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New Employee Orientation: 12 Best Practices & Strategies

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.  This means employee orientation is one of the most important critical parts of the hiring and retention process. 

Nail this step, and you’re much more likely to have top performers who stay with your organization. But a subpar orientation experience can make a new hire question their decision, or worse, leave you scrambling to find a new, qualified candidate. 

You must ensure you acclimate new employees to your company immediately, inspire loyalty, and help them see the possibilities of a successful career with your organization

Unfortunately, most companies fall short. Gallup found that only 12 percent of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees. That means the vast majority of companies are facing low employee confidence and engagement and higher turnover than necessary.

Read more: 6 Best Practices for New Employee Training and Onboarding

New hire turnover is expensive and damages team morale. Fortunately, you can drastically improve your results with a high-quality new employee orientation program.

New employee orientation: an overview

New hire orientation often refers to the process of getting a new employee set up with benefits, payroll, and other paperwork in the first few days of employment. However, these steps don’t help the employee acclimate to the company or inspire confidence and engagement. 

To create an exceptional employee orientation, it’s essential to help a new hire understand the company culture, meet key employees, and ensure they have the resources they need to excel.

Who hosts new employee orientation?

The HR or L&D team is generally in charge of new employee orientation. However, key leaders within the company should also be involved. 

Orientation includes not only HR paperwork but also getting to know the team, learning how to access the software and tools they need for their job, and a warm welcome to the organization.

The goal is to integrate new hires into the organization so that they feel comfortable, understand the company culture and values, and know who to talk to if they have questions or concerns. 

How long should orientation take?

The initial orientation often takes 1 to 3 days, but that’s only the beginning of the new hire process.

After orientation, the employee onboarding process takes over so that employees feel supported, appreciated, and welcome as they get acclimated to their role, team, and manager. 

A strong orientation and onboarding process are both essential if you want to see the benefits of lower turnover, higher employee engagement, and higher productivity.

New employee orientation vs. employee onboarding

As we mentioned, new employee orientation and onboarding are two separate but sequential processes

Orientation covers the first day or so on the job, where the employee is welcomed to the organization, meets their team and manager, and is given a tour of the office. There is also HR paperwork, sharing the company’s values and culture, and letting new employees know how to access the software and tools they need for their jobs. 

After the new employee is ready to begin their role, the onboarding process continues for 90 days to a year. It offers support and guidance as they adapt to their role and make their first contributions to the team. 

Some of the keys to a successful onboarding process include having a buddy or mentor to ask questions, showing appreciation for their early achievements, and helping the new employee understand the potential of a career within the company.

Read more: 5 Effective New Hire Onboarding Strategies

Benefits of effective new employee orientation

A strong onboarding program can help employees immediately feel a sense of purpose and belonging, which strengthens their commitment to the organization and to their role. 

Done well, this can keep up the momentum of the recruitment process and maintain a new employee’s excitement about their role. 

Read more: How to Promote a Sense of Belonging in a Remote Work Environment

Increased commitment and engagement

An excellent employee orientation process aims to ensure new hires feel valued and that they are an integral part of the team. 

Gallup’s 2023 State of the American Workplace report showed that recent drops in workplace engagement are related to a lack of:

  • Clarity of expectations
  • Connections to the mission or purpose of the organization
  • Opportunities to learn and grow
  • Opportunities to excel
  • Feeling cared about at work

Your organization can significantly improve employee engagement, retention, and productivity by providing all of those elements during new hire orientation, onboarding, and throughout the employee experience.

Better productivity

A new hire comes into your organization wanting to make a difference, and it’s vital that the new hire orientation and onboarding processes maintain that enthusiasm.

One study featured in Harvard Business Review found that a formal onboarding program, which includes employee orientation, increased new hire productivity by 62 percent.

Why? Because orientation helps new employees feel comfortable with their team and leadership, helps them feel their talents and strengths are appreciated, and gives them the tools they need to succeed in their new role. This sets them up for success, allowing them to be more productive.

