What is new hire orientation?
New hire orientation is the official “welcome party” for your organization’s new hires. As an essential, and one of the final, onboarding steps, it is an event that should be designed to inform, introduce, and integrate new hires into the culture, mission, and values of the organization in an impactful manner.
Is new hire orientation the same thing as employee onboarding?
New hire orientation is part of the overall onboarding process. Onboarding is a process and series of events that should begin once a future employee’s start date is confirmed. It is the mechanism that assists new employees in adjusting to their new work environment.
Why is new hire orientation so important?
The new hire welcome party sets the tone for the overall employee experience, and the best ones positively impact employee engagement, productivity, and retention as well as the overall employer brand.
When should you hold a new hire orientation?
Timing is important. I’ve been the first to arrive at a party, and it was chaotic. The host wasn’t dressed, setup wasn’t complete, and I stood around aimlessly waiting for the fun to begin.
Hold the formal program the first day or week of hire. For smaller orgs that hold orientation monthly, I suggest a hybrid approach that is 1:1 the first day or week and then incorporates all hires monthly for the formal program.
A common mistake employers make is starting orientation at the beginning of the workday. An orientation that starts between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Mondays puts undue pressure on the orientation facilitator, the new hires, and other stakeholders who add to a successful day-one experience.
Starting mid-morning, around 10 a.m., allows the new employees to reset everything that was shaken up by their first-day jitters and allows stakeholders to start their day normally while leaving them room to put out any weekend fires.
Essential parts of orientation
The best parties I’ve attended were well-planned and well-executed. The same should be true for new hire orientation. Orientation should be framed with the following components in mind.
Design and deliver a program that is informative. Included should be information that gives the new employee a sense of the organization as a whole. This includes:
Organizational history, present, and future state
Security and safety details (especially given the COVID-19 pandemic)
And if necessary, go over your social media policy
This is a time to be transparent and answer questions.
Introduce the leadership team, the new employees’ line manager(s), and coworkers. Introduce them in person, if possible. Otherwise, introduce them in a meaningful way that extends beyond what’s on the org chart—something that gives you insight into the person and not just their job title. This should be executed in a way that shows the new hire where they “fit” on the org chart, how they are connected cross-functionally, and intra- and inter-team dynamics.
This is a time to get the new hires fully engaged and interactive with team and relationship-building activities. Feature real accounts of employee life from those at different tenure milestones so new employees have more realistic expectations.
With input from their direct managers, incorporate goal-setting activities that will help them envision what success looks like, how the job they were hired to do adds value, and a pathway for continued development.
Mistakes to avoid
Balance is key. If you wouldn’t dedicate the majority of your party budget to décor, you shouldn’t make the mistake of dedicating the bulk of orientation to new employees completing administrative onboarding activities. To avoid paperwork overload, collect day-one paperwork and complete housekeeping items (like badges) before the orientation program starts.
Orientation should be more productivity than presentation. The more interactive the better. Resist the urge to make it a time for reviewing and signing policies and procedures documents, completing paperwork, and watching boring, outdated videos.
Treating it like a one-and-done
Your party should have a robust playlist.
There is nothing worse than dancing the day away to the same five songs on a loop. While most organizations, no matter their size, prefer to hold orientation on new employees’ first day of work, orientation activities should not start and stop on day one.
Bandwidth permitting, extend orientation activities and checkpoints to the first week or month of the new employee’s start date so you don’t have to pack everything into one day. It is also a good idea to reorientate past hires who have reached various tenure milestones to keep your program fresh and engaging.
How do you know whether your orientation was a success?
The best orientation programs have a system to measure success. Provide new and reoriented employees with a mechanism to provide feedback, and share the information with the design and delivery teams.
Feedback should be designed to measure not only the efficacy of the formal program but should also give you an idea of how they are influencing and/or assimilating into the organization’s culture. Collect the feedback at the conclusion of the formal program and at other milestones, like the 30-, 60-, 90-,and 365-day marks. While you won’t be able to incorporate all of the changes, you will likely find that over time, the enhancements you do can make will improve the experience for all involved.
Tips for a great new hire orientation
Design and deliver a program with goals in mind that are tied to the ideal culture, mission, vision, and values of the organization.
Have two or three people dedicated to delivering the orientation who are engaged, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable to keep things consistent and avoid a single point of failure.
Get support and buy-in from senior leadership and line managers by treating them as collaborators and advocates.
- Assign new employees a buddy. This is a coworker who can serve as a communicator, guide, and resource for the new employee as they adjust to the organization.
Initiate onboarding events that slow down productivity, like IT equipment and access, prior to new employees’ start date.
Don’t forget to schedule lunch and breaks throughout your orientation.
Give new employees welcome bags/party favors that include company branded items, maps.