Orientation Process

Dear Management Doctor:

I attended your course about five years ago in Portland and enjoy receiving your newsletter.

I'm currently hiring two new planners in our department and going through training and orientation. At our city, we have greatly improved the orientation process but I still think it could be better.

Do you have examples of other cities or counties that have a great orientation/training process for new hires? This might be a good newsletter topic.

I've attached an outline and an orientation schedule prepared by our HR department.
Click here to see the New Hire Orientation.
Click here to see the Associate Planner Training.

Have a great day!

Ryan Windish, AICP
City of Sumner, WA

Dear Ryan,

New employee orientations should be considered an integral part of the hiring process. Unfortunately, I have not run across any particularly good programs but hope our readers will send along some good examples. There is a close correlation between orientation and new employee training so I am glad to see you are working on both.

Your one page orientation list is pretty typical and is OK if followed up quickly with the training program. A few features I would add:

  • Meet all the department staff. Maybe a brown bag or after work event. For a small staff, how about going to lunch each day with a different person.
  • Provide a fully equipped work space. Don't ask them to clean out the last person's pencil drawer and junk.
  • Spend some time re-visiting the organization's mission and values. This should have been covered in the hiring process but you should hit it again to show how important it is.
  • Depending on the size of the organization, you may want to assign a buddy or mentor to be a resource for the first month.
  • The first day you have scheduled 8:30 to 10:30., how do you plan to use the rest of the day? The other days are also short and I would work in a few more activities.
I am impressed with your training outline. A few comments:
  • I like your idea of shadowing certain functions.
  • Your suggestion of having an organizational chart is good. However, you should be able to give the employee an extensive manual documenting all procedures and policies as well.
  • I like the one hour, three times per week training idea.
  • Wow, you do have a lot of meetings. Have someone go with the new planner to interpret what is going on and read between the lines.
  • Take a look at the "Ladder of Experience" I laid out in my new book, The ABZs of Planning Management, Second Edition. Under this system, take your simplest and easiest development process and have the person do several applications. Then gradually move up the ladder to more complex activities. Actually doing the activity is better than just hearing about it.
  • And finally, don't have them work the counter and the phones until the first round of training is over. This could easily be three to six months.
Good luck and let us know how it goes. Hopefully others can add to these ideas.

The Management Doctor


Reader Responses

Orange County, Florida has an excellent employee orientation program for the Planning Development Department.

Bruce McClendon


The City of Westminster, CA has an APA-award winning training manual* for interns, which can be fairly easily adapted for planners at other levels.

Bill Jacobs, AICP
City of Irvine, CA

*Thanks to Steven Ratkay for sending Zucker Systems his award-winning manual. Click the links below to view.


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