For example, Clutter, a moving and storage company, wanted to improve the orientation program to reduce the amount of time it took new employees to become fully productive. Using the Learning Cloud from WorkRamp, the company reduced ramp time from six weeks to only two

Higher retention

Finally, excellent orientation and onboarding help retain employees. The Harvard Business Review study showed that a formal onboarding process could improve new employee retention by as much as 50 percent. 

Employees feel frustrated if their new role isn’t what they imagined. This can happen when they don’t feel a strong sense of connection with their new team or if the job responsibilities are different from their expectations.

Fortunately, a strong orientation and onboarding process can prevent these problems and improve the likelihood that your new employee will stick around for several years.

New employee orientation best practices

How can you ensure that your new employee orientation covers administrative details and creates a strong bond between the new employee and your company?

Checklists can help, but they don’t create a dynamic, engaging process on their own. Here are some best practices to consider.

Create and share an agenda

Knowing what to expect can dramatically affect patience, resilience, and flexibility. When the New York City transit system installed screens that gave information about the expected arrival of trains and buses, user satisfaction improved significantly.

New employees are often on edge and nervous about their first day, so having an agenda and sharing it will help ease their minds and let them know what’s happening and when.

Most importantly, never leave a new hire to eat lunch alone on their first day. Whether in the office or out, it’s important to have a fun lunch planned when your new team member doesn’t know anyone.

Keep paperwork simple

Administrative duties like setting up direct deposit and enrolling in benefits are an important part of employee orientation, but it doesn’t have to require tons of paperwork. Look at your current enrollment forms and see what’s outdated, what can be consolidated, and what might not be necessary at all.

For an even more efficient process, make paperwork available electronically so it’s easy to read and sign everything, and your new hire can work at their own pace.

Use a learning management system (LMS)

During orientation and onboarding, it may be essential to train employees on specific topics. One of the easiest ways to do this is through on-demand training, which can be structured as easily digestible microlearning.

Having a learning management system as the foundation for your training helps you stay organized and maximize the ROI from your investment in learning. The Learning Cloud from WorkRamp gives you an all-in-one solution that can power your new hire training, sales enablement, employee development, and customer education all in one place.

The right software will help your organization’s training processes scale quickly, engage employees, and drive results.

Read more: 14 Best Learning Management Systems & Software

Provide employee orientation content

Many organizations consider the employee manual to be the only orientation content that a new hire needs, but the truth is that the manual is often overwhelming and rarely read.

Instead, think about how to make orientation content easily accessible and digestible. For example, a single well-designed resource can introduce new hires to key leaders in the organization or list common company jargon and acronyms. You can also create an org chart and help new team members understand their role in the company’s mission.

When this content is personalized specifically to the new hire’s individual role, it will show that you took time and care to make them feel comfortable and welcome. That makes a far better impression than a mass-produced manual.

Read more: The Indispensable Power of Personalized L&D

Offer an organizational overview

The last thing any new hire wants is a droning lecture about the history of the organization, but they do need to understand your mission, culture, and operations. The key to this step is to make it fun and engaging.

If you hire multiple people at once, consider having the group do a scavenger hunt where they have to talk to certain people in the office to find out specific facts about the company. You can also share your company culture and purpose in an engaging video or through another fun activity.

The organizational overview is essential when it comes to bonding a new hire to the company. Today’s workers look for purpose and meaning in their work, and when they understand your mission and how their role helps accomplish it, they’ll be more motivated and engaged with their work.

And don’t forget the company swag!

Share relevant and realistic information

Remember that the first day on the job is often overwhelming for new hires. The company, office layout, parking, and more make sense because you’ve worked there a long time. A new team member is learning all of that at once.

To make things easier for everyone, consider the following best practices:

  • Send some information to new hires before their first day, including what time to arrive, where to park, where to go when they arrive, dress code, and whether a team lunch is scheduled.
  • Provide key information in writing, including the org chart, contact information for their immediate supervisor, and a map showing where their desk and the break room are located.
  • Schedule time to set up hardware and software so employees have the access they need on their first full day of work, and do a walkthrough of important systems.
  • Don’t rush orientation. If it needs to be a full day or even 2 to 3 days, let it be—setting up your new team members for success is what’s most important.

Set up one-on-ones

Part of orientation is getting to know your team and new manager; one-on-one meetings are a great way to do that. 

