Some people will say that “job orientation” is not the same thing as “onboarding” but on this website we consider these terms to be synonymous. In this article, we’ll make sure you cover all your bases by describing the essential elements involved in a high-quality job orientation program.
Start Planning Early for Job Orientation
Few things are worse for a new employee than arriving at your company for their first day of work and feeling like no preparations were made for them. Seems kind of rude, doesn’t it? It’s definitely not the way to get a new hire excited about working for your company. And yet you’d be shocked at how many people have this exact story. They show up for the first day on the job and everyone looks surprised. Talk about awkward! But it gets even worse when they are shown their workstation and none of the equipment or materials they need to do their job have been set up. Again, you’d be surprised how often this happens.
File IT Requests Early so Workstation Equipment is in the Works
When you’re in the recruitment and hiring process is the time to start planning ahead so that everything is ready for the new hire’s first day at work. That means making sure you’ve put in the requests to your IT folks to get the workstation all set up with the computer, phone, and other equipment, and once you’ve made the offer then sign-on credentials for the company’s systems that they’ll be using can be created, and so on. You probably know how fast or slow your IT folks respond to such requests, so put your requests in early enough based on your previous experiences to make sure everything is ready for the new employee’s first day.
Plan a Memorable, Enjoyable First Day of Job Orientation
But the nuts-and-bolts of their workstation is just one thing that happens well in advance of them walking through the door. You want to make sure you’ve got their first day very well mapped out in terms of what they do, who they meet, and so on. Avoid making their first day all about signing off on mountains of paperwork. That’s not a good way to get them excited about working for your company. Much of that paperwork could either be handled beforehand or at least spaced out over the course of their first week so it’s not overwhelming. This is your chance to set the right tone for the new employee, so the first day deserves special attention.
Most new employees are going to be at least a little nervous, so keep the first relatively informal. Decorate their workstation to welcome them, including some company swag items they’ll appreciate like a coffee mug, notepads and pens, canvas bag, and so on. Their manager or direct supervisor might introduce them to their team over coffee and donuts. The rest of the morning could be spent learning the details of the company’s vision and mission, how the company is organized, etc. An organized lunch with the team is also a great idea to keep the conversations going, get a feel for how people relate to each other, current team priorities and more.
The afternoon would be a good time for the new hire to spend quality time with their manager or supervisor to get a fuller description of what their day-to-day work will be like, along with more information about the kind of workplace culture they will experience and want to align themselves with. Topics during this time can also include the goals and objectives for the position the new hire is filling, talking about how the new hire likes to receive feedback, and so on. During a break in the afternoon can be a good time to do a walking tour of the whole company so they can start getting familiar with where things are.
Again, avoid the all-too-common “too much too fast” syndrome. This first day is about getting an overall feel of the company, their team, and their manager/supervisor. Have some time set aside towards the end of this first day where they can ask any questions they want answered, probably with someone in HR or the overall office manager.
Don’t parade them all around the office to introduce them to everyone – they’ll never be able to remember all those names. You can do more rounds of introductions throughout their first week. In terms of introductions, day one can just be meeting their team and getting to know them. But, what you can do is send a company-wide announcement out on email welcoming the new hire into the company. Provide their name, title, the team they’re working with, and anything else you think is pertinent (maybe one or two little personal things, like interests and hobbies) so at least everyone knows there’s someone new.
The takeaway here is that you want your new hire to leave their first day totally excited about coming back the next day, as opposed to wondering how soon they can quit. No one wants to feel like an afterthought!
Engage in a Robust Pre-Boarding Experience
But it’s also important to be in close touch with new hire before they come in for their first day of work and job orientation. This is called pre-boarding, and research has shown that companies who do it experience much better retention of their first-year employees.
As soon as possible after the offer has been made and they accept, send them a high-energy welcome email that includes an electronic copy of the employee handbook. If any of your company’s paperwork (W-4, I-9, etc.) can be handled electronically, include those forms as well. If your employee handbook doesn’t include everything they need to know about benefits, make sure they also get all of that information. These are all opportunities to get as much of the more mundane aspects of job orientation started and finished before they arrive for their first day. It also gives them an opportunity to study these materials and come up with any questions they may have.
If your company has any good orientation videos or general company materials in a learning management system (LMS), make sure to give them login credentials for that so they can engage in some company-related eLearning before their first day as well. They will love feeling like they’re getting an insider’s view of the business before they begin.
Use the Buddy System for Better Job Orientation
It’s always good to pair a new employee up with someone who you know is good at answering questions, has the right take on company culture, and can generally help the new hire out as they’re getting started. But don’t spring this on one of your employees the same day the new hire arrives for their first day of work. Give the buddy employee a heads up several days or a week ahead of time so they’re in the right mindset to be helpful to the new employee.
Let the Job-Specific Training Begin!
Another focus of excellent job orientation is plenty of job-specific training to give them everything they need to know in order to meet their performance expectations. This part of onboarding might last for quite some time – weeks or even months. Like everything else, don’t overwhelm them with too much too fast. And it’s great to build in some kind of task they can accomplish early on. An early “win” in the form of just a small success will go a long way towards giving them an initial confidence boost and have them feeling they’re making valuable contributions right away, even as they’re still learning and ins and outs of the job.
From here, an ongoing onboarding effort becomes an iterative process of training and performance feedback, with more frequent check-ins and evaluations than would happen with longer-term employees. It’s best to think of new hire job orientation as lasting for their entire first year. If both the company and the new employee think in terms of this year-long timeframe, you’ll be much more likely to retain that new hire and watch them become a star performer for your team and the whole business.