clearer focus by many companies on what they see as the ideal induction course, these less interesting elements of induction programmes will always be inevitable.

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