New hire orientation is an essential part of any employee’s first week. Whether you have a distributed team or everyone’s in one office, you should organize a welcoming orientation for every new hire.
Why? A great first week for an employee can increase retention rates by up to 82%. Orientation helps employees get acclimated to your company and prepared for their new role. A welcoming orientation can be the difference between a happy, confident employee who reaches full productivity in just a few weeks and one that feels lost and alone.
Consider these two scenarios:
You hire a new remote employee. They receive an email the week before their first day with access to a cloud storage folder. Inside they find a Loom with instructions on completing their paperwork before their first day. They also find an agenda for their first work week. On the Friday before their first day, they receive a package with their favorite snacks, a pair of Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones with your logo on them, and a gift card to an office supply store. They work through the agenda during their first week with an appointed mentor on their team. At the end of the first week, they know all of their teammates, have their workstation ready to go with the help of your IT department, and feel confident stepping into their second week of work.
You hire a remote employee. You don’t have any communication with them until their first day. They get on their personal computer at 9 am on Monday and have no idea what to do. They email the person who hired them who isn’t on their team. They wasted two hours waiting for some communication from their new manager. When they do receive communication, they have a brief Zoom meeting and are tasked with a checklist of paperwork and technology setup to do on their own. They have technical difficulties and can’t complete any of the day one tasks. They finish their first day feeling isolated, lost, and confused – wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into.
Which scenario would you want to provide your new employees with? Which employee do you think is more likely to stick around for three years?
What is new hire orientation?
Orientation often gets confused with onboarding, but they’re different, and you need both. Orientation is a one-time event that usually lasts two to five days. It’s the process of mentally, emotionally, and legally integrating a new employee into an organization.
New employee orientation generally includes introducing new hires to their teams and tasks, completing their necessary paperwork, and easing them into their new job.
On the other hand, onboarding is a long-term comprehensive process that can last anywhere from three months to an entire year. Onboarding encompasses on-the-job training, team bonding, company culture, and learning how to perform their job autonomously.
Typically, orientation happens before onboarding. Orientation usually occurs during the employee's first week. Onboarding takes place beginning their second week.
Why is new hire orientation important?
Companies that do not have a great orientation process are more likely to face high turnover rates. Plus, new hires who don’t experience a well-executed orientation will likely take months to reach full productivity in their new role.
Employees who don’t have a good orientation experience might feel lonely, bewildered, and overwhelmed. This is especially true for remote and hybrid employees. A welcoming orientation process will help solidify the choice to accept your employment offer and begin a solid relationship between employee and employer.
A welcoming orientation process can:
Reduce employee turnover
Get new employees up to speed quickly
Provide a smooth transition for the rest of the team
Decrease stress and anxiety for the new employee and their peers
Create a stronger commitment to the organization
Decrease mistakes from new employees
What to go over in new hire orientation
New hire orientation should leave your new employee(s) feeling ready to start work. A new employee should have all of their paperwork completed, a functioning workstation, and knowledge of their team and the company by the end of a successful orientation. Let’s talk about the four major components of new hire orientation and what they should include.
The paperwork phase of your orientation should be organized by your human resources department. Any paperwork that needs to be filled out or signed should be completed immediately on their first day. If there’s any other information about your company that the new employee needs to know, include that on their first day as well.
Don’t forget to include this paperwork in your orientation:
Offer of Employment
This is your opportunity to welcome your new employee with open arms! Introduce them to their new team through group or one-on-one meetings with the coworkers they’ll be interacting with the most in their role. Introduce them to their workspace, whether they’re on a distributed team or in person at an office.
Here are some ways you can introduce a new employee to your company during onboarding:
One-on-one meetings with key staff members
Introduce them in an all-hands meeting
Regularly scheduled sessions with a designated peer mentor
Meeting with someone from IT
Lunch with their team
Office tour for in-person employees
Virtual tour of cloud storage organization, software, and asynchronous communication tools for remote or hybrid employees
According to Office Depot, 26% of employees waste more than two hours on technical difficulties each week. 96% of respondents in the Office Depot survey said their work relies on technology. You can avoid some of these difficulties by setting up, training, and orienting your new employees during their first few days on the job.
You might consider making an online course or set of videos that show new hires how to use the software that’s essential to their job if you have multiple employees going through orientation at the same time. You can use Loom to create a short video course that feels personal, welcoming, and supportive for your new employee.
Prepare your new employee by helping them get set up with:
Your communication software
Frequently used tools and equipment specific to their role
Your company’s project management tools and time tracking platforms
Your company’s human resources platform, if you use one
The employee's virtual private network or virtual desktop, if you use them
During orientation, your employees should receive the beginning stages of their induction training. Induction training simply introduces new employees to their new roles. During orientation, this can be a brief overview of their responsibilities, specific task training, or a review of company-wide protocols.
Induction can also happen throughout the onboarding phase, but it’s essential to begin this training during orientation so that the new employee feels ready to start their new job.
The role-specific training phase of orientation can cover:
Overview of responsibilities
New Hire Orientation Best Practices
As we said, you want your new hire orientation program to feel welcoming, comprehensive, and grounding for your new employee. We’ve put together a quick list of new hire orientation ideas that you cannot forget to include. Practicing these tasks with each new employee will also save you time and likely reduce your turnover rate.
Make a schedule
Create a detailed way to manage new hire orientation through a project manager or a spreadsheet. Then, take each of those tasks and create an agenda for your new employee’s first week. Planning out your new hire’s first week will help prevent your employee from feeling lost and overwhelmed.
If your team is distributed, consider how much time your new employees will be sitting in front of their cameras. Sitting in a virtual session for an entire day is a different experience than sitting in orientation sessions in person. This can sometimes be exhausting. You might make a different schedule for remote employees than you would for in-person employees.
Once you know what you want to include, you should send an orientation schedule to your new hire or group of new employees. You can create an agenda for their first day or their whole first week.
Prepare the employee before orientation
Sending your employees everything they need for orientation beforehand helps you maximize their first week of work. They need to have all of their paperwork done before they can start working anyway, so it’s prudent to have this sent before their first day.
Prepare the new hire before the first day of orientation with these items:
Paperwork from HR
Directions for how to access orientation either in person or online
The agenda and duration of orientation
Specific items they need to bring
Contact information for the individual or team conducting orientation
A survey to learn more about them
This will make it so that they don’t feel lost and can focus on their orientation.
Put everything in one place
Set up one folder in your company’s cloud storage space where new employees can find everything they need from orientation. You may want to make a new, private folder for each new employee so that you can upload their contract and other important forms. That way, they don’t have to ask someone else where they can find important files. They can also reference this folder later on.
In your new employee cloud drive, you can put documents like:
The orientation schedule
Cheat sheet for company phone numbers
Members of their department with responsibilities
Company mission, values, and vision
What you expect from the new hire in a 30-, 60-, or 90-day plan.
Get the timing right
It’s important to time an employee's orientation timing right. Don’t have a new employee’s first day happen when their teammates are out of town. Additionally, make sure their mentor and team have the time to work through their orientation with the new employee during their first couple of weeks.
With timing, you should also consider how your new hire is feeling. Although you want to use the orientation period efficiently, you don’t want to overwhelm them. Be sure to space out the information and activities you’re scheduling for your new hire orientation.
Designate a peer mentor
Provide each employee with a go-to mentor that they can contact with any questions. This will ensure they don’t feel isolated. It’ll also make their first few weeks more efficient. They won’t waste time figuring out who to contact or how to contact them when they have questions. This practice is especially important for distributed teams.
Ideas To Make New Hire Orientation Fun
Make it personal
While conducting orientation for new employees is helpful for your company, its primary objective is to make the new employee feel welcome and prepare them to dive into their new job. Make new hire orientation about the employee.
Get to know them with a questionnaire before their first day and get them a few of their favorite things before their first day. Better yet, send a personal welcome video via email for each new hire with Loom.
You can ask them things like their favorite foods, beverages, colors, or what tools they find essential to do their job. You can get to know their birthday, hobbies they enjoy, or their favorite things to do with a group of friends to inspire team-building events you might like to do in the future.
Play a game
Make group onboarding more fun with a game-style training like Jeopardy! You can use this online Jeopardy template to make your own game. This can foster a healthy relationship among new team members. Plus, it’s much more memorable than simply reading a handbook or watching a video on their own.
According to Deloitte, fostering a feeling of belonging “can lead to a 56% increase in job performance and a 50% reduction in turnover risk.” Creating a strong community within your organization will help your company’s retention rate.
A survey report from McKinsey agreed, “To retain employees, organizations need to evolve their approach to building community, cohesion, and a sense of belonging at work." You may want to pair up new hires so that they can get to know each other. If you’re hiring multiple people at once, you can provide some group orientation sessions to liven up the experience.
Give useful swag
Many companies provide a “swag bag” to new hires. But so many of them include swag that isn’t useful for the new employee.
Think about giving them swag that’s actually helpful in their new role, like:
A water bottle
A home work station
You can also refer back to that survey you sent them before orientation too.
Share a meal
You can set up group lunches or an outing during the work day for team building when someone new is hired. Virtual lunches might be an option if your team is dispersed too. This allows new and current employees to get to know each other more quickly.
You may set up a couple of shared meals during their first week so they can get acclimated and feel less lonely. Be aware of social and Zoom fatigue, though. Ensure you’re giving the employee enough time to recoup and take breaks during their first week.
A successful new hire orientation can be the difference between a trusting, happy, and loyal staff and a high turnover rate with bewildered employees. CareerBuilder and Silkroad Technology conducted a survey that found that a good orientation and onboarding program can lead to 69% of employees staying with a company for at least three years.
Employees feel they perform best when they feel like they belong and they have clear expectations from their employer. A fun and engaging orientation is bound to do just that!
Don’t forget that orientation is just the first step of the new employee onboarding process. It’s only designed to help the new hire get acclimated to their environment. You’ll also need to train them in their new role and set up a plan for success in their first few months of work.