When it comes to bringing on employees, first impressions are key. The experience new hires have as they settle into their new job, learn the ropes of their new role, and get acclimated to their new work environment will set the tone for their experience moving forward.
And, depending on how things go, that initial experience can either set them up for success—or leave them wondering whether accepting the position with your company was the right move.
And the key to making a good first impression and making the initial experience of working with your company a positive one for new team members? New hire orientation.
The right orientation program can lay the foundation for a positive working experience and ensure your new hires have everything they need to be successful, both in their position and within your company as a whole.
But what should it include? And how do you create an orientation experience that not only helps introduce new hires to your company culture—but helps keep them with your company in the long term?
What is New Hire Orientation?
New hire orientation is a type of employee training that welcomes new hires to your company and gives them the basic information they need to get started in their new role.
Generally, new employee orientation happens on the new hire’s first day of work (or, in some cases, before the employee officially starts their role). New hire orientation is also sometimes called new employee orientation.
How is New Hire Orientation Different from Onboarding?
New hire orientation is typically a brief intro to your business and lasts anywhere from one to five days, while onboarding is a larger, more extensive training framework that can last 30 days to a full year.
Onboarding can include everything from job shadowing to product training to learning and development opportunities, while new hire orientation includes things like reviewing the employee handbook and lunch with team members.
In other words, new hire orientation is not the same thing as employee onboarding; instead, it’s a part of the employee onboarding process.
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Why Orientation for New Hires Is So Important
Orientation is the official kick-off of your new employee’s experience for your company—and it’s also an opportunity to set that employee up for success as they start their career with your organization. A solid orientation program offers a number of benefits—both for you and your employee—including:
- Gives the employee a warm welcome: Starting a new job can feel overwhelming. You don’t know the company culture, you don’t know the ins and outs of the role, and you don’t know what’s expected of you. New employee orientation is your opportunity to give your new team member a warm welcome, let them know you’re excited they’re on board, and give them some basic information about their role and the organization—all of which can put the new team member at ease and help them feel more comfortable as they step into their new role.
- Gets the legal/compliance issues out of the way: There are certain legal and compliance issues that come along with hiring a new employee—for example, taking care of new hire paperwork and reviewing relevant company policies. Orientation offers the opportunity to get all of the legal and compliance tasks (like filling out their W-4 form and giving them a copy of your employee handbook) out of the way from the get-go, leaving your new employee to focus on settling into their new role.
- Answers logistical questions: Obviously, your newly hired team member is going to have questions about how to be successful in their role. But before they get to those larger questions, there are basic logistical questions that need to be answered (for example, how to access company email or where your office bathroom is located)—questions that you can review during new employee orientation.
- Shows the employee your organization is invested in their success: A thorough orientation shows your new employees that you’re investing in helping them succeed. This, in turn, can make them more engaged with their role and increase the likelihood they’ll stay with your company over the long term—increasing employee retention and reducing employee turnover in the process. According to SHRM, employees are 69% more likely to stay with a company for three years when they experience great onboarding—and that includes orientation for newly hired employees.
Things to Cover During Orientation
When it comes to orientation for newly hired employees, there are a few different things you’ll want to cover. Let’s take a look at the key components of a new employee orientation:
New Hire Paperwork
During the orientation process, you’ll want to have your new employee fill out any paperwork you need for legal or compliance reasons. This can include things like tax documents, benefits paperwork, direct deposit forms, and emergency contact information.
The entire point of orientation is to get your new employee oriented to your company—and, as such, you’ll want to include information about your company in the orientation process.
During your orientation, make sure to review pertinent information about your organization, including your history, your company’s mission and values, and information about your executive leadership team.
This will give your new team member a better sense of who you are and what you stand for as an organization—which can help them feel more connected to the company from the get-go.
This is also a great time to review the current state of your organization, including any important initiatives or developments (for example, an upcoming product launch or new location opening).
Company Policies and Procedures
During new employee orientation, you’ll also want to review key company policies and procedures. These should be included in your employee handbook, which you should give employees a copy of—both physical and digital.
And, after you’re done reviewing it, have new team members sign off they received the handbook and understand the policies and procedures outlined within it.
