Sign In
Get a Demo

The Fatal Flaws in Your New Hire Orientation Program

by Jen Dewar

Jan 16, 2019

New hire orientation is typically done on an employee’s first day of work and, in too many cases, it doesn’t leave a very positive impression. Your hiring manager meets your new hire at the door, offers some lukewarm coffee, and hands them a pile of paperwork to fill out. They input their name and social security number, the date, and signature on page after page of paperwork. This can take anywhere from an hour to a few hours, depending on whether or not they actually read everything they’re signing. They take an office tour, and are introduced to dozens of people along the way—many of whom they won’t remember 10 minutes later. They may sit down with their manager for a brief one-on-one before heading out to a team lunch, followed by an afternoon of learning about the company.

The first flaw in your new hire orientation: it’s boring

Each of these things is necessary—and important—to do, but the first big flaw with this program is that it doesn’t make for a very exciting first day.

Consider this: your new hire came from another role where they knew everybody, had a firm handle on their job, and were making an impact at their organization. As their end day neared, they may have had goodbye lunches and best wishes for their new opportunity. They left feeling on top of the world; ready to conquer their next adventure.

But upon beginning their first day, they’ve been reduced to paper pushing and classroom or video learning for the day. They’ve probably met a lot of people, but can’t remember most of their names, or what roles they’re in. They’re bored, feel alone, and wonder if they made the right decision to leave their prior company and join yours. It’s not uncommon for many of these people to leave after a bad first day, or to wish they had once they realize they’ve felt the same way for the past three months.

The second flaw in your new hire orientation: it’s too much information at once

It’s certainly important for a new hire to get team introductions, learn where things are in the office, and learn about the company—but it’s information overload when done on the same day. And, if you don’t have a formal onboarding program, the information is likely never reinforced to your new hire. Some of it might stick, but the rest will probably never be thought about again.

So, the only thing that ultimately stands out about your new hire orientation is that it was boring, and a waste of valuable time. Is that what you want your employees to remember about their first day at your organization?

How to structure your employee orientation instead

Innovative companies are offering online orientation prior to the first day. This allows the first day to be about meaningful introductions, early learning, and celebration. It also allows new hires to learn key information at a slower pace, so they retain more of it and can ask follow up questions on their first day. The key is to extend and integrate the employee onboarding process into the rest of your onboarding process, and reinforce key messages throughout the employee lifecycle.

Preboarding

Employee preboarding takes place between the time a new hire signs an offer letter, and actually arrives for their first day of work. Communicating and engaging with new hires during this transitional period helps them feel more connected to the organization, while also allowing them to complete some new hire tasks at their own pace. Here are some things you can do at this time:

  • - Send the new hire a welcome email, letting them know what to expect on their first day.
  • - Send new hire paperwork. [Tip: an employee onboarding platform can pull key information from your ATS and send it to your HRIS, payroll provider, and benefits system.] New hires can get the boring paperwork out of the way, and ask any questions they have about it on their first day.
  • - Share information about your company’s history, mission, vision, values, culture, perks, and benefits.
  • - Introduce the key people your new hire should know, such as their hiring manager, buddy, and team, as well as other recent new hires. An accompanying people directory and org chart allows new hires to get to know their colleague’s backgrounds and interests outside of work, as well as how each team is structured.
  • - Ask the new hire