Orientation is the process of introducing new employees to an organization. A well-managed orientation helps to set up new hires for success in their jobs. It provides employers with a structured way to communicate key information and distribute important company literature - such as the employee handbook and other policies - to new team members while also collecting required documentation and signatures.
Creating an Effective Employee Orientation
Creating an effective employee orientation requires time and planning. Keep in mind that orientation is the first experience new hires have with your company after the interview process, so be sure that the event makes a positive first impression!
Employee Orientation Goals
When planning the content and flow of your employee orientation process, keep in mind that the goal really is to help new hires make a successful transition to being part of your organization's culture. As HCareers.com points out, a new employee's opinion about the company and their role can be strongly influenced the first day on the job, especially "those crucial first few hours when their general sense of the new position is still just beginning to be formed."
While distributing policies and collecting paperwork are important tasks that need to be accomplished during orientation, that should not be the primary focus. The way orientation is presented forms a new employee's first impression of what training is like in the company, as well as what the organization's standards for professional communication really are. Your goals for employee orientation should focus on starting to build a connection between the organization and the employee, as well as to help the employee get a sense of the company's culture while also learning how things work and what is expected of them.
There isn't a standard length that employee orientations need to be. Some companies hold very comprehensive orientation sessions that last several days, such as the two-day orientation at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Others, such as the University of Texas-Pan American, limit theirs to less than a full day. The length you use should be determined by what you need to accomplish and cover in your session. The key is to cover everything and properly introduce employees to the organization without making them feel rushed or overwhelmed while also avoiding dragging it out longer than necessary.
Sample Orientation Agenda
The sample orientation agenda presented here is based on a two-day schedule. It is a good starting point to use regardless of the length your session because it includes common agenda topics and a logical order for presenting information. However, some of these items may not apply to your company, and there may be items that you need to add. You can add or remove information from the agenda to suit your needs.
To access the sample agenda, click the image below. The template will open in a separate window as a customizable PDF document. Save the PDF file to your computer and make changes as needed to customize it the way you would like. Use the + and - signs to add and remove sections and click anywhere in the text to edit. You'll be able to save, print and re-edit as needed. If you have any challenges working with the document, see this guide for Adobe printables for assistance.
Orientation Presentation and Meeting Tips
It's important to keep employee orientation sessions interesting. This involves varying the types of activities and, ideally, having multiple people present the information.
- Before orientation, let each new employee know exactly what they need to bring with them to help ensure that things go smoothly as possible.
- Prepare organized packets with documentation that needs to be distributed to employees. Include a pen so that each person will have easy access to a writing tool to use for signing paperwork that needs to be turned in. Hand these packets to employees as they enter the room.
- Incorporate live presentations with video information where possible, changing things up for interest. For example, a representative of the HR department should welcome everyone and facilitate introductions and a getting-to-know your coworkers ice breaker exercise, but company overview information can be shared via a standard corporate video.
- After the video, switch back to a live presentation for the next section on your agenda, making additional changes as appropriate based on the length and content of your orientation.
- Have different people present some of the sections to (a) maintain interest levels, (b) provide multiple perspectives, and (c) allow new employees to get to know several representatives of HR, management, or other key areas.
- Provide morning refreshments and afternoon snacks for employees who are going through orientation. Coffee, juice, fruit, and baked goods can be good morning choices, while soft drinks, tea, nuts, crackers, cookies, and chips can be good afternoon options. Water (either pitchers or bottled) should be available throughout the day.
- Allow employees to take breaks fairly frequently - every 60 to 90 minutes is a good schedule to follow for brief breaks of ten minutes or so. This allows them time to break the monotony of constant sitting and can also help facilitate small talk with new coworkers over refreshments.
- Provide employees with a nice orientation gift that features the company logo and is theirs to keep. It should be something they will want to take home and use, as this is a good way to help them really start to feel like they are part of the team, as well as to stimulate discussions with family and friends about the organization. If you have a multi-day agenda, provide the gift on the first day.
- Consider concluding your orientation session by transitioning new hires to the departments where they will be working. Have their supervisors welcome them, brief them on department-specific information, introduce them to co-workers, conduct a department tour, show them to their workstation and set expectations for how things will progress as they transition from orientation to working in the department.
Verifying Receipt of Key Information
The documentation that employees turn in during orientation will form the basis of their personnel files and be used to set them up in your payroll system and for benefits. Using a new hire checklist provides an organized way to keep up with what information you have for each person, as well as what you still need to receive. Use the new hire checklist template below as a starting point for creating your own checklist. Like the orientation agenda, this checklist is an editable PDF document that you can customize, save and print.
Moving Toward Onboarding
Holding a formal employee orientation session is a great way to start the process of bringing new hires into the organization, but they will be in an introductory phase for a period beyond initial orientation. Ensure that supervisors understand their role in onboarding new employees as they transition from being brand new to becoming fully functioning team members who are engaged and productive.