Worker Orientations 101: How to get started

20 November 2020

Your worker orientations are a process, not an event. It is part of the overall integration of new contractors into an organization and a project’s success.

Orientations help subcontractors adapt to the work environment as well as the job. The process of onboarding subcontract workers to your project is a training opportunity to promote your organizational effectiveness from the start of a person’s employment, lowering the chance of accidents and injuries down the line.

What are orientations? 

Orientations are the systematic and planned introduction of subcontractors to their jobs, coworkers, and the organization. It entails providing new contractors with necessary information about the workplace, business practices, organization, facilities, personnel, health and safety risks, and prevention. It is commonly followed by training tailored to specific job positions and requirements.

The goal of your orientation:

When new contractors join an organization, he/she is often a stranger to their coworkers, workplace, and work environment. Superintendents and managers should create an orientation program designed to achieve the following objectives:  

  • Reduce the initial anxiety that all new contractors feel when they join a new job in a new organization 
  • Familiarize the new contractors with the job, people, workplace, work environment, and the organization 
  • Facilitate outsider – insider transition in an integrated manner 
  • Reduce exploitation by any unscrupulous coworkers
  • Reduce the cultural shock faced in a new organization  
  • Help the new contractors understand the expectations of the organization 
  • Convey what the new contractors can expect from the job and organization 
  • Reduce the risk of accidents and injuries before work begins 

What are the different types of orientations?

Essentially there are two types of orientation: formal and informal. There is a range of essential details that should be covered in both types of orientation. 

Topics to be covered in both types of orientation :

You can find the top eight topics to include in basic orientation here. Keep reading for a high-level overview of everything you should have:

  • Introduction to business including a brief history, mission statement, goals, and objectives 
  • Company policies and procedures (e.g., dress code, PPE, reporting procedures, smoking restrictions) 
  • Organizational structure (e.g., job description and relationship with other positions) 
  • Safety and emergency procedures 
  • Company rules and regulations 

What are informal orientations?

This type of orientation is usually unplanned and entails an introduction to the job and organization. Informal orientations are generally carried out by medium and small scale businesses and projects. An informal orientation program could be administered by companies using two methods:  

1. Supervisory system – Where the immediate job supervisor conducts the orientation program for the new contractor. The supervisor briefs the contractor about their new job and the department, introducing them to their colleagues, taking them around the sections and divisions related to their job.  

2. Buddy or sponsor system – The immediate supervisor assigns the new contractor’s responsibility to orientation to any old contractor. The old contractor acts as a guide to the newcomer by arranging meetings with other people and departments; also supplying them with relevant documents and literature regarding rules, regulations, and further organization details.  

What types of workers should receive informal orientations? 

Informal orientations are used in settings where the goal of the organization is to hire short-term workers. Therefore, short-term workers (e.g., subcontractors) and workers exposed to low risks usually receive an informal orientation.  

Topics to cover in informal orientations for short-term contractors

Along with the topics covered in all positions, an informal orientation program for short-term workers should also include:  

  • Basics of employment 
  • Identify amenities (e.g., restrooms, shower) 

An informal orientation program for low-risk contractors should also include: 

  • Potential hazards and safe work practices 
  • Job responsibilities and performance expectations

What are formal orientations?

Formal orientations are planned and seek to integrate a new contractor into the organization. This type of orientation is more common within large-scale organizations. 

A comprehensive orientation program is carefully designed to introduce new contractors to all aspects of their job, colleagues, and the organization. Accordingly, the contents of a formal orientation program cover the elements ranging from the organization’s mission, vision, rules, and regulations to job-related particulars like service conditions, safety, and welfare measures. 

What types of workers should receive formal orientations? 

Formal orientations are used in settings where the goal of the organization is to hire long-term workers. Therefore, long-term workers, workers exposed to high risks, and workers specialized in specific fields (e.g., on-site plumber or electrician) should receive a formal orientation. 

Topics to cover in formal orientations for long-term contractors:

A formal orientation program for long-term contractors should also include: 

  • Terms and conditions of a job, e.g., remuneration, working hours, holidays, promotional avenues 
  • Organizational structure and authority relationship 
  • Welfare measures, e.g., subsidized canteen, transport, health, and recreation facilities

A formal orientation program for high-risk contractors should also include:

  • Tour of the work areas and facility to discuss associated work area hazards and safe work practices 
  • Identify work-spaces where hazardous materials are used, stored and disposed of 
  • Review the PPE program if the worker is required to wear protective equipment 
  • Employer emergency and contact details 
  • Review of the reporting procedures in the event of an injury or accident  
  • Explanation of workers’ rights and responsibilities as granted by legislation 

Topics to cover in formal orientations for specialized contractors:

A formal orientation program for specialized contractors should also include:  

  • Specific safety and emergency methods for their particular job 
  • Defining the results that are expected from their technical work 

How long should orientations be?

All the contents of the formal orientation program are arranged into these three phases: 

  • Pre-orientation 
  • Job site orientation 
  • Job-specific orientation 

This orientation type may spread over periods, ranging from a few days to a few weeks, even months. For example, a job-specific orientation could require an experienced mentor for several months in a high-risk job. 

Consistent safety orientations are always essential high-risk jobs, making them all the more serious, with health and safety risks and prevention covered.  

Benefits of a consistent safety orientation: 

Achieving a consistent safety message is now more straightforward than ever before with online platforms’ availability, adapting to both the company and worker’s needs. 

This may include information such as health and safety risks involved in the day to day operations. When organizations communicate directly to the contractor online, there is no chance of misinformation being distributed by various trainers along the way. Your contractors all receive a consistent message and training. 

What should a consistent safety orientation guarantee when completed online?

  • Workers are ready for the job with paperwork and training pre-loaded in the cloud 
  • No information is forgotten, and lost paperwork does not need to be chased 
  • Orientations are site-specific, adapting to the safety measures, contractor role, and language  

Statistics show that up to 50% of all injuries happen to new workers in their current job for under six months. This usually indicates insufficient training for their original position. Figures have shown that $37 billion is spent annually in the US and UK, assisting present workers who do not understand precisely what their job involves. Online training is becoming a more comfortable and faster method of helping these workers.  

While classroom training is still popular, technology is becoming the most common and efficient style of delivering onboarding and worker orientations. 

A contractor management platform can make it easier for contractors to feel part of their new team and better understand the company culture. The inclusion of profiles will allow managers to remember important information about other workers to go back to check.

In this case, contractor orientation training could include information on the correct documentation to read, quizzes, how-to videos, or blogs. Online directions through platforms like GoContractor can be set up for each new contractor, allowing them to work through their required topics, submitting a form to show that each subject has been covered. Compared to classroom training, room hire or transport costs will not be necessary for this form of exercise. A platform like GoContractor will also remain consistent.  

Why you should use survey tools: 

Providing a new contractor with a survey after their orientation can allow a company to learn more about what they’re doing well and what needs improvement. For example, you can improve: 

  • Better introduction to other workers 
  • Enhanced forms of training 
  • Need for more job-specific training 
  • More detail on health and safety policies 

Onboarding and introduction to company culture:

Organizations performing a standard onboarding procedure have a 50% greater worker retention rate. This procedure is the method of integrating a contractor into their company culture and the people they will be working with. Only 22% of companies are found to perform a formal onboarding process. In high-risk jobs such as construction, proper onboarding is necessary, introducing new workers into a strong safety culture. 

Strong safety cultures are an impression that any new contractor should sense as soon as work begins, recognized and displayed by every worker on-site. The following strategies are effective in implementing a safety culture: 

  • Safety programs 
  • Risk management 
  • Accident research 
  • Consistent safety training 
  • Latest safety data updates 
  • Sufficient preparation for any OSHA/EU-OSHA visits 
  • Job site daily checklists 
  • Thriving safety culture is shown to have advantages, such as: 
  • Reduction in absence  
  • Fewer work accidents 
  • Increased productivity 
  • Fewer work-related diseases and health problems 
  • Higher motivation level 

Your commitment:

Successful safety cultures are difficult to establish unless management promotes this concept. Many severe safety cases have initially been the result of poor leadership. It is essential for managers to: 

  • Regularly attend health and safety meetings 
  • Make occupational health and safety the starting topic of team meetings 
  • Be actively involved in the investigation of accidents, near misses, and ill-health 

Challenges will always occur during the orientation as well as the onboarding process. However, there are practical solutions to these problems, with modern technology making them easier to solve.  

The top challenges in creating a successful orientation:

A suitable orientation needs to be created for the job, featuring clear and relevant information. A successful safety orientation prevents workers from feeling that their safety is not a priority in the workplace.  

Designing an engaging orientation 

The person carrying out the contractor orientation may be an expert in the subject covered but not always using multimedia or creating training materials. This may cause the following problems: 

  • Too much, not enough, contradictory or confusing information 
  • Unclear or unrelated images 
  • Questions about the information an orientation never covered

This could be dangerous if health and safety risks and their prevention are not clearly described or understood by workers.  

What should an engaging orientation include?

  • Relevant, understandable, and correct information 
  • No contradictory details 
  • Clear, relevant images 
  • No inappropriate questions 

Problems scheduling orientation sessions: 

Scheduling and delivering orientations can be a time consuming and inefficient process. The process usually includes:

  • Organizing classroom training and inviting every contractor on-site to complete it 
  • Providing directions on-site, when work is supposed to begin 

The use of modern technology is a successful way of solving these challenges. Completing the orientation at a time that suits them, contractors will always be provided with the most relevant information to begin their job.

Poorly organized safety orientations (or lack thereof) may result in the following problems:  

Financial Problems 

Providing inadequate safety training can also result in a worker suing their company for an injury that the organization could have prevented. In the US, for example, it is essential to follow the specific guidelines required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This may cost more money at the time of training(e.g., retraining costs or safety features) but should be seen as an investment to prevent severe legal and financial problems that could occur in the future. 

Poor Company Reputation 

Earning a reputation for allowing avoidable hazards to happen on a construction site, customers and competitors could begin to see the company as unprofessional. This could result in fewer applicants applying for a new position or difficulties securing any loans required. Workers should see loyalty to all of the company culture’s health and safety aspects.

Conclusion 

A streamlined contractor orientation is vital no matter what the job involves. Even contractors working in a low-risk environment should be aware of the relevant safety and emergency procedures. Clear, relevant, and consistent information is less likely to be misunderstood. New technology is making this a more straightforward goal to achieve.  

There are still challenges that may not always be considered,  such as workers leaving within their first year on the job. A strong safety culture valued by the entire company is one of the most important methods of preventing these challenges.  

Managers should communicate clearly what the job entails and their expectations for worker performance. Invest time and energy in new staff, and they are likely to invest in you.

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Sonya Sikra

Sonya is the Brand Strategy Manager at GoContractor. She specializes in communicating how implementing tech in construction can drive productivity and profit.

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