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What is Employee Orientation?

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After carefully screening, interviewing, and recruiting your new hire, it’s time to make a great first impression. However, orienting and welcoming employees to their workplace and jobs is one of the most understated functions.   

As orientation is the official and formal starting point of an employee-employer relationship, ensuring a newcomer’s smooth transition can significantly affect time to performance, derailment rates, and talent retention.   

This article will help you create a new employee orientation program to set up your new employees for success.   

What is Employee Orientation?

New employee orientation (NEO) introduces new hires to their workplace, colleagues, job responsibilities, and their new work environment 

A good employee orientation allows new employees to feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment, company culture, and hierarchy. Employee orientation is meant to answer any concerns or questions new hires may have about their new role.   

It also introduces the new employee to company policies and sets expectations while assimilating them comfortably into their new position.  

At the end of the employee orientation, the new hire needs to understand how things work at the company, how to perform their specific job, and whom they can ask for assistance and support.  

While taking all this new information may sound overwhelming, it can be a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone when done correctly. A daunting task turned into a positive experience sets the foundation for creating a long-lasting work relationship. 

Employee Orientation vs. Onboarding

After reading the definition of employee orientation, employers and HR teams may wonder if onboarding is the same as orientation.  

The answer is – not really. 

So, what is employee orientation, and how is it different from onboarding?  

The onboarding process starts as soon as a candidate signs the job offer letter and becomes a future employee. Onboarding ends when the employee can independently and efficiently do the job and tasks they were hired to do. This process lasts, on average, anywhere from three months to a year.   

On the other hand, the employee orientation process focuses on the recruit during their first day and first week. As such, the orientation of employees is an essential part of the whole onboarding process.   

In other words, while these two processes are not interchangeable, they are complementary and have the same goal – to familiarize the new hire with the people, organization, and the job.   

The Importance of Employee Orientation for New Hires

The first day at a new job is a very memorable and stressful experience.  

Orientation is important because it lays the foundation for the future career of the new employee within the organization 

Even so, new hires frequently complain that the employee orientation is overwhelming and tedious or that the employee was given no help or guidance. Organizations either dump too much information on new hires at once or, in contrast, are left to sink or swim. 

Unfortunately, the result of these practices is a confused employee who is stressed and not as productive as they could be. They are also more likely to leave the organization within their first year.  

In the end, this financially hurts both the employer and the newcomer 

If this cost is multiplied by the number of employees hired each year, the financial implications of high employee turnover rates can be devastating.  

With the ongoing labor shortages and tight job markets, top talent is hard to come by; therefore, developing a program with a positive employee experience becomes imperative for success.  

The old saying still rings true today “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”. 

Benefits of Employee Orientation

Hiring managers spend considerable time optimizing the recruitment process; even then, it’s still lengthy and tiring.  

In fact, the average time to fill a position is 36 days.   

Sourcing, screening, and selecting candidates are considered the most significant hurdles when it comes to finding top talent, and what comes after a contract is signed is often neglected.   

Orientation is the first step in a newcomer’s journey and establishes the basis for everything that follows. A plethora of research and onboarding statistics show that carrying out a well-structured orientation program positively impacts long-term company success. 

Undoubtedly, the rewards of a well-thought-out program are enormous. Some of the benefits of employee orientation are: 

  • Helps with retention of employees 
  • Increases employee productivity 
  • Lowers newcomer’s ramp-up time and reduces startup costs  
  • Builds confidence and boosts growth 
  • Increases commitment to the organization

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Examples of Employee Orientation

The most common new hire orientation involves some of the following activities: 

1) Filling out HR Paperwork

While paperwork is not the most exciting part of orientation, it is necessary. Employees must have all job-related information, from company procedures and policies to organizational guidelines. Additionally, employees may need to sign non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality forms, tax forms, and other documents.  

Bringing on new employees always comes with paperwork, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a quick and convenient process.  

Nowadays, all this information is compiled in an employee handbook or easily accessible on onboarding software with a dedicated employee portal. 

2) Welcome & Introductions

The social side of onboarding is probably the most important to successfully integrating an employee into an organization.  

Welcome meetings and introductions to departmental managers, team members, and company executives are crucial to developing and nurturing positive and productive working relationships.   

A signed welcome letter from the CEO, an office tour by the manager, and a team lunch are great ways to make new hires feel appreciated and accepted. Getting senior staff and the entire organization involved creates a personable and warm welcome and is the first opportunity for the new hire to absorb the company culture 

Other important representatives that the new hire should meet are: 

  • Benefits coordinator – to explain the company’s benefits coverage.
  • Safety representative – to review emergency and other safety-related protocols.
  • Human resources representative – to handle the paperwork and review the company’s organizational chart.
  • Administration rep – to explain policies related to company equipment, computers, vehicles, travel, or security resources.

3) Access to New Job & Role

Whether it’s as simple as assigning parking space, office map, or giving an access card, the HR department should be prepared to share useful details so that the employee’s first day goes smoothly.  

This includes setting up the workspace with all the necessary hardware and software equipment, sharing Wi-Fi passwords, and explaining all the tools used, such as internal chat systems, printers, email signatures, and other role-specific software.  

4) Induction Training

Regardless of any previous industry experience, the new employee still needs the training to know how your company operates.  

This could be safety training, job-specific technical training, or soft skills that align with the company values.   

Employee training can be done by using a learning management system (LMS), attending seminars, or shadowing more experienced employees. New hires feel more at ease when they have a mentor to help guide them through their first couple of weeks.  

New Hire Orientation Best Practices

Unfortunately, throwing new hires immediately into work without training or socializing has become the norm instead of the exception. As opposed to doing that, below are some best practices to assist employees with tools and information and help them succeed in the job.  

Best Practice #1: Start Early

Orientation begins before an employee’s first day.  

Pre-boarding includes greeting the new hire with a welcome email and package, clearly requesting the necessary paperwork they will need on Day One and sharing the orientation’s agenda.  

This way, the employee knows what to expect and gets them up to speed faster.  

Best Practice #2: Use Technology

Technology can streamline and automate the administrative side of the onboarding process. Instead of overloading the new hire with information, use a benefits or employee portal with all the information and let them absorb information in their own time.  

Best Practice #3: Gamification

Aside from streamlining documents, technology can be incorporated into the everyday basics of employee orientation. Engage employees in onboarding activities using interactive training media, progress charts, quizzes, and instant feedback.  

Best Practice #4: One-on-one

Technology can’t replace one-on-one interactions between newcomers and other members of staff. Spending quality time with coworkers and other senior members during orientation will elevate the onboarding experience and make new hires feel more valued.   

Best Practice #5: Use Checklists

Checklists are an excellent way to create structure and ensure you’re not missing any necessary steps or documents. Checklists are also helpful for employees to keep track of their progress during onboarding and know what to expect during their first week. 

Best Practice #6: Evaluate & Improve

Gathering feedback gives information to HR on how to improve the integration process. Continuously optimizing the employee orientation program leads to a higher chance of employee retention 

New Employee Orientation Checklist

Here is a checklist of what a new employee orientation entails:  

  • Mandatory new hire paperwork 
  • Discussion about benefit plans  
  • Overview of a company’s history, vision, mission, and values 
  • Complete electronic paperwork (Email account, HRIS account, Communication tool) 
  • Guided tour of the office and building 
  • General training for all employees and role-specific training 
  • Review of health, safety, security, and other policies 
  • Review of administrative procedures 
  • Preparation of workspace (Computer, Chair, Office supplies, Uniform, Business cards, Parking passes)  
  • Set job expectations (Short-term and long-term goals)  

For more details, you can download this complete checklist.

Employee Orientation Programs

A human resource manager must plan a corporate orientation program in a way that creates a positive, long-lasting impact on new hires. The best employee orientation programs: 

  1. Have attainable and measurable goals   
  2. Make the first day a welcoming celebration 
  3. Have a structure and follow a checklist while still providing a personalized approach 
  4. Are interactive and engaging instead of rushed or ineffective 
  5. Use technology to streamline processes 
  6. Involve the employee with all coworkers and managers 
  7. Get the new hire started on a project right away 
  8. Use feedback to improve continuously 

The Purpose of Employee Orientation

The primary purpose of orientation is for new employees to feel comfortable and adjust to their roles. It is a powerful way for a new employee to form an emotional bond with the company, its culture, and coworkers.  

And yet, so many companies don’t do a great job onboarding employees.  

One survey found that only 12% of employees think their organization does a great job onboarding. Poor orientation leads to higher employee turnover rates, reduced job satisfaction, role ambiguity, and disengagement.  

To avoid disengagement and high turnover rates, a practical orientation at its core must embrace its primary purpose – connection.  

Disciplinary action

Employee Orientation & Sense of Belonging in the Workplace

Orientation and onboarding are all about connection.  

While most information hires receive during orientation is forgotten, the relationships and bonds they build initially may last for the rest of their careers.  

Employee Orientation & Job Satisfaction

An organization that values orientation creates an environment of transparency and clarification. It lets the employees know the organization is ready to work with them, bringing greater employee commitment and satisfaction. 

Employee Orientation & Company Culture

 One way to cultivate culture is to start from the beginning of a new hire’s journey.  

Helping new hires understand the company’s ethos will help them fit in and feel like a good fit and more likely to stay. During orientation, emphasize things like diversity and inclusion, punctuality, empathy, and career mobility to demonstrate the centrality of your culture. 

Employee Orientation & Retention

Over a quarter of all new hires leave their company after their first year. A well-designed, engaging, and smooth orientation increases your chances of retaining new hires. In fact, one research shows that organizations with a strong orientation program improve new hire retention by 82% 

On a Final Note 

In our hyper-growth and agile work environment, it is easy to lose track of the details and label orientation as “low-priority.” However, new employee orientation is crucial as it lays the groundwork for new employees to become contributing members for the years to come.   

Written by Shortlister Editorial Team
Written by Shortlister Editorial Team

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