Traditionally, new hire orientation is a one-time event on an employee’s first day of work to help them settle into their new company and role. It usually includes a meeting with HR or their manager to learn about the company history, mission, vision, and values. Many new hire orientation programs also review benefits and company policies and assign a stack of paperwork to be completed. It’s essentially death by Powerpoint and papercuts. In fact, 58 percent of organizations focus on processes and paperwork, which is boring and likely causes information overload.

Smart organizations are finding value in creating a more engaging new hire experience and spreading traditional orientation activities throughout a longer onboarding period. If you’d like to do the same, here are five new hire orientation ideas to get you started:

1. Facilitate early introductions to other employees

Don’t wait until your new hire’s first day to begin introducing them to fellow colleagues. There’s no better way to say “welcome” than to get the rest of your team involved. Of course, the hiring manager and recruiter should be the first to say how excited they are to have the new hire on the team. This is also an excellent opportunity to share next steps.

Many organizations assign and introduce new hires to a work buddy before their first day, so they can begin building relationships and ask questions. For instance, someone may want to know just how casual a “business casual” dress code is, or if there is a less expensive parking garage than the one in their office building.

Finally, a welcome message from others in the organization can build off the excitement of the new hire’s offer letter. Whether your organization does this via email, Slack, or one-on-one LinkedIn messages, announce your new hire to the team and ask them to extend a heartfelt welcome. A company org chart and people directory can help your new hire place each person, and remember them long-term.

2. Decorate their desks

At a very minimum, new hires should have a desk, computer, and software logins that have been set up prior to their arrival. Many organizations will even ask the new hire if they have any specific preferences, such a Mac or PC, office chair or exercise ball, and a standing or sitting desk.

Some organizations go above and beyond by decorating their new hires’ desks with welcome messages and gifts. This may include a “welcome” banner, handwritten notes from the hiring manager and colleagues, and some company swag. If you send out a new hire questionnaire to get to know them, add in some of their favorite candy or another personalized gift. You may also choose to provide some gift cards to local coffee shops or lunch spots. Better yet, have your team write welcome notes with IOUs to join them at some local places (on the company, of course) and set dates in your onboarding platform so they get scheduled.

3. Tie in your company’s core values

What better way to learn about your company’s core values than to see them in action? One of Zappos’ core values is “Deliver WOW through service,” and they expect each new hire to spend part of their onboarding period answering customer calls. This ensures that each employee is bought into this core value, and can better understand the needs of their customers.

Consider your organization’s own core values, and how you might incorporate them into your new hire orientation. A company that believes in service to the community might organize a volunteer event as an employee meet-and-greet. Or a company that values attention to detail might use team attention and focus exercise as an ice breaker.

Come back to your values periodically, recognizing employees as they exhibit the desired behavior. It can be especially powerful to recognize new hires during their onboarding period to improve engagement. This can be done during company all-hands meetings, through email, or through a praise wall in the office.

4. Schedule breakfast with the CEO

Rather than making new hires sit through a Powerpoint presentation of the company’s history, mission, and vision, invite them to hear it straight from the CEO. Or, if that’s not an option, set up a time for new hires to learn this information from other company leaders. Twitter’s “Yes to Desk” onboarding program incorporates both a new hire breakfast with their CEO and a monthly happy hour with their leadership team.

If the CEO isn’t able to review key company information in person, try recording a video presentation instead. The President of Dunkin’ Donuts uses a new hire video to share who they are as a people, a company, and a brand. This highly visual format creates a much more engaging new hire experience than a Powerpoint presentation.

5. Plan casual team events for bonding and introductions

Meals and other casual events are a great time to get to know new hires in a less formal way. If you don’t schedule the CEO breakfast for a new hire’s first day, invite them to breakfast or coffee with their manager, buddy, or team instead. Even remote employees can join you on a video call with a coffee for a meet-and-greet!

Make plans for lunch on a new hire’s first day too, so they don’t wind up eating alone. You may even spring for small group lunches over a few days, so your new hire can get to know your immediate team, leadership team, and people from other departments. This can help them build stronger relationships, which lead to better collaboration and productivity for the duration of their employee lifecycle.

Final thoughts

When almost 30 percent of job seekers have left a job within the first 90 days of starting, an engaging new hire experience is crucial. This is your organization’s opportunity to leave a positive first impression, and build off the excitement of accepting the offer letter. It’s also an opportunity for new hires to learn about the company and begin building strong professional relationships, so they feel more connected to your organization. From there, focus on continuing to build engagement throughout the employee lifecycle so you can retain your talent long-term.

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