To start employees off on the right foot, make sure your orientation helps them feel welcome and answers all of their questions.
The first 90 days of employment are a critical time for new hires. New employees often feel vulnerable, out of their element and unsure of themselves. Unfortunately, many businesses do little to help their employees acclimate to new roles. Instead of providing a welcoming environment, they approach new hires with lofty expectations, and little training to go along with it. That's probably why recruiting firm Jobvite found that 29% of new hires leave within the first 90 days. Of those who quit, 45% say it was because the job wasn't what they thought it would be.
To set up your new employees for success, you should have a new-employee orientation program that ensures they know who everyone is, have all of the tools they need to do their job, and are able to polish off all of their required paperwork.
What is new employee orientation?
Employee orientation is the process of welcoming employees into your company. The goal is to make new employees feel welcome and set them up for success in their new positions. This is typically done by giving them an overview of the company's culture, values and different departments. They'll fill out any necessary HR paperwork and get set up in their new workstation.
Most importantly, new employees should meet their team and leaders in the company. This will help them feel comfortable and show them where to turn for answers.
Why is new employee orientation important?
Employee orientation lays the foundation for that person's experience with your company. It sets a bad tone for the days and months ahead if they show up for their first day only to find their workstation isn't set up and no one knows who they are.
In comparison, an effective new employee orientation can provide multiple benefits:
- The employee gets accurate information about the company.
- It helps them clearly understand their role and job expectations.
- It sets them up for success right from the start.
- They'll know whom to turn to if problems arise.
- It establishes open communication between the employee and their manager.
- It can improve employee retention rates at your company.
What should employee orientation include?
Follow these best practices for employee orientation. With proper onboarding, you're more likely to make the process go smoothly for both the new hire and the rest of your organization. Follow a set procedure for employee orientation to confirm that all new staff members receive the same information.
New employee paperwork
Typically, a new employee orientation begins with the employee filling out their paperwork for the human resources department. This paperwork usually includes a W-4 form and a direct deposit form.
Orientation also provides basic information the employee will need to know for everyday work, such as how to enter and exit the building, how to request time off, and any relevant safety information. Remember to point out any potential onsite hazards to new employees. You also want to provide rules on how to handle emergencies that could occur in the building.
Employees will also learn about their benefits, company policies and what an average workday looks like. The orientation usually includes giving them a tour of the building, introducing them to their team, and setting them up in their new workspace. In most cases, when you're going over company policies, you should provide a copy of the employee handbook. Point out any key takeaways from the handbook. Ask the new hire to sign a receipt document to confirm that they received a copy of the handbook and any other pertinent documentation.
Training sessions are standard for new employees. Set up relevant onsite or offsite training, and go over your expectations for the training sessions with the employee. For instance, you may require new employees to complete certain online training modules as part of orientation. If you don't have official training materials like these, you could ask the employee to shadow a seasoned staff member in a similar role to theirs for a certain period.
Food and beverage policies
Let the employee know of any food and beverage options within the office building, such as where any vending machines or cafes are located. You should also discuss any food and beverage rules for the workplace. Let them know if company policy forbids eating at desks, for instance.
During a tour of the building, point out the location for each relevant department. Introduce the new hire to key members within each department.
Provide a list of important company contacts. Include email addresses and phone numbers for managers, key employees, clients and vendors.
Give the new employee a list of any resources that can assist them in their new role. Keep the list up to date to provide the latest relevant information.
There's a lot of vital information to review at orientation, but it's also important to use this time to make the new employee feel comfortable. It could be a good idea to take them out for coffee or lunch to help them start feeling comfortable in their new role.
How to plan a successful 90-day orientation for new hires
Given how expensive and time-consuming employee turnover is, it's more important than ever to get your onboarding process right. Let's look at six ways you can set your new employees up for success from the start.
1. Set everything up before they arrive.
A successful employee onboarding process starts well before the new hire's first day on the job. Make sure their workstation is ready and that they have all the equipment they'll need. Make a folder for them that outlines your company policies and employee benefits information.
Also make sure other staff members know when the new person will start. There's nothing more awkward for a new employee than getting blank stares on their first day of work. It can be helpful to come up with a hiring timeline and onboarding checklist to make sure you haven't overlooked any part of the process.
2. Be there to welcome them on day one.
When your new hire shows up for their first day of work, someone needs to be there to greet them. The first day sets the stage for the course of their employment, so you want to get this right.
Your only real goal for that first day is to show them that they made the right choice by coming to work at your company. You can do this by introducing them to their team and other employees they'll be working with.
Give them a tour of the building, showing them where the restrooms, copy machines and exits are. It's also a good idea to explain the different departments of the company and what each one does. Let them know what they'll need every day when they show up to work, and what an average day looks like in the office. If possible, have other employees help you out with the various orientation tasks.
At the end of the day, your new employee should head home knowing that they made the right choice and feel excited about their future with your company.
3. Have them fill out their paperwork.
The paperwork is probably the most tedious aspect of new employee orientation, but it has to be done. Here is some of the paperwork that you'll want new employees to fill out:
- W-4: Form W-4 is used to track employees' tax withholdings.
- I-9: Form I-9 confirms the new hire's employment eligibility. They'll need to provide a copy of their driver's license as well.
- Employee handbook: Your employee handbook should cover the rules and expectations in place at your company.
- Overview of company policies: This includes information on how you handle matters like sexual harassment, time off and maternity leave.
- Benefits orientation: This is where you'll review the health insurance and any other perks or benefits your company provides its employees.
- Direct deposit form: Employees will need to provide their banking information so that you can pay them by direct deposit.
- Other paperwork: New-hire paperwork could also include a nondisclosure agreement, noncompete agreement, confidentiality agreement or any other forms relevant to your employees.
4. Introduce them to their team and other employees.
A big part of new employee orientation is helping that person get to know the people they'll be working with, because their co-workers will play a big role in their job satisfaction.
Data shows that 50% of employees will stay at a job they don't like because they've formed positive relationships with other employees. For comparison, 65% of employees would leave a job because of poor communication at work.
If possible, the hiring manager should take the new employee to lunch. It's also a good idea to assign that person a buddy who will assist in onboarding activities over the next 90 days. This buddy will be someone for the new employee to turn to if they have any questions.
Going above and beyond to welcome your new staff members will help them establish an emotional connection with your business right from the start.
5. Review their role and job expectations.
Yes, your new employees probably read the job description when they applied, but it's a good idea to go over it with them on the first day. Give them a written description of their role and responsibilities, and review it with them in person.
It's important to help new employees understand how their job contributes to the company as a whole. Employees will feel more connected to their job if they know what their contribution is.
Make sure they also know who their manager or supervisor is and who they'll be checking in with on a regular basis. Answer any questions the employee has, and let them know you'll follow up with them in the coming weeks and months to see how they're doing.
6. Discuss their career goals.
Take some time to talk to your new employees about their short-term and long-term career goals. Today's employees want to work for organizations that invest in their professional development. This is especially true for millennials: 87% say career growth and professional development opportunities are things they look for in a job.
Ask your new employees what their career goals are, and help them set measurable goals for their first 90 days of employment. You can check in with them on their progress and set longer-term goals going forward. [Read related article: How Professional Development Opportunities for Employees Help Your Small Business]
A lot happens during employee orientation, and it's important to make new employees feel welcome on their first day. But even after you ace this, you still need to check in with them regularly over their first 90 days, because this time period will make or break their experience with your company.
Once your new employee has been there for 30 days, schedule some time to sit down with them and talk about how things are going. Discuss their progress and offer guidance for how they can be successful going forward.
At the end of the 90 days, you can sit down again with that employee and see what progress they've made toward their goals. This gives them a time to identify any areas where they can improve and to set new goals for their first year.
Employee orientation FAQs
How long should employee orientation last?
Employee orientation can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. Many factors determine how long the orientation will take, including organization size, the new employee's job role, and the amount of necessary paperwork. However, according to BambooHR, most employee orientation sessions last an average of three hours.
Notably, employee orientation is different from onboarding, which is a more comprehensive process.
What's the difference between orientation and onboarding?
The most notable difference between orientation and onboarding is the timing. Orientation is a one-time event for a new hire; onboarding is a process that happens over several weeks or months. Orientation is an introduction to the workplace, while onboarding sets the new employee up for success through trainings and meaningful interactions. Orientation can take place in a meeting room or the HR office, but onboarding happens directly on the job. Most training is part of onboarding, whereas orientation is the introduction to staff members, company policies, and the office space.
Who is responsible for employee orientation?
In most cases, the new employee's direct supervisor will handle their orientation on the first day of their employment. If the manager is unavailable, a representative from HR could handle the employee orientation. Management is typically in touch with HR during the orientation process, since HR will be responsible for providing handbooks and copies of company policies.
Are employees paid for orientation?
Yes, you must pay employees for the time they spend in orientation. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are responsible for paying employees for any time they spend in attendance of trainings, lectures, and similar sessions.