Tips for a Better New Employee Orientation

How to Create a Superior Employee Orientation Process

The modern new hire employee orientation consists of way more information than policies and forms.
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Your new employee orientation is a make 'em or break 'em experience, for a new employee. At its best, the process of new employee orientation solidifies the new employee's relationship with your organization. It fuels their enthusiasm and guides their steps into a long-term positive relationship with your company. State-of-the-art new employee orientation will help you retain the employees that you most want to keep over the long term. Retention starts with orientation.

Done poorly, your new employee orientation will leave your new employees wondering why on earth they walked through your door. This lays the foundation for a negative employee experience of your job and organization—why go there when the war for excellent talent is escalating?

Picture this scenario, which plays out every day in organizations. Your company’s new employee orientation program has slick, pre-printed handouts. The program’s savvy, friendly presenter uses good visuals such as overhead transparencies and a white marker board. Participants receive a guided tour of the facility. The hundred-page employee handbook is safely tucked under their arms or increasingly, the new employee is given a link to an employee handbook that is the equivalent of 100 pages online.

Yet the average employee feels bewildered, overwhelmed by this new employee orientation, and far from welcome. This was not your intention at all. What’s missing? How can you take your program from simply orienting to integrating and welcoming your new hire?

Remember That Your New Hires Are Human

Many new hires question their decision to change companies by the end of their first day. Their anxieties are fueled by mistakes that companies often make during that first-day new employee orientation program. These common mistakes include:

  • Overwhelming the new hire with facts, figures, names, and faces packed into one eight-hour day;
  • Showing boring orientation videos;
  • Providing lengthy front-of-the-room lectures; and
  • Failing to prepare for the new hire by providing appropriate equipment such as a laptop and adequate assignments so the new employee feels as if they have jumped right into the work of the new job.

Does this sound familiar about your standard new employee orientation? If yes, before you completely revamp your present new employee orientation process, ask yourself the following question: "What do you want to achieve during new employee orientation? What first impression do you want to make?"

A company’s positive first impressions can cement the deal for a newly recruited employee. Those positive strokes can also speed integration and productivity. Research shows that good orientation programs can improve employee retention by 25 percent.

The Ideal Orientation for Your New Hires

Dr. John Sullivan, Professor of Management at San Francisco State University and prolific writer, speaker, and consultant, concludes that several elements contribute to a world-class new employee orientation program. The best new employee orientation:

  • Targets goals and meets them,
  • Makes the first day a celebration that keeps employees engaged and enthused,
  • Involves family as well as coworkers,
  • Makes new hires productive on the first day,
  • Is not boring, rushed, or ineffective,
  • Uses systematic data analysis and feedback to continuously improve, and
  • Asks managers what components were helpful in getting new employees productive and contributing faster.

Make Employees Feel Welcomed and Like They Belong

Most organizations are great at celebrating the departure of a beloved coworker. Why are organizations often so awful at welcoming a new employee? Think about arranging a party to welcome a new employee. Celebrations produce enthusiasm. Have you experienced starting a new job only to have your coworkers and supervisor ignore you during the first week?

If so, you understand the effectiveness of even a little enthusiasm. Some simple celebration methods might include a letter of welcome signed by the CEO, a company t-shirt signed by all department members, and a cake with candles on the employee’s first day. Involve families in the celebration. Schedule a welcome luncheon or dinner for spouses, partners, and families during the employee’s first month.

Old-fashioned welcome wagons were once used to deliver goodies to new members of a community. You can establish your own welcome wagon. Freebies that aid the new hire in performing their job will reinforce the belief that company employees are glad he or she is here and want them to succeed.

As an example, a map showing nearby eateries is helpful and appreciated. (An invitation to lunch from coworkers each day during the employee’s first week is even more welcoming.) Go one step further than providing a map of the facility and the parking lot. Take a picture of your new person in the parking lot, in front of the company sign. Visuals have a great impact.

Prepare for Instant Productivity From Your New Hire

Employers frequently overlook the most fundamental question of the new recruit. He or she wants to know how their work impacts the department and ultimately, the company. Your new employee orientation should include an overview of each department’s function. Include information about what specifically goes into each department (inputs) and what comes out (products).

Provide examples of how these functions relate to the employee’s job. Spend some time during the new employee orientation allowing each person to examine how his new job and its responsibilities fit in. Discuss the expected contributions and how they will help the company. Be sure to point out how new employees can offer feedback for making improvements.

Examine your new employee orientation program from the perspective of the new employees. Anticipate their anxieties, as well as their questions. Provide a glossary of company acronyms, buzzwords, and FAQs so they don’t have to ask the most basic questions.

Distribute a help source card that provides the names and email addresses of people who are pre-designated for questions. You may also want to assign a departmental mentor to assist with questions and the new employee orientation process during the employee’s first month.

Manage the Integration of Your New Hire

Ideally, the new hire’s immediate manager will participate in part of the new employee orientation. A fun way to incorporate the supervisor is in the style of the old "Newlywed Game." The supervisor has to guess how they think their new employee will answer questions. If their answers match, points are awarded for prizes.

For an effective new employee orientation process, many companies expect the supervisor to provide the departmental, and work-specific orientation. The Human Resources department handles the company overview, the handbooks, the benefits, and other basic information. But, then, the supervisor takes over.

On the first day, a new employee should meet with their new supervisor. The meeting should include a plan for specific training. Both the supervisor and the new employee are encouraged to share their expectations for the job, including fears or reservations each may have. The manager keeps the meeting positive and adjourns with the new hire started on a meaningful assignment.

Avoid the mistake of allowing the new employee to sit idle. (In some organizations, the Human Resources group helps with the design of a checklist, which assists supervisors to provide a thorough orientation that excites and motivates the new employee.)

Evaluate the Success of the New Employee Orientation

Good training programs ask for participant evaluations. At the end of your new employee orientation, offer a brief, five-question survey focused on the presentation.

Follow up with a survey that focuses on content in ten days or so. Encourage feedback about what information the new employee would have liked to have received during the new employee orientation program. Find out what information was overload or unneeded. Incorporate the suggestions to improve your new employee orientation program.

First impressions of your organization, both good and bad, are made the first day. Decide the objectives of your new employee orientation program. Meet those objectives honestly and positively. Successful integration will happen only if your new employee decides he or she has made a wise decision to join your organization. Your effective new employee orientation can help make or break that decision.

A Positive Example of a Successful New Hire Orientation

The best new employee orientation was instituted at Edgewood Tool and Manufacturing, a small stamping plant near Detroit. Every manager who hired a new employee was required to write a 120-day orientation plan for the new employee. It involved one action a day.

Actions included meeting the Director of Quality, calling on a customer, and having lunch with the CEO. You can bet that the new employee was thoroughly welcomed and integrated into the organization after 120 different orientation events.