How To Create an Effective New Employee Orientation Program

Updated June 30, 2023

Employee orientation is important to both the new hire and the company itself. Not only does it acclimate new employees to the environment, it also provides valuable insights to the company that contributes to the continued growth and improvement of the program. While having a system in place for welcoming new employees is universally known to be helpful to the company and employees, many companies struggle to find the ideal mix of activities to make the employee feel welcome and give them a strong start to their new job.

In this article, we will discuss the components of an orientation program, what is important and how to design an orientation program.

Purpose of orientation

New employee orientation is a great opportunity for a company to make a positive first impression on newly hired employees. New employees are often nervous about their first day, and orientation can help them feel welcome and informed on the positive aspects of their new company. Good reasons for implementing an effective orientation plan include that it can: 

Reduce anxiety

Depending on the person, anxiety can impede the ability to effectively learn new job routines and responsibilities. Orientation helps to ease the new employee into the workplace while guiding them through the first awkward days on the job. 

Reduce costs

The benefits of a proper orientation far outweigh the costs, as they can help the employee get acclimated to the job and workplace culture much more quickly, reducing the time and costs associated with learning the job.

Reduce turnover

Employee turnover often increases when employees don’t feel valued or are essentially set up to fail at their jobs. An orientation serves to show the employee that they are valued by the organization and support their success by providing the tools they need to do the job.

Save time

When human resources present an initial orientation that covers all the topics, supervisors and coworkers are less likely to have to take time out of their days to teach the employee about company policies, where everything is and how to work the necessary equipment. When these items have already been covered, management and coworkers need only to help reinforce the concepts. 

Outline expectations

When an employee learns upfront what is expected of them and what to expect from others, less time is spent trying to find out these things through guesswork and trial-and-error and more time is spent getting the company’s money’s worth from the employee.

Related: What Are the Different Types of Workplace Training?

How to design an effective orientation program

Most companies begin their employee orientation programs by welcoming the employees to the team, followed by an outline of the company’s basic policies and procedures. Expectations should be clearly set and new employees should be excited about becoming productive members of the team. To map out the orientation process to get the maximum payoff, try following the steps below to get started: 

1. Welcome the employee

From the time the new employee walks in the door, the focus should be on easing their anxiety. Having an agenda outlined for the first few days will help the employee know what to expect. They should be escorted around the office to be introduced to everyone on their team, and their direct supervisors should have some one-on-one time with them, preferably an off-site lunch, where both parties can feel more at ease. 

2. Provide the employee handbook

The handbook should cover compensation/benefits, details about pay periods, direct deposit, payroll deductions, health insurance, attendance/leave and safety/security policies and any rules of conduct, including anti-harassment, dress code, drug and alcohol policy, computer, social media and phone use and fraternizing with co-workers.

3. Go over policies

New employees should be made aware of rules and policies right away to help them avoid the blunder of accidentally doing something embarrassing. Basic topics to cover should include parking, signing in (if applicable), breaks, etiquette and any other policies that are super important for every employee to follow. 

4. Thoroughly explain the details of the job

Within the first few days, it’s important to touch on and reinforce what you spoke about during the interviewing process to allow the employee to form a sense of connection with the company. This process helps new employees understand the company’s expectations, values and mission so they can connect their specific job to the pursuit of fulfilling these goals.

5. Set goals and action steps

During their first week on the job, new employees should meet with their supervisor to have an in-depth discussion about job responsibilities and objectives. The employee should be prepared to ask questions to gain a clear understanding of their expectations, tasks and priorities. 

6. Clearly define overarching expectations

Management must instill in new employees a full understanding of the company’s strategic goals and how the employee’s goals are properly aligned with supporting this overall vision. Knowing what they’ll be evaluated on will empower them to do a better job, and when they’re encouraged to attain goals that are in line with a larger purpose, the employee will feel their purpose and importance within the organization and pursue company goals as their own.

Related: Documentation in the Workplace

Orientation tips for new employees

Starting a new job can be exciting. When you start, you’ll likely be guided through an orientation process, during which you’ll meet your colleagues, find out where your office is, learn about benefits and sign a lot of paperwork. Here are a few tips to make the process as anxiety-free as possible:

1. Arrive on time

Or, better yet, early. The first impression is the lasting impression. To ensure your timely arrival, plan accordingly. Do a dry run a couple of days before you start, driving to the office in morning traffic to gauge how much time you’ll need to leave yourself. Note any available secondary routes in case of a road blockage. 

2. Dress the part

Speaking of first impressions, make sure you’ve dressed appropriately. You’ll want to be comfortable and adhere to the dress code, which you should have been informed of during the orientation scheduling. If you weren’t, play it safe by wearing something similar to what you wore to the interview. A good rule to follow for the first couple of weeks on the job is to match the style of what the other employees are wearing, but go more formal. This will set the tone for your time at this job. 

3. Be prepared

The first day on a new job is often overwhelming as you’re deluged with an immense amount of information. Make sure you bring a pen and a small notepad to take notes. You’ll be filling out a lot of basic paperwork, so make sure you bring what you need to ensure you have all the necessary information at your fingertips. It’s smart to carry a bit of cash, in case you need to get coffee, lunch or anything else that may come up.

4. Do your research

Since you’ve already been hired, it should be safe to assume that you know a thing or two about the company. It’s recommended that you do a little more digging the night before your orientation begins. If they provided you with an employee handbook before the orientation, make sure you thoroughly read everything and have your questions ready.

5. Get enough sleep

It’s understandable to be anxious and maybe restless right before you start a new job, but make sure you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep, as you’ll awake more energized, with better skin and a sharper mind to help you digest the copious information you’ll be receiving. You’ll need the extra energy, for sure.

6. Bring a snack

And a water bottle. Just in case.

7. Ask questions

The purpose of the orientation is to give you all the information you need to succeed from day one. Keep this in mind if you become nervous about asking questions. Listen carefully and pay attention, but ask if you don’t understand something, as it could prove very important later. You’re expected to ask questions⁠—just make sure they’re necessary and intelligent.

Related: How to Introduce Yourself to New Coworkers

After orientation

A supervisor or human resources professional should check in with new employees at predetermined points to make sure they are comfortable and succeeding at their job. These points are typically two weeks in, a month, two months. Each company can choose the intervals that work best for the circumstances. These check-ins should touch on the following questions:

  • Do they feel they’ve been well-prepared for their new role?

  • Do they understand the company and its role within the organization?

  • Are there any questions that haven’t yet been answered?

  • Has communication with their managers been productive?

  • What ideas do they have regarding employee development in the future?

  • Was the job-specific training they received helpful? Did it cover the right areas and was it worth the time and resources spent on them?

Remember, the purpose of employee orientation is to provide basic information to prepare new employees to actively contribute to the organization. As employees are long-term investments, it’s important that they’re treated as such.

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