Ensure that the new hire meets with at least their immediate supervisor, and if your organization has a new hire buddy or mentor, they should meet as well.

If possible, having a team lunch on the new hire’s first day is a good idea, which allows them to get to know their new colleagues in a more casual setting. The more welcome and engaged a new hire feels in the first few days, the more likely they will succeed long-term.

Involve executive leadership and managers

Having the new hire’s immediate supervisor involved in orientation is fundamental, but what about other business leaders and managers?

Having executives and other leaders involved in orientation helps humanize the company. For example, it can be very impactful when a key business leader is the one that outlines the company’s mission and how the new employee can make a difference through their role.

If you’re onboarding a single employee or company leaders are unavailable, consider having them record a welcome video that can be part of the new employee orientation process across the organization. 

Add engagement opportunities

Orientation should encourage the excitement a new team member feels about their role. That means you want to avoid hours of eLearning or a long day of paperwork and lectures.

Read more: Make eLearning Engaging in 7 Steps

Instead, make the orientation process engaging. Mix administrative tasks with one-on-one meetings, schedule a lunch with the new team or direct manager, or make games and fun activities part of orientation.

Here are some additional ideas:

  • Have a new employee welcome kit and make a big deal of the “unboxing” to reveal the swag and various goodies
  • Play games like trivia, Mad Libs, Jeopardy, or Family Feud to reinforce key information like company values, office information, or the benefits the company offers
  • Use a “speed dating” format so the new employee can meet their entire team in a short time
  • Make a game out of setting up their new desk. Ensure the desk is clean and welcoming—if you can find out something they enjoy in advance and have it there, like their favorite candy, you’ll make a positive impression.

Of course, you don’t want to overdo it with constant games, but by having a balance of calm activities and fun, engaging ones, you can create a great environment for new employees to feel welcome and excited about your organization.

Have virtual and in-person options

Orientation and onboarding changed significantly during and after the pandemic. Since 2020, remote work options have become the norm, and mandating a return to the office has caused significant employee turnover and struggles with recruiting new employees.

That means new employee orientation needs to be flexible enough to accommodate both in-person workers and remote hires. 

Virtual orientation should have many of the same elements as the in-person process, including the swag box, meeting key employees, and more. However, training on using technology tools will be especially important, including the online learning tools that will allow the new hire to learn more about your organization and their role. 

To make orientation more engaging for a remote hire, consider leaning on your learning management system and creating interactive orientation materials.

While you don’t need to worry about a remote employee eating lunch alone, sending a gift card with the swag box that allows them to get lunch at a favorite local restaurant is a nice touch. 

Send a post-orientation feedback survey

How do you know if you’re doing a great job with your new hire orientation? You ask!

Post-orientation surveys are separate from post-onboarding surveys, which you also need. Having both allows you to identify concerns quickly and isolate where they occur so you can address them effectively.

What should you ask after orientation? Here are some ideas:

  • How well do you understand your role and responsibilities?
  • Rate 1 to 5, “I feel welcome at {Company}”
  • Rate 1 to 5, “I’m confident in using the systems I need for my job”
  • Rate 1 to 5, “I’m confident that I know who to approach for questions about my role”
  • Rate 1 to 5, “I feel comfortable with my new work team”
  • Rate 1 to 5, “My role so far matches my expectations” 
  • Rate 1 to 5, “I still feel like this is a great role for me”
  • What’s one thing we could have done differently to improve the orientation experience?

If there are any concerns, your team has an opportunity to address them immediately with the new hire before confusion turns into discontent.

Launch a successful new employee orientation program

Whether in person or remote, a  high-quality orientation program helps new employees start off on the right foot. One of the keys to the program going smoothly and collecting useful feedback from new hires is having the right learning platform.

The Learning Cloud is an all-in-one platform that allows you to centralize all of your training needs, from new hires to career development to customer education and certification. Making a single investment can allow you to scale multiple training programs quickly and easily.

Ready to see the Learning Cloud in action? Contact us for a free, personalized demo.

Complete the form for a custom demo.

Anna Spooner

WorkRamp Contributor

Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action. 

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