New hire orientation is a key part of onboarding. Since this process sets new employees up for the rest of their time at the company, it’s important that new hire orientation receives the attention it needs. Currently, only 12% of employees in the US think their companies onboard employees well, according to Gallup.
This process clearly has some room for improvement. For human resources managers, it’s important to get new employees up to speed in a clear way that helps them feel confident instead of overwhelmed. A good first impression can lead to higher retention rates and more employee buy-in. In fact, Gallup also reports that 70% of employees with exceptional onboarding experiences report having “the best possible job.”
As you evaluate your current new hire orientation process and your management onboarding process, keep these seven best practices in mind to provide a smooth transition for employees into their new roles.
What Is New Hire Orientation?
New hire orientation is a structured process undertaken by organizations to introduce and integrate newly hired employees into their work environment. It includes essential information about company policies, culture, job responsibilities, benefits, and workplace expectations. The goal of new hire orientation is to familiarize employees with their roles, colleagues, and the overall organization, which leads to a smooth transition into their positions. This process helps speed up the learning curve, enhance engagement, and promote a sense of belonging from the word go. Through interactive sessions and presentations, new hire orientation ensures that employees gain the knowledge and tools needed to become productive members of the team while aligning with the company's values and objectives.
Orientation Vs. Onboarding
It’s easy to confuse orientation and onboarding. Both happen when a new hire joins the team as a part of employee integration, but there are a few key differences.
Orientation typically refers to a shorter, initial phase focused on introducing new hires to basic information like company policies, facilities, and immediate tasks. It's a broad overview to help employees feel comfortable and oriented in their new environment.
Onboarding, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive and extended process that extends beyond orientation. It involves a strategic approach to integrating employees into the organization's culture, values, and long-term goals. Onboarding includes a deeper dive into job-specific training, team collaboration, skill development, and relationship building. It spans a few weeks to several months and aims to enhance job satisfaction, performance, and retention.
Why a New Hire Orientation is Important
New hire orientation plays a pivotal role in the successful integration of employees into an organization. This makes life easier for new hires and HR departments alike.
A Better Employee Experience
The most obvious benefit is that orientation helps create a welcoming atmosphere, alleviating any initial anxiety and helping new hires feel valued and part of the team from day one. This positive start fosters a sense of belonging and boosts morale.
It can also equip new employees with the knowledge and tools needed to excel in their roles. By providing insights into job expectations, company policies, and organizational culture, orientation sets the stage for a smoother transition into their responsibilities. This enhances their confidence and job performance.
Another benefit that is often overlooked is how orientation contributes to engagement. It does this by demonstrating the company's investment in the new hire's growth and development. When employees feel supported and informed, they are more likely to remain engaged and motivated in their work.
Easing the HR Workload
Orientation is a great time to handle all of the necessary paperwork required for legal and administrative compliance. This ensures all essential documentation is completed accurately and efficiently, and in one sitting. That makes paperwork easier to track and gather.
A comprehensive orientation program can also significantly impact employee turnover. Effective orientation helps employees become acclimated quickly, reducing the likelihood of frustration or confusion that might lead to early resignations. When new hires are adequately prepared and engaged, the organization benefits from higher retention rates, saving costs associated with turnover and rehiring — and it frees up time in HR to work on other tasks instead of continually re-hiring for the same role.
Ultimately, new hire orientation creates a strong foundation for employee success, organizational cohesion, and long-term commitment, making it a critical component of any effective onboarding process.
Tips for New Hire Orientation
Create Repeatable New Hires Orientation Templates
Systems are the best way to ensure new hires receive timely and consistent information about their new role. Your orientation program should be a set of repeatable templates you can re-use for every new hire — with specific versions depending on roles you frequently hire for.
Consider including the following in your employee orientation templates:
- Essential new hire paperwork
- welcome email
- Schedule of essential meetings and trainings
- Resources you need to send new hires, like an employee handbook
- Checklist of tools to give new hires access to, like company software and their email account
- Process for introducing the employee to essential contacts like their manager and an onboarding buddy
- Send a welcome gift
- Set up their work area
Creating a new employee orientation template will save you time and ensure all essential tasks are completed.
Send New Hires a Welcome Letter
Send new employees a welcome letter that covers essential information new hires need to know before their first day.
This can include an orientation schedule, who to report to, resources they need to read before their first day, account access, and other important contact information. Add a little information on company culture to get them excited and remind them that you’re excited for them to join the team.
By providing new hires with essential information upfront, you can help set their expectations for their first week on the job. This can help ease new employees’ anxiety or nerves about getting up to speed in their new role.
Share an Agenda
Give new employees a clear idea of their schedule by building out an agenda with all their orientation sessions and activities. This will be helpful for both new hires and their managers. New team members will know what to expect each day. And managers can understand where the new hire is in the orientation process.
In the agenda, include the time of each event, the location or virtual meeting link, who is hosting it, and a short description.
Make Their First Day Welcome
On a new employees’ first day, go the extra mile to greet them warmly and provide a comfortable work environment. Introduce new hires to their manager and any other essential team members they will interact with during orientation. This will help a new hire feel supported and like they’re part of the team from the beginning of their new job.
Send out an announcement to current employees introducing the new hire and encouraging them to stop by — or, for remote employees, send a virtual hello so they feel welcome.
If you have an in-person office, invite new hires to a group lunch or set them up with a lunch buddy, so they don’t eat alone. And host some team-building activities to build comfort and trust with their coworkers (but skip the trust falls, please!). Consider giving new employees gifts like a company t-shirt or a mug to make their workspace feel welcoming.
Make the Process Engaging and Interactive
Whether you use recorded materials or meet live with new employees, keep them actively engaged throughout the orientation process.
One way is to give ample opportunity for interaction throughout orientation and avoid long lectures. Ask questions, have employees try things hands-on, or break them into discussion groups.
You can also use different formats like videos and interactive quizzes throughout your orientation process.
Pair New Employees With an Onboarding Buddy
To help a new employee feel at home, consider assigning them a buddy who can check in frequently, answer questions, and provide support during the orientation process.
Usually, this is a peer who has been with the company for a while and knows the ropes. It can be more comfortable for some new employees to reach out to a peer for help with certain questions rather than their manager since peers aren’t evaluating their job performance.
Include an Orientation Survey to Gather Feedback at the End
To ensure your new hires get everything they need from their first days with your company, include a short survey to understand how they felt about the orientation experience.
Ask new employees to rate their satisfaction with different aspects of orientation, such as the materials used, time spent on various activities, and if they feel like they understand the company’s mission, values, and company policies.
This information can be helpful in making adjustments to your new hire orientation process and ensuring new employees are set up for success.
Engage Employees For the Long-Term
With the right practices in place, you can create a positive new hire experience that helps new employees feel welcome and supported from day one. But this is just the start. As a new hire becomes a seasoned member of your staff, it’s important to keep them happy and engaged.
Evaluate your current strategy to keep valuable talent. Are you offering competitive compensation, opportunities for growth, and strong benefits? Consider gathering feedback from employees through regular engagement surveys.
As you encourage work-life wellness, watch as the symbiotic relationship between work-life wellness and employee retention takes shape. We’ve found that 75% of HR leaders see their wellness program as very important or extremely important to employee retention. Interested in learning more about how work-life wellness increases employee retention? Talk to a Gympass wellbeing specialist today!
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.