While policies and procedures can vary from company to company, some you’ll want to consider including in your orientation program (and handbook) include:
- Safety: How to report a workplace accident, workplace safety measures, etc.
- Harassment: How to report harassment issues, how harassment is handled in your organization, etc.
- Time off: PTO policies, how to request time off, etc.
- Benefits: When benefits kick in, how to request benefits information from human resources, etc.
- Discrimination: How your company fights workplace discrimination, how to report instances of discrimination in the workplace, etc.
- Disciplinary: Write up procedures, disciplinary processes, etc.
- Security: Digital security protocols, privacy procedures, etc.
- Payroll procedures: How payroll is processed, how and when they’ll get paid, etc.
In addition to introducing your new employee to the organization, you’ll also want to use orientation as an opportunity to introduce them to their new role.
This might include reviewing the basic requirements of the position and giving them background information about the project they’ll be working on and/or department or team they’ll be working with.
Giving your new employee this information during their orientation will ensure that they understand exactly what they were hired for, what they’re going to be doing, and what the expectations of their new job are—all of which will help them hit the ground running.
During orientation, you’ll also want to introduce your new employee to key members of your team. Depending on the employee’s role, this might include their direct manager or department leader, executive leadership, and/or key co-workers.
This can make it a whole lot easier for them to get started on tasks and work through issues, since they’ll know where to go if they’re stuck.
Another important element to include in an orientation session? A workplace tour. If your employees are working in-person and on site, give them an office or facilities tour.
Show them where they’ll be working, meeting their team and/or getting equipment, and any other areas they need to know about, like the bathroom or conference room. That way, they know how to find who or what they need, when they need it.
If you’re managing remote employees, give them a tour of your digital workspace—for example, by walking them through your different communication apps and letting them know what channels they should use throughout the day and for different requests (like connecting with their direct team member or submitting a support request).
Chances are, your new employee is going to have questions—so make sure to leave room to answer those questions throughout the orientation session.
Sample New Hire Orientation Schedule and Checklist
Want to see what a new hire orientation looks like in action? Here’s a sample schedule. Feel free to use it as an orientation template and customize it for your team, whether your newly hired employee is working in-person, remotely, or a combination of both:
9 a.m.: Check-In
At the beginning of the day, have your employee check in for their orientation. At this point, you can give them any materials they’ll need for the day—like a welcome bundle, complete with relevant paperwork, an overview of the upcoming orientation, and a company-branded t-shirt.
If you’re hosting your orientation in person, put out refreshments—like coffee, tea, and breakfast pastries—for check-in. Encourage your existing employees to stop by and introduce themselves to your new team member.
9:30 a.m.: Office Tour
Before the day really kicks off, make sure to show your new employee around your office space. If your company is remote and/or your new employee will be working remotely, use this time to walk them through your digital workspace—for example, the communication, project management, and collaboration tools your company uses to get work done.
10 a.m.: Orientation Session Overview
Once your soon-to-be-onboarded employee has a chance to check in, set aside time to review the day’s agenda. Go over the upcoming sessions and what you’ll be covering in each—and give your new team member an opportunity to ask any questions before you get started.
10:30 a.m.: Introduction to the Organization
Next, give your new employee an official introduction to your organization. During this session, share your company’s mission, goals, and values. You can also talk through your company’s history, the current state of your organization, and any exciting new initiatives or developments moving your company forward.
11:30 a.m.: Employee Handbook Review
Next up, review the employee handbook. Include any relevant company policies and procedures your newly hired employee needs to know about. Make sure to pause throughout the review to answer any questions your employee may have about your policies and procedures—and how they apply to them.
At the end of the session, have your employee sign off that they received the handbook, that they reviewed the handbook with a company representative, and that they understand the policies and procedures outlined within it.
12:30 p.m.: Lunch Break
There’s a lot of information to digest during the orientation process—so make sure you give your new employee a lunch break midday. If you’re hosting your orientation in person, consider catering lunch—and invite the team to have lunch and mingle with their new team member.
1:30 p.m.: New Hire Paperwork
After lunch, carve out some time to complete paperwork for your new worker—for example, tax forms, benefits forms, and contact information.
2:30 p.m.: Role-Specific Orientation
Next up, take some time to get your new team member oriented to their specific role—for example, by giving them an overview of their new position. This is also the time to share information about their team and department—and how the new employee’s position fits into your company’s existing structure.
3:30 p.m.: Introductions
Make sure to set aside time to introduce your new employee to key employees within your company—for example, company leadership, their department head, and their direct manager.
At the end of the day, set aside time to check in with your new team member and see if they have any questions, concerns, or feedback before you wrap up.
New Hire Orientation Best Practices
Want to make the most out of your orientation? Keep these best practices in mind:
Create an Agenda
In order for your orientation to be effective, it needs to be structured—and that means creating an agenda.
Creating an orientation agenda serves a few different purposes. First, it ensures that you have a plan for the day. It also ensures that you cover all the areas you want, intend, and need to cover during the orientation—and that no key element falls through the cracks.
Finally, an agenda lets your new hire know what they can expect throughout the day—which can help them feel more prepared for each session of the orientation.
Before the orientation, create a detailed agenda that outlines each session, the time, and what you’re going to cover. Then, distribute that agenda to your new hires at check-in.
Optimize Orientation for Remote Employees
While the basic framework of orientation is the same for in-person and remote employees, there are certain steps you’ll want to take to optimize the orientation process for remote employees, including:
- Send information ahead of time: With a remote orientation, it’s important to send certain information to your new hire before the actual orientation. For example, if you’re going to be hosting the orientation on a specific video conferencing platform, you’ll need to let your employee know so they can download the platform beforehand. If you’re planning on giving your employee any company swag, you’ll also want to send it ahead of time; that way, they have their swag in hand (which can make them feel a part of the team) before they start orientation.
- Test technology before the orientation: In order to host a successful remote orientation, you’ll need a variety of software and tools (for example, a video conferencing tool and an online document signing platform). Make sure to test all of that technology before orientation to minimize any glitches or tech-related hold-ups.
- Set up one-on-ones: As mentioned, you’ll want to set aside time for new workers to meet with key company contacts. And while that’s important for every new employee, it’s especially important for remote employees (since they won’t have the opportunity to meet those contacts organically and in person). In addition to setting up time for your new employee to meet with company leadership and their direct supervisors, consider setting up remote one-on-ones with the other workers on their team, which can help them settle into their role and department more easily.
Don’t Overwhelm Your New Employee
There’s a lot of ground you need to cover during orientation (and even more during the larger onboarding process)—and trying to cover all of that ground in one day can feel overwhelming for some employees.
Depending on what you’re including in your orientation for new employees—and how much information you have to cover—consider splitting the orientation process over two or more days. This slower approach can help your new employee better absorb all of the orientation information—and keep overwhelm at bay.
Ask for Feedback
The best way to improve your new employee orientation is to ask your new team members what you can do to improve. At the end of each orientation, ask your employees for feedback about the process—what worked, what didn’t work, and what, in their opinion, you can do better. Then, use that feedback to continually optimize and improve the experience for future orientations.
New Hire Orientation FAQs
Have more questions on the orientation process? Here are a few FAQs to consider:
Do Employees Get Paid for New Hire Orientation?
Yes, orientation takes place after an employee has been hired for a position—which means that they get paid for participating in it.
How Long Should New Hire Orientation Last?
New employee orientation should last as long as it takes to introduce your new team member to your company and their role. Generally, that time frame is anywhere between one day and one workweek.
What are the Key Components of a New Hire Orientation?
There are a few key components to include in orientation—including reviewing the company’s history, mission, and values; completing new employee paperwork; reviewing company policies and procedures; and giving employees a tour of the office (or, in the case of remote employees, the digital workplace).
Use New Hire Orientation to Set Your New Employees Up for Success
Orientation is your opportunity to not only make a good first impression on your newest team member, but also to set them up for success as they settle into your company.
And now that you know how to plan and run an effective new employee orientation, all that’s left to do? Get out there and orient your new hires—and use it as a first step for them to have a thriving career at your company.