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Is Your Orientation Doing the Job?

Orientation lessons from your Dentist.

Orientation lessons from your Dentist.

Inspiration is a funny thing.  You can search for it purposefully and be unable to find it.  And then, there are times where life’s circumstances seem to conspire to give you the opportunity to stumble upon it; if you are paying attention!  This weekend was one such opportunity.  Two, seemingly disparate events that we all have experienced actually provide an insight that every business (retailer, manufacturer, or service provider) can apply to their new hires to contribute to their future success.


Who Would Have Thought a Dentist Could Teach an Entrepreneur How to Run a Business? We all have had the occasion of going to the Dentist for a general check-up of our teeth, gums, and general oral health.  However, for most of us, we think of it in terms of having to endure a cleaning that is mostly uncomfortable and something we tolerate because we want our teeth to LOOK healthy (white).  However, the Dentist does the cleaning last.  Before getting to that point, there are x-rays, probes at the gum line, examination of the “bite” and the wear on previously installed fillings to be certain they can withstand the stress of daily eating.

Your Garage Mechanic Knows Something You Don’t Most of us have had to replace tires on our cars at some point.  As part of that transaction, it is fairly standard to balance the tires and pay for an alignment.  However, in many instances, that transaction will be sub-optimal in aiding the car’s tracking and handling, gas mileage, steering, etc.  The reason is because the alignment is the last step to be done in ensuring that the car’s mechanical components are all working at their optimal performance levels.  IF the brakes are not working in a coordinated fashion, either the front or the back set will be working harder and will force the car’s performance to suffer.  If the steering column is not properly installed, it will potentially lead to the car pulling to one side or another.  If the front-end or tire rods are in need of replacing, the car’s tires will not be able to remain in alignment and will start to wear in a pattern that leads to premature replacement.

Your Business Lesson – If You Are Paying Attention

When we look at what retailers tend to do with new hires – they spend time training on how to use the equipment (the cash register, the scanner, the forklift, etc.), the software (how to run a report, how to enter information into a form or application, etc.), and what the rules and regulations are (what time to show up, what uniform to wear, safety, health and hygiene issues, etc.).  But, that is the equivalent of ignoring the engine or mechanics of the business (what really drives it, what makes it “go”), and only focusing on the tires to the exclusion of the real “what counts” factors.

The manufacturer or service provider are equally as likely to fail with new hires.  They focus on learning what they sell (products and services), how to enter an order, and what their internal systems and processes require.  However, if the new employees are not properly inculcated in what drives the business forward in terms of making it unique versus competitors – they are about as likely to be able to move in the right direction as a car without a steering wheel.

On-Boarding and Orientation Essentials

The on-boarding and orientation efforts need to be well thought out and not simply tossing someone a badge to get into the building or providing them with an apron and sending them onto the selling floor.  While there are many things to consider including, at minimum – the following are essential:

  1. What is needed for Day 1 – HR forms completed, passwords and permissions for any computer applications, and a list of key objectives and measures (90 day plan).
  2. What is needed for Month 1 – a plan to work through the highest priority of the identified key objectives and the specific evaluations to be used to assess progress.
  3. The legacy stories that make the business “special” (this is the core of the business – and far too often, is neglected or given short-shrift).  It is the catalyst that drives the decision-making and strategy of the company (what we are and will do, and what we aren’t and won’t do).

So, while a business executive may think they are doing what they can to position their employees for success; if they are not incorporating the lessons learned by Dentists and Mechanics – they are going to be certain to wish they did not have to be pulling teeth in a car careening downhill.

David Zahn