Tip #113: Employee Orientation

When an organization experiences a merger or when divisions within that organization need to intermesh, both seasoned as well as new employees may require an orientation to the new situation. Not only do they need to understand the new interrelationships, they also need to understand the separate functions and services provided by the contributing organizational components.

In 1999, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation determined that three divisions had an integral relationship that needed to be made clear to new employees. As a result of the needs assessment, a two day program was created by a wonderfully creative team of representatives from each of the three divisions. Here are the learning objectives and the activities for the morning of the first day. The activities are underlined.

Title: Intermodal Interactions

Workshop Description: Using interactive exercises, this two day basic orientation session is designed to acquaint the participants with the three modal divisions and how they interface with each other. On the first day, the focus is on what it means to be involved in an intermodal division partnership. On the second day, the focus is on the variety of functions and services provided by the three modal divisions.

Day One: Making the Intermodal Connections [morning]

Learning Objectives: During this session, the participants will:

  1. define the modal divisions;
  2. experience the interconnections between the three divisions;
  3. review the partnering agreement;

Lesson Plan/ Methods:

Objective Methods

9:45 Pre-Workshop Session (15 minutes)
As the participants walk into the training room, they are bombarded with audio recording of various modes of transportation [cars on a highway, a bicycle bell, railway crossing, boats in a harbor, jogger, etc.] as well as visual stimuli of colored pictures of the different services and publics served by the modal divisions.

The participants are given a long piece of colored yarn (green for DTID employees, burgundy for DTD, and yellow for DTIM) and assigned to small tables (in a manner that ensures representatives from different divisions at each table). Their first “team” assignment, after introducing themselves to each other, is to list all of the transportation modes they can identify from the audio tape.

[Goal: Expand awareness of the various transportation modes.]

(a) 10:00 Welcome (25 minutes)
Introduce the workshop format, schedule, objectives, and trainers. (10 minutes)

Ask the participants to brainstorm what a “modal division” is, posting their responses on a flip chart. Validate or refine the definition, referring to” clues” from the pre-workshop exercise. (5 minutes)

Conduct a pre-test: have the participants respond with their thumbs (up for yes, down for no) to a questionnaire related to the key content areas covered throughout the orientation session. Reward with candy the participants with the correct answers, and indicate great hope and expectations for those who do not know the answers- yet. Post the results of the pre-test on a flip chart, for later reference. (10 minutes)

[Goal: Assess current knowledge, introduce key content areas, and create a “learning checklist” that can be checked off as content is covered during the session.]

(b) 10:25 Making Connections (25 minutes)
Have the participants introduce themselves: name, division, classification or work title, one key responsibility- and how it relates to one of the other modal divisions. After the first person speaks, someone from a different division should be next- indicating how his or her job interfaces (either directly or indirectly) with that of the preceding person- and tying his or her yarn to the first person’s yarn. {This means that the participants will have to stand up and move together as they tie their pieces of yarn together.} Each multi-colored knot will indicate an intermodal connection. The completed yarn length should be draped in the front of the room, for later reference.

[Goal: Begin awareness of individual job interfaces within the modal divisions.]

10:50 Break (10 minutes)

(b) 11:00 Putting the Pieces Together (45 minutes)
(c) Each small table “team” works together to complete an intermodal puzzle (a framed puzzle which has the intermodal divisions’ logo at the bottom, into which different functional pieces of the divisions fit- creating three intersecting circles.) (10 minutes)

[Goal: Provide a visual reference point for the organizational functional areas: sections, bureaus, and business areas.]

[Note: This “puzzle” motif can be duplicated on mouse pads, mugs, buttons, or other “take home” items that will reinforce the concept of the intermodal connections.]

The division administrators are introduced (hopefully wearing their division “colors”!!) and, in a panel, provide an overview of the modal divisions, using the puzzle and interlocking circles motif. This includes the philosophy, vision, culture, and values. (30 minutes)

[Note: As each administrator is introduced, a two minute slide show runs, depicting division staff engaged in the variety of functions and services of that division, accompanied by division “theme music.” There should also be pictures of key division management. (It can be thought of an a two minute marketing or public relations piece.) The administrator then has 8 minutes to make key points. As a result, each division will have 10 minutes of time, for a total of 30 minutes.]

[Goal: Visually introduce the variety of modal services, with pictures of actual staff and activities from each division.]

Then, building on the metaphor of the knotted yarn from the previous exercise, they explain key aspects of the partnering agreement using the “knot” exercise.

They ask all of the participants to stand up and create a tight oval, with their shoulders touching. [Note: Individuals with back problems are advised not to participate.] The instructions involve having the participants reach out to grab one of the hands of two different people, who are neither directly across from them or next to them. This creates a “human knot.”

The participants are then asked if they think they can untie this “human knot” without unclasping their hands. They are challenged to try- and then asked at the end (after they have been successful) what it took to untie this knot.

The qualities that they identify (flexibility, cooperation, varying leadership, different perspectives, positive attitude, etc.) can be related to the key aspects of the partnering agreement. Summarize by pointing out that the modal divisions can “untie any transportation system knot by working together.” (5 minutes)

[Goal: Create a partnering experience and memory, with a resulting metaphor that can be referred to during the sessions.]

11:45 Lunch Break (60 minutes)

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