By Jason Hurdis, Global Market Professional, Construction Materials Industry, Caterpillar Inc.
Are you bringing on new employees to start the new year? Orientation and onboarding are critical not only in introducing them to your company’s way of working, but also in making them feel like a valuable part of the team. If you don’t have a formal training program in place, or even if you do, there are some easy ways to help your newest team members adjust and start contributing right away.
1. Encourage questions and feedback. Try to recall your first day on the job. You surely had questions — Who does that? Where is this? How does this work? — but you may have been afraid to ask or unsure of where to turn for answers. Let your new employees know that you EXPECT questions, and no query is a stupid one. And don’t wait for them to come to you. Check in with them regularly during those first few weeks on the job to ask what’s going well and where they might need help. Their feedback can help you improve the onboarding process for your next new hires.
2. Stress the importance of safety. Employee well-being is priority number one on the job, so make sure your new team members know that starting on day one. Talk about your commitment to a safe workplace and back up your words with actions. Require new hires to complete safety training before they set foot on a jobsite. If you need training tools, check out the free resources available on OSHA’s website or from Caterpillar Safety Services.
3. Make information easy to access. The first few days on any job often feel overwhelming — meeting new people and learning new processes all while trying to make a good impression. That can make it tough to remember all the details that come up during orientation. Consider giving a pocket training guide to each new employee or creating a simple “education center” on-site. It doesn’t have to be complicated. A list of FAQs, plus contact names and numbers for more information, may be all you need.
4. Address any language barriers. A recent report shows that no U.S. industry faces a bigger language gap than construction. What happens when supervisors and workers can’t communicate effectively? Productivity and safety are at risk. If language is an issue for your team, try to provide training materials in a new hire’s native tongue and make sure important safety signage is translated. Teaching your English-speaking employees a few basic phrases in another language also promotes better communication and teamwork.
5. Get your whole team involved. Employee orientation covers the basics, but it likely won’t hit on every possible question or concern. And what happens weeks down the road when a situation arises that a new employee isn’t prepared to handle? You may want to think about pairing each new hire with a veteran on your staff — not a supervisor, but a peer who can help them learn the ropes. It’s also a great way to build camaraderie across your team.
There’s no question bringing new team members on board requires an investment in both time and money. But done right, it’s an investment that pays off in spades — with workers committed to your company and its long-term success.