Induction – the process of introducing new members of staff to their workplace and role – should begin as soon as the new employee arrives. The success of the University depends upon our ability to recruit and retain excellent people at every level. First impressions are important, and induction procedures can make the difference between retaining or losing good people.
Effective induction can
- make the new employee feel welcome, helping them to settle successfully into their new role;
- enable them to learn the role and perform it well;
- provide clarity on performance expectations;
- lead into an effective probation process.
Induction includes some ‘basic requirements’ (covered at ‘Starting your new job’. Apart from these, induction covers two broad areas: the working environment and culture, and the requirements of the post including how the new starter will learn the role.
The working environment and culture
Without adequate context it can be very difficult for individuals to fully understand their role and what they are ultimately contributing. Each unit, department or faculty at Oxford has its own organisational structures and procedures; there are also ‘cultural’ aspects of departmental life: the rules and norms which are not usually written down. It is important that these are communicated early on in the induction process, otherwise new staff may consider their behaviour to be appropriate and acceptable when it is not. This applies equally to new staff who have worked at the University before. The line manager is best placed to provide most of this information and guidance, which may include practical aspects like access to facilities of the department (such as stationery, photocopying, expense claims); formal and informal communication methods (from departmental committees to coffee breaks and social events); and norms and expectations concerning matters such as working hours, dress codes and smoking.
The requirements of the post
New members of staff need to understand what is expected of them in their role, otherwise problems may arise with successful completion of the probationary period. Helping a new member of staff understand the requirements of the post is best carried out by the individual’s line manager. If the previous post-holder is still working in the department or the University, they may also be involved. Learning how to carry out the new role may involve being shown how to perform aspects of the role, watching demonstrations or observing activities, and taking on new tasks under close supervision, as well as attending courses or workshops. The line manager plays a crucial and ongoing role in helping a new starter to learn, by providing opportunities for them to understand the requirements of the role, assess their own skills and learning needs, and be open about what they need to learn. Most of this takes place in one-to-one meetings (‘supervision’), probationary reviews and PDRs, but line managers should arrange for new employees to be able ask for help whenever necessary. There is specific guidance on induction for research staff (see the Research Staff Code of Practice), and Departmental Administrators (and equivalent roles).
The time it takes to learn a new role varies with the complexity and time-scales of the job. However, by the end of their first few weeks a new postholder should understand the following:
- the function of the role and what is expected of them;
- who the key members of staff in the department are and what they do;
- the basic geography and the facilities of the department;
- training and development needs and how these are to be addressed, including whom to approach should they identify any further induction/development needs;
- the relationship of the process of induction to the probation and PDR processes, and when their mid-probationary review meeting will take place.