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New Hire Orientation

New hire orientation is your first opportunity to welcome a new employee and get them started off on the right foot. Whether you are orienting one person or 50, a lot of coordination and preparation are required–but you needn’t be intimidated.

Continue reading to learn what new hire orientation is, the difference between orientation and onboarding, why new hire orientation is important and what to cover in your orientation program.

What Is New Hire Orientation?

New hire orientation is the initial process of welcoming new employees to your company. As the first step in facilitating a smooth transition to your workplace, orientation is meant to give new hires what they need to succeed in their role. New hire orientation should be developed in a way that complements and emphasizes your workplace culture.

Orientation Versus Onboarding

Orientation is one of the first steps in the larger onboarding process, and is used to introduce employees to your company and prepare them for their role. Onboarding is a longer, ongoing series of steps to help new hires acclimate to the organization.

Orientation often lasts between a few days and a week, while onboarding lasts at least ninety days and sometimes extends to a full year.

Why It’s Important to Have a Great Orientation

A great new hire orientation sets the stage for your employees’ experience at your company. You should focus on creating an effective new hire orientation in order to:

  • Make new employees feel welcome. Orientation is a new hire’s first experience as an official member of your team. They may be nervous about entering a new work environment, so it’s important that they are met with a welcoming environment.
  • Prepare new hires for the role you hired them for. No matter how experienced a new hire is, you have to set them up for success in your organization. Tailoring your new hire orientation to the specific role you’ve hired for can help ensure they get the right knowledge and resources to perform their job.
  • Cover all federal and organizational legal requirements. New hire orientation should include completing mandatory paperwork. This includes federal documents like their W-2 and organization-specific documents like the employee handbook.
  • Increase engagement. Orientation programs that help new hires feel comfortable in their work environment can increase their engagement early on, making for a happier, more productive employee.
  • Reduce turnover. A new hire that experiences an orientation that prepares them for their new role and makes them feel like a valued part of the company is more likely to remain with the company.

What to Go Over in New Hire Orientation

The specific new hire orientation program that you develop depends on the organization, the industry and the specific roles you’ve hired for. The following information is often covered in general orientation programs.

1. Organizational History

Discuss the history of your organization and reinforce that the employee made a strong choice to join your company. Highlight any important events that changed the trajectory of the company as well as your company’s mission and values.

2. Introduction to Executive Leaders

New hires should be introduced to executive leaders and managers in the organization. If possible, try to schedule your most prominent executives as speakers within your new hire orientation schedule. If you are onboarding new employees individually, you may want to consider having executive leaders record a welcome video.

3. Policies and Procedures

There are several policies and procedures that need to be covered in new hire training. Some policies are federally mandated while other procedures will be specific to your organization. A few policies and procedures to cover in your orientation may include:

  • Information about your company’s commitment to equal employment opportunity (EEO)  policies
  • Harassment policies
  • Safety and security procedures
  • Disciplinary policies
  • Paid time off (PTO) policies
  • Other policies important to the organization

All policies should be covered in your employee handbook. Make sure that each employee receives a hard copy and a digital copy of your employee handbook. Once you complete the orientation, have each new hire sign an acknowledgment that they received and reviewed the handbook.

4. Payroll Procedures

New hires need to fill out W-4 and other tax forms. Your payroll department or HR should meet with employees to explain how time is kept in the organization and what their role is in maintaining accurate pay records. This includes any information relating to time tracking.

5. Department or Division-specific Information

If your organization involves a wide range of positions, have the managers from each division speak to new hires. You can have each manager speak in front of the full group, or split into groups and have new hires meet with their department leader.

6. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Compile a list of questions based on questions asked in previous orientation sessions. These are typically miscellaneous questions that can help an employee feel more comfortable or prepared in their first few weeks.

7. Any Additional Questions

Once you’ve covered all of your prepared information, ask the new hires if they have any questions outside of the FAQs. When new questions are asked, add them to the FAQ portion of future orientations.

Sample New Hire Orientation Schedule

New hire orientation can range from one day to several weeks. To avoid over-informing or overwhelming employees, try and split your full orientation into multiple days. However, the following sample provides a template for a first-day orientation schedule.

9:00 AM – Orientation Check-In and Welcome Breakfast

At the check-in table, provide employees with any prepared information, paperwork and swag. A catered breakfast allows new hires to meet with other new hires and existing employees while creating a welcoming first impression.

10:00 AM – Welcome Presentation and Agenda Review

Once all of your new hires have checked in, gather for a welcome presentation. In this section, you will provide an overview of the day’s agenda and what new hires can expect from orientation

10:30 AM – Company History, Mission and Values

Next, dive into your organizational history. Cover the company’s mission and core values while providing a high-level overview of how the organization was formed. This is a great place to cover the company culture and showcase why new hires should be excited to be working for your team.

11:30 AM –  Breakout Sessions to Meet With Division-specific Managers

To give new hires a break from the lecture-style orientation, break into groups by division. This will allow new hires working in the same department to meet, and creates a less intimidating environment to meet their immediate managers.

12:00 PM –  Catered Lunch Break

By this point, you’ve covered a large chunk of information. Give the new hires a mental break and provide a catered lunch.

1:00 PM –  Executive Team Welcome

To reignite energy after lunch, invite your executive team to speak with new hires and welcome them to the company. If this isn’t possible, try to have executives prepare a welcome video that you can play at this stage.

2:00 PM –  Review Policies, Procedures and Employee Handbooks

Dive back into the important information and cover your key policies and procedures. Make sure employees have handbooks to follow along with, and have them sign an acknowledgment of receipt at the completion of orientation.

3:00 PM –  Office Tour

With the day winding down, give new hires a chance to stretch their legs, and give them a tour of the facilities. You can incorporate more information about company culture and work environment while walking through the office.

4:00 PM –  Payroll Procedures and FAQs

Closing out the day, cover your payroll procedures and have employees fill out required paperwork. With the remaining time, go over frequently asked questions and open the floor for employees to ask any unanswered questions. Let them know what the next few days and weeks will bring in terms of onboarding.

Other Tips for Leading a Great Employee Orientation

Outside of the information provided above, the following tips can help make your new hire orientation as effective as possible.

  • Don’t try to cover everything in one day. Cramming all of the information in one day is likely to overwhelm new hires and they will probably forget some of the information. Instead, break orientation into several days that allow them to absorb as much information as possible.
  • Keep it light. New hires are typically nervous and anxious about starting a new position. Make it easy for them. Keep your orientation program light and welcoming.
  • Utilize software and technology. Some orientation tasks can be completed independently using HR software and technology. A few tasks can even be completed before the first day, like completing mandatory paperwork.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About New Hire Orientations

What should I do differently when holding an orientation for remote employees?
When holding an orientation for remote employees, you want to provide as much of a personal and welcoming environment as possible. Hosting interactive virtual orientation through videoconferencing allows remote employees to feel connected with the team.
What companies have the best new hire orientations?
Companies that hold the best new hire orientations focus on making employees feel like an important part of their team, provide a clear roadmap to success, and provide resources for new hires to leverage. Some companies with strong new hire orientations include Netflix, LinkedIn and Twitter.
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