Isn’t orientation just for incoming students? It shouldn’t be. New employees should get the same consideration when they begin working on your dairy.

This is your one chance to make a welcoming first impression and establish priorities and patterns that will last throughout the relationship, says Richard Stup, branch manager for AgChoice Farm Credit in Lewisburg, Pa. “You need to use this time to focus on what’s important,” he says.

Here’s what your orientation program should include.

1. Roll out the welcome mat.

When a new employee first arrives, he should be greeted by his direct supervisor and made to feel welcome. Set aside a specific area — office, meeting room or other private space — to work through the orientation process.

The direct supervisor should conduct the overall orientation, but also have the owners and senior managers stop by and greet the new employee. This demonstrates that every new person is important to the dairy team.

Alert other employees that a new-employee orientation is taking place that day.

2. Lay the groundwork.

Give new employees a sense of what is important to the function of your dairy. This is a good time to share the dairy’s history, mission, goals and business values. “If quality, teamwork and so on are important to you, then this is the time to say so,” says Stup.

 Provide him with a copy of the dairy’s employee handbook. Make sure that he knows the dairy’s policy on sick days, smoking and so on, along with zero-tolerance rules on alcoholism, fighting, theft, animal abuse, and others specific to your operation.

Go over workplace topics like parking, uniforms, break-room use, bathrooms and where lunches can be stored. 

Finally, give him a tour of the dairy to demonstrate how the entire system works. Provide him with an organizational chart, so he can see how the different people relate to one another. And touch on important issues like safety.

3. Don’t overload.

Don’t let orientation become a bunch of paper-pushing and form-signing, suggests Stup. Maybe you can have the employee sign papers related to job benefits later in the week, as long as it doesn’t affect enrollment periods.

You may want to touch on some subjects, like safety rules, at orientation and then provide more intensive, stand-alone training at the earliest possible convenience.

“New employees quickly pick up on what really matters at your dairy,” says Stup. Your orientation program should establish your business priorities and set the stage for your new employee to continue learning and develop into a high-performer.