People naturally put a lot of weight in a first impression. The orientation program (or lack thereof) will leave a lasting mark on your new employee and the time they are with your dairy.

Lee karen
Managing Editor / Progressive Dairy

Melissa O’Rourke, farm and agribusiness management specialist at Iowa State University, says in order to get employees off to a good start, you must first understand their expectations.

Today’s new workforce is comprised of Generations Y and Z. “They are motivated by the opportunity for advancement and more meaningful work,” O’Rourke says.

Younger employees, ages 16 to 20, like technology, but they also value face-to-face communication.

“Mentoring is getting to be more and more important,” O’Rourke adds. This generation expects to be assigned a mentor. More than half express this preference, but only 17 percent actually receive one.


Acknowledging these preferences is important from day one. “The first minutes on the first day can make a huge difference,” she says.

Two groups of new employees were studied based upon the type of orientation they received.

Group A spent 15 minutes with senior leadership discussing individuality. They completed an exercise to rank individual strengths and how the individual works with other people. They were asked to talk about who they are and what makes them happiest at work. Lastly, they were given sweatshirts embroidered with their individual names and name badges to wear throughout training.

For Group B, the senior leader spent 15 minutes talking about why it is a great place to work. The employees filled out necessary paperwork and were asked how they heard about the company. They were then given a sweatshirt embroidered with the company name.

O’Rourke reports that seven months later the turnover rate in Group B was 47.2 percent higher than Group A.

Employers should keep four questions in mind for a new employee’s first day on the job. “At the end of the day, make sure they have good answers to these questions,” O’Rourke says.

  1. Why did they hire me for this job?
  2. Will I enjoy working here?
  3. Are any of my coworkers friend material?
  4. Who can answer my questions?

She proposes employee longevity starts with a proper greeting and welcome on the first day. Introduce the employee to coworkers and help them establish a connection with each individual. For instance, “I see you’re wearing a Packers hat. Joe, here, likes football, too.”

Providing all employees on the farm with laminated, clip-on nametags helps in worker socialization, but is also good for farm security.

Show the new employee where the break room and rest rooms are located.

Hand them an organizational chart of employees at the company, and let them know who is their key supervisor and mentor.

Teach them about biosecurity and the farm’s initial protocols and practices.

At the end of the first day, leave room for a little debriefing time. Ask the employee what questions they have and offer assurances. Share information on what they can expect to do in the next few days. Then ask yourself if you answered the four questions listed above.

Having a plan in place for orientation conveys a good first impression for a new employee and will increase his or her productivity faster. “When the new worker is assisted in becoming quickly familiar with the work environment, the stress level decreases and the individual is better able to learn new job duties, skills and expectations,” O’Rourke says.

For farms that do not have an orientation program, O’Rourke suggests talking with current employees to find out what they feel is important to know and what they wish they were told when they first started.

Develop an employee handbook or policy document, and have it reviewed by a lawyer. Provide this to a new employee during orientation.

Create a written job description, and use it as a guide to discuss certain tasks and the training that will be provided.

Lastly, O’Rourke advises having the same person conduct orientation for new employees in order to deliver a consistent message.

A well-planned, good effort on day one will lead to a more productive and longer-term workforce. PD

Read part one, "Prepare new employees for a successful first day."