The best HACCP, GMP, or sanitation training program can be rendered meaningless if your company suffers from high employee turnover. The proper orientation of employees should not be undervalued or overlooked.

Best Foot Forward
The first few weeks or months in a food plant environment with new responsibilities can be highly stressful and confusing. During this critical time, an effective orientation can mean the difference between a new employee becoming an asset or realizing a lost return on your investment.

Studies conducted by leading training organizations have shown that employers who invest time and capital in getting their employees off on the right foot can reduce employee turnover.

Getting to Know Them
Seasoned food plant employees start their new jobs with a wealth of experiences — some good, some bad. It’s up to you and your supervisors to learn about their work history and devise a suitable training program.

While most orientations are standardized, supervisors should be encouraged to learn specifically about the experience of new employees. One way to do this is to have your supervisors develop a common sense needs assessment for new employees in their department. Some practical starting questions can include:

  • What skills are needed to perform the job?
  • What skills does the employee bring from his past?
  • How can the required skills and knowledge be learned in the quickest time possible?

An assessment allows supervisors to take advantage of new employee’s strengths and provides a roadmap for improvement.

Learning the Ropes
As part of your orientation process, important policy and procedures should be explained and given to employees in a manual or some written format.

Training is often necessary on how basic things are to be done, such as proper hand washing, how tools are expected to be put away, using a punch clock, and the like. Encourage new hires to make a mental or written list of questions that they want to have answered. (To help new employees adapt to their new work environment, many companies provide newcomers with a peer supervisor or “buddy” to help them learn the company ropes.)

A step-by-step formula in food safety training can be used to help new employees adapt to their specific responsibilities.

That’s All . . . For Now
In all businesses, initial training is very important. If properly handled, a successful orientation program helps new employees feel more comfortable in their new organization, resulting in improved job satisfaction, high levels of productivity, reduced turnover, and greater success in ancillary training programs.

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