Best Practices for Structuring New Employee Orientation

The old adage remains true: “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” And when it comes to structuring new employee orientation, it’s especially applicable.

When a new employee joins an organization, they are typically eager to become a successful part of the team. What they experience in the first few days and weeks can make or break their future success.

New employee orientation helps the organization retain employees and maintain key talent. It’s an opportunity to start the new employees on the right foot, and a process that’s as beneficial for the organization as it is for the employees.

The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) reports that without a successful new employee orientation experience, half of new, senior-level employees leave within the first 18 months of being hired, and half of all hourly workers will leave their new jobs within the first four months. This is because a poor orientation experience may lead new employees to believe they made a mistake by taking the job.

A poorly structured new hire orientation is what every organization should strive to avoid, as the hiring process to replace a new employee costs an organization more than a quarter of the employee’s salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Conversely, the benefits of a properly structured orientation program are significant. SHRM research indicates that organizations with successful orientation programs retain 69% of their new employees for three years and experience 50% more productivity from their new employees. According to SHRM, the key to a successful orientation is a structured plan based on a strategy that involves key stakeholders, engages the new employees and monitors their progress.

Structuring a Successful New Employee Orientation Program

SHRM suggests that successful new employee orientation programs should combine formal and informal onboarding activities and include the Four Cs: Compliance, Clarification, Connection and Culture.

Informal Orientation: Connection and Culture

New employees are often excited to get started. The organization can keep that excitement going by maintaining engagement with them for the time between the acceptance of the offer and the first day of work with informal orientation activities. Informal orientation includes perhaps two of the most important of the Four Cs, which are connection and culture. 

Connection refers to ensuring that the new employee feels welcomed and starts to establish interpersonal relationships with co-workers so that they feel valued and part of the team. Some ways to establish connection include:

  • Sending a welcome letter a few days prior to the new employee’s start date to tell them how excited you are to have them join the team.
  • Sending instructions on where to go on their first day and assigning someone to greet them, introduce them to key staff and give them a tour of the facility (this can easily apply to remote positions).
  • Introduce the new employee prior to or on the new hire’s first day by sending out an employee announcement, usually done by email.
  • Designate a buddy/mentor as the “go-to” person for when the new employee has questions.

The steps in the informal orientation training begin to demonstrate the organization’s culture, which encompasses the collective beliefs of the organization and its values. Below are some ways to exhibit a positive work culture: 

Formal Orientation: Compliance and Clarification

Experts agree it’s important to dot the Is and cross the Ts on an employee’s first day. Formal orientation should incorporate the first two Cs: compliance and clarification.

Compliance training is important to ensure that the new employee knows basic legal regulations, policies and company rules. They should fully understand their benefits, work policies, and any applicable laws that are specific to the industry and their job. Compliance training helps to protect the organization and the employee from risk. From there, clarifying the new employee’s role will set them up for success by making sure that they understand the expectations of their new job.

The clarification step involves training of the organizational chart, mission, vision and values, review of upcoming assignments, and a one-on-one meeting with their immediate supervisor. The new employee needs to understand how their role fits into the organization and contributes to its goals. To support this step, be sure to review the organization’s goals and set clear expectations with a 30-60-90 day plan.

A 30-60-90 day plan is a document that spells out what the new employee should focus on and how to organize their time during their first 90 days. It should include ongoing training, initial projects and assignments and measurable goals. It’s also important that the supervisor schedules time to review the plan regularly to ensure that each item is on track for completion.

The Three Levels of the Four Cs

SHRM also explains that all orientation programs operate using one of three levels of the Four Cs.

Level 1: Passive Onboarding

Passive Onboarding does not include culture or connection, and is when the new employee learns only functional aspects of the job. Approximately 30% of organizations use the passive onboarding strategy.

Level 2: High Potential Onboarding

High Potential Onboarding is when the organization covers compliance and clarification, but includes only some culture and connection. This is the most common onboarding strategy, used by 50% of organizations.

Level 3: Proactive Onboarding

Only 20% of organizations address all four Cs in a systematic orientation strategy at the highest level, which is referred to as Proactive Onboarding. Using Proactive Onboarding, orientation can lead to higher job satisfaction among employees, better commitment to the organization, better retention rates, higher productivity and performance, and lower stress levels.

If you find that your organization’s new employee orientation program is not operating at Level 3, you can begin heading in that direction by incorporating a combination of formal and informal orientation activities that include all Four Cs.

What Not to Do

While there are many steps that help ensure the new hire orientation is successful, there are a few to avoid as well. Human resource professionals caution against overwhelming the new employee with too many statistics and numbers, too much information, long boring videos or lectures. Break up the day with different types of activities to keep them engaged and keep in mind that they will likely not retain all the information they receive on the first day. Plan to revisit the key points at milestones such as 30 days and 60 days.

Incorporating a Successful New Employee Orientation Program Is Just Good Business

Happy employees make happy customers, says Michael Lowenstein, author of the book Employee Ambassadorship. Happy employees are those who are motivated, feel appreciated and rewarded, and enjoy their work. A structured new employee orientation is one way to set the groundwork for a workforce of happy employees. When the organization’s workforce is happy, it translates into better service to customers, and ultimately, better success for the organization.

KnowledgeCity has a vast library of courses, white papers and articles that provide training on ways to keep employees engaged and happy, such as KnowledgeCity’s course on Employee Engagement.

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