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Does Your New Employee Orientation Measure Up?


We all know the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Yet, after working hard to attract the best and brightest candidates, especially considering today’s tight and competitive labor market, how are these sterling additions to your team treated on their first days? Are they sequestered in a conference room, where they spend the day filling out forms and getting lectured about what they’re not supposed to do  or are they made to feel engaged and connected to the organization’s culture while meeting people who will make them feel like a valued member of the team?

Not Exactly the Best First Impression, Is It?

New employee orientation, sometimes called “onboarding,” should focus on getting employees acclimated to the company culture and putting them in the best position to quickly make an impact in their jobs. Here are ways to make your orientations less of a data dump and more of a welcoming launch point.

Give New Hires Homework

Look at how much of the paperwork you include during orientation could be filled out before the new hire’s first day. You would probably send an offer letter, so why not send along an employee handbook, tax forms, benefits information, and enrollment forms? This way, employees can get a jump on the paperwork. They’ll appreciate having time to review all the options, discuss the choices with their family, if applicable, and figure out what questions they have. The more questions new employees bring to orientation, the more interactive and conversational the session will be, leading to increased engagement and connection to the organization.

If you’re sending a package of documents, include a welcome gift or a handwritten note from the CEO or the person’s supervisor.

Get Ready for Them

There is nothing worse than showing up for your first day on the job and finding that the receptionist has no idea who you are, the workstation you’re supposed to move into is littered with the last employee’s papers and junk, you can’t access technology, and your supervisor is at a three-day conference and can’t be reached.

Make sure everyone knows that a new employee is starting and get his or her workspace and equipment ready — this includes stocking the new hire’s desk with the supplies he or she will need. Having business cards printed and waiting is a nice touch, too. Finally, if possible, avoid having a new employee start on a day when his or her supervisor won’t be in the office.

Rethink Talking Points

If your new hires get their benefits information before their first day, what do you talk about at orientation? You’ll still have to walk them through some of the logistical items — including ID badges and the location of the bathrooms — but spend the bulk of your time on big picture topics. Focus on your company, the culture, the values, what it means to be successful as an employee of your organization, what your clients expect of the business and your reputation in the marketplace.

Remember that delivery is as important as content. If your Web site and recruiting materials portray your workplace as dynamic and full of bright and enthusiastic employees, the people leading employee orientation should be living examples of that philosophy. You don’t want to give new hires the impression that they’ve been victims of a bait and switch.

Involve Departments, Not Just HR

Orientation isn’t just an exercise for the HR department. Everyone in the organization needs to understand their role in making new workers’ beginning days a positive experience.

Managers should spend ample time with new hires in the first few weeks, giving guidance about department goals, reviewing the employee’s role in meeting those objectives and explaining how to navigate the company — a “buddy” or “go-to person” can be helpful in the latter. They should also put employees to work on meaningful projects right away.

If the new employees will have a lot of interaction with other departments, it may make sense for them to meet with members of those departments as well. This could be either the manager, to provide an overview of what the department does, or a person the new employee will be working with directly.

Expand the Schedule

There’s no rule that says orientation must be a full day in length. In fact, breaking up the schedule — such as a few hours in the morning of day one and a lunch session a week later — gives new hires the chance to absorb information and ask questions that are relevant to their positions.

Set the Tone

New employee orientation may be just one more chore on your HR to-do list, but to your new hires, it’s setting the tone for their employment with your company. By being ready for these employees and avoiding other orientation pitfalls, you can help them hit the ground running and make a positive impact on the long-term retention of your new team members.

Contact VonLehman’s Human Resources Consulting Group at 800.887.0437 for guidance related to this topic.

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