A lot rides on the effectiveness of your new hire orientation program. For one thing, it sets the tone for new employees’ entire experience at your restaurant, contributing in large part to how well they perform and how long they stay. Whether you have a new employee starting every once in awhile or go through major staffing changes with the seasons, the importance of a standardized orientation process can’t be overstated. Yet many managers get into the habit of taking shortcuts, giving new hires a tour of the place and a few guidelines, then tossing them into the fire of the shift. Don’t make the same mistake. During the first week of employment, build confidence and comfort with the job, avoiding these misconceptions.

Misconception: Employee orientation is the manager’s job.

Reality: It’s everybody’s job — from managers to co-workers — to help newcomers phase into the position. Assign one or two of your top employees to shepherd recent hires until they’re up and running at full speed.

Misconception: It’s best to orient new hires fully before turning them loose.

Reality: Some things — company policies and procedures, general employee information, and the like — can be covered in an orientation manual or in discussions with the boss, but it takes time on the floor for new employees to pick up the ins and outs of the job. Part of learning to swim is getting into the water.

Misconception: No two employees are alike. That’s why orientation should be unstructured, allowing you to match it to the individual.

Reality: There’s nothing wrong with tailoring orientation for individual needs, but the core of the process should be standardized. All your employees should have emerged from the same starting point. Use an orientation checklist to keep everything on track.

Misconception: Like the saying goes, the only way to learn to swim is to jump in the deep end.

Reality: Learning by doing is the most effective form of training, but you also want to make sure new employees have a basic idea of what they’re doing before you throw them into a shift. When it comes to compliance training, you have an obligation to make sure new employees know the standards of operation before they start working. An online learning program is often the most efficient way kick-off orientation.

Misconception: It’s up to managers from time to time to review the effectiveness of the new hire orientation process.

Reality: The more useful measure comes from employees themselves. Ask them what they think, using a comment card they can fill out anonymously. If your staff was less than thrilled with orientation, it’s time to make some changes.

Restaurant Service and Sales Training

The Service & Sales Excellence Waitstaff Training Series is based on Service That Sells!, a restaurant training philosophy developed by restaurant owners for restaurant owners. Click here to learn more.