Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series on employee training.

"Employees go home after the first day of work with pretty strong impressions – both good and bad," says Bernie Erven, professor of agriculture economics at Ohio State University.

According to a study conducted by the Small Business Administration, more than one-half of new hires don't make it to their 90-day anniversary. Many leave because they weren't introduced to their work environment thoroughly enough.

That makes your new employee's first day on the job vitally important. Follow these guidelines to set up a successful orientation program:

1. Make an employee's first day a priority.
Your employees will remember the first day at your dairy for years to come. If you don't think so, ask some current employees what they remember about starting work with you. Their answers might encourage you to plan ahead.

On the first day, you should:

  • Greet the new employee warmly. Arrive to work prior to the new employee, so that the new hire doesn't have to wait for you.
  • Make the other staff members aware of the new employee. Consider posting the new employee's name, job title and starting date in the break room. In addition, suggest that key managers and trainers offer encouragement when introduced to the new employee. For example, your herd manager might say to the new calf manager, "Joe tells us you're able to get calves off to a good start. I'm looking forward to learning your approach."
  • Be prepared. For example, have the new employee's tax and insurance forms ready. Also, have the employee's on-the-job training schedule prepared. If you're planning to select a "buddy" or mentor for the employee, make these arrangements prior to the employee's first day.
  • While you may assign other managers to conduct part of the orientation, try to be available to check up on the employee throughout the day.

2. Introduce the employee to your dairy's "culture."
According to Brian Linhardt, agriculture personnel management adviser for the Sacramento Valley in California, providing a new hire with a sense of the company's history, values, expected work ethic and culture can help the employee gain a sense of belonging. Cover the following:

  • Review the dairy's history. If your operation has been in the family, provide some facts on its original size, location and founders.
  • Explain where milk goes after leaving the farm. If the new employee does not have dairy experience, provide some general statistics. For example, if you ship 13,000 pounds of milk per day, you produce 1,512 gallons of milk per day.
  • Share your mission statement and values. Do you promote a family environment? Do you emphasize employee growth?
  • Provide an outlook for the future. Where do you think the operation and the dairy industry is headed in the next five years? 10 years?

According to author Linda Jerris in her book, "Effective Employee Orientation," you should convey information verbally during an employee orientation when discussing your organization's spirit and culture. Conversely, consider using written materials when conveying more factual information, such as the holiday schedule or benefits.

3. Outline job duties.
Hopefully, you shared a written or verbal description of the job with the employee during the interview. Regardless, you should review the job position with the employee on the first day.

This may be a good portion of the orientation to turn over to your herdsperson or the manager of the area the employee will be working in. According to Jerris, handing off some portion of the orientation to top managers is beneficial. Since the other manager will have more daily contact with the new employee, it's good to have the manager influencing the employee's view of the job and quality standards during orientation. Make sure you:

  • Review job duties. At this point, be sure to include any quality standards you expect of the employee. For example, if you were providing orientation for a new feeder, you would explain that one task each day would be to mix the cow ration. And, that you expect only a 5 percent variance in the ingredient weight mixed from what's specified in the ration.
  • Offer the company's organizational chart. Outline who the person will report to or who he should refer questions to on each job function.
  • Review the training schedule. Tom Maloney, extension human resource specialist at Cornell University, suggests that you start training the new hire on a few key tasks during the first day. You may consider a mentor system for the employee. This teams the new employee up with a trusted employee or manager to learn the correct procedures.

When reviewing the training schedule you may also want to share the "next level" that employees will achieve once the training is complete. This can provide an incentive.

4. Outline key policies.
Although much of this information may seem straight-forward, knowing the basics can be very satisfying to an employee on the first day. If you have an employee handbook, much of this information may be included. However, an employee can't read his handbook while you're conducting an orientation. Because of this, you will need to point out a few key items that will answer the questions that come up on the first day.

When reviewing the employee's duties, Liz Doornink, consultant with Human Resources Services, Baldwin, Wis., stresses that you open up the channels of communication. Be sure to ask for questions frequently. Tell employees that you're always willing to explain policies and procedures, if questions come to mind later.

Be sure to cover:

  • Proper parking area.
  • Location of the restrooms. If you provide a locker for each employee, provide this location as well.
  • Location of the break room and/or the employee refrigerator. Outline how long you expect breaks and lunches to be.
  • Location of the phone and emergency phone numbers or pager numbers for the dairy.
  • Dress requirements.
  • Required work hours. And, who the employee calls if he is unable to come to work.
  • Vacation policy.
  • Disciplinary procedures.
  • Pay structure and bonuses.
  • Appraisal procedures, or how the employee will be reviewed.

5. Fill out necessary paperwork.
Among the job duties, mission statement and procedures, be sure to have the employee fill out the proper forms that you need to process. These include:

  • Tax forms, including the W-4 and I-9.
  • Pension and life insurance forms.
  • Health insurance forms.

Why orientate employees?
1. Reduces job turnover and makes the adjustment easier by increasing an individual's security, confidence and a sense of belonging.
2. Speeds learning.
3. Enhances loyalty.
4. Lowers absenteeism.
5. Results in higher job satisfaction.