7 proven tips to make your orientation training a success

May 13, 2015

Orientation trainingA decade ago, MPS Property Services decided to take a more active approach to health and safety. "We jumped in with both feet," says Ken Jorgenson, the company's operations manager and health and safety coordinator. Now, he says, "We're at a place where safety has become an everyday part of how we work." It all starts with orientation training. "For people who join the company, health and safety starts on day one."

Jorgenson considers MPS' orientation training program "absolutely vital. We want them to know what we expect of them, but more importantly what they can expect from us and from each other." With the Ministry of Labour's new and young worker enforcement blitz already underway, how MPS protects its young and new workers right from the start offers useful insights for others.

MPS' 35 full-time and 10 seasonal employees provide commercial and industrial grounds maintenance services throughout the GTA, including Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. The percentage of seasonal employees used to be higher, but MPS began converting them to full-timers as a means of retaining their expertise and sustaining the health and safety culture.

Not that "culture" was top of mind 10 years ago. MPS' primary goal back then was to prevent anyone from getting hurt. Reducing costs was also an incentive, says Jorgenson, "but what we didn't anticipate was getting new business based on our health and safety programs and performance." MPS is now dealing with at least three third-party validation companies that prequalify MPS - based on the strength of its health and safety policies, procedures and training records - to bid on contracts.

How to make your orientation training a success

What works for MPS can also work for you. Here are seven ways to strengthen your young and new worker orientation training, based on MPS' experience.

  1. Assume workers know nothing. "We start at ground zero and put everybody through the same training, even if people are with us from one summer to the next." This ensures everyone is working with the same understanding, and helps get rid of any bad habits before they transfer to your workplace.
  2. Create context. For example:
    • provide essential information on the company, including its values, organizational structure, and nature of work performed
    • outline hazards common to the industry and related policies and procedures
    • review employer, supervisor and worker rights and responsibilities.
  3. Introduce key people, including managers and joint health and safety committee members. For new hires, this reinforces corporate commitment to health and safety, and helps build relationships.
  4. Present a manageable amount of information. "We don't provide job-specific training on the first day because it would be just too much to take in all at once."
  5. Vary the mode of training. Fully engage workers by appealing to different learning styles. "You can't just talk at them. Use videos, involve them in conversations, take them on tours."
  6. Confirm their understanding. "At the end of the orientation session we go through a checklist of 30 items. If anyone isn't sure about the any of the items, we review it together." This serves multiple purposes: it reinforces the learning, creates a safe environment for asking questions, and tells Jorgenson where the training could be improved.
  7. Review and improve the orientation training before the next session and ask yourself how you can improve it.

"The most important thing," says Jorgenson, "is that people understand their rights and feel confident about speaking up if they're unsure about anything. Accidents happen when people are afraid to ask. They end up getting hurt or hurting others."

In our next issue, WSPS Network e-News will provide tips on sustaining the momentum after orientation training.

How we can help

With the Ministry of Labour's annual young and new worker blitz already in effect, now is an ideal time to review and improve your orientation training program. WSPS has everything you need to get started or enhance an existing program. On our vulnerable worker resources webpage, you'll find links to

  • a pre-recorded webinar on this year's young and new worker blitz
  • new worker orientation guide
  • orientation training e-courses
  • supervisor and worker awareness training
  • pictograms, and much more.