Orientation Case Study One

Overview

Orientations can really take on a life of their own, and they tend to grow over time. That was certainly the case for this orientation program. The organization, a 600+ employee children’s mental health facility that offered the whole spectrum of services, had a lot of training requirements to meet. By the time I came on board, they had a 30-day orientation program that involved varying hours each day, and almost two dozen speakers. It was disjointed, often confusing, and very hard to sit through. Many of their new staff quit before they finished. In the end, I created a two-week orientation process that included live classroom training, specially designed eLearning modules, and live shadowing experiences customized for each staff member.  The result was new staff members who were better informed, more engaged, and happier from day one on the job.

Training Goals for This Training

  • Integrate all the rules and regulations into a cohesive training
    1. The organization had federal, state, and local requirements, plus various grant, certification, and affiliation requirements. They were required to have their staff finish the orientation before they could start work with the kids. Each requirement had been turned into an independent 1-3 hour course that wasn’t connected to any other part of the orientation.
  • Create the right mindset.
    1. They needed their staff to come out of orientation ready to learn their individual jobs. That meant understanding the values, philosophies, and rules of the organization so that they could make on the spot decisions in keeping with the agencies goals from day one.
  • Get to work faster.
    1. Almost every hire was replacing someone who quit. Between the hiring process and the background checks, these staff members were replacing people long gone by the time they could even start training. They needed to get their staff out of training and on to the floor as soon as possible.
  • Take pressure off the existing staff.
    1. The previous program depended on almost two dozen speakers (all staff members with other full time jobs and varying schedules). Staff made the content, taught sections, and reported on attendance. This orientation program (which they ran every other month) created conflicts and stress each and every time it happened.
    2. Part of the problem was that the orientation program was leaderless. Many people were involved at various points, but no one person delivered the bulk of the material, did the administrative tasks, and stayed present to make sure everything happened the way it should. This lead to confusion, stress, and last minute cancellations with no back up plan.

What I Did to Meet Those Goals

Sample Calendar

  • Integrate all the rules and regulations into a cohesive training
    1. The first thing I did was review all of the rules and regulations. I complied these with the priorities and concerns of the organization to figure out what had to be covered, and what was extra. This activity alone cut the training down by a third.
    2. Then I spoke with all of the staff who trained, and the leadership team, to figure out how all the information worked together, and what the most important parts really were.
    3. One of the big problems was that they had set up every topic as a separate course instead of thinking of orientation as an integrated whole that builds on itself.So, they started with courses about values and organizational culture, and then never talked about those things again. I took those courses and my conversations with the staff and created a curriculum that was built around those values, but spent very little time talking about them directly. For example:

Before: Strengths-based planning is very important to us. This is what that means, this is a basic idea of how to do that, these are advanced applications. Let’s not mention this again.

After Remaking the Program:  Mention strengths-based planning towards the beginning of the course and define it. Bring it back up during a section on creating engagement and talk about simple strategies in the context of that discussion. Bring it up again when talking about long term outcomes, and talk about the connection there. Explore advanced strategies while talking about plan management.

  • Create the right mindset.
    1. One of the most important goals of the orientation program was to help new staff understand ideas like generalizability, sanctuary principles, trauma informed care, and other guiding values in a usable way.
    2. I introduced these principles at the beginning of the training, and then used them over and over again in examples, main points, and activities. This repeated exposure helped the new staff internalize these guiding values in a usable way.
  • Get to work faster.
    1. I took everything that didn’t need to be covered in a live class and turned it into a series of eLearning modules. For example, this orientation program included a few courses on subjects like HIPAA, that can easily be address in an online format. This allowed the program to progress quicker without sacrificing any critical information.
    2. I took the most important parts of the original training and arranged them into a tight series that built on the previously covered topics. Since I put one person in charge of running the whole orientation, I was able to significantly reduce redundancy and gaps between topics. I was also able to vary the formats of the classes, so that lectures, group discussions, videos, and hands on modules varied throughout the day.
    3. The way I redesigned the program took advantage of an adult learning technique called within topic layering. This style makes it easier to address more topics in a shorter period of time while increasing the likelihood that staff will retain and use what they have learned. By doing this with all of the organization’s main values and styles, I was able to make their whole program more cohesive, create stronger training transfer, and shorten the class time required.
  • Take pressure off the existing staff.
    1. I set up the training to be delivered by one person, with expert speakers who came in to talk about their areas of special knowledge and passion. With one person in charge, the schedule ran smoothly, staff knew who to ask questions, and the timeline could be condensed. Staff who were knowledgeable and passionate about a subject were still able to share their expertise with new staff, but a last minute client emergency didn’t become a training emergency.

Outcomes

In the end, I created a two-week orientation process that included live classroom training, specially designed eLearning modules, and live shadowing experiences customized for each staff member.  One result was new staff members who were better informed, more engaged, and happier from day one on the job.  Another result was less stress for involved existing staff members, and more accountability for everyone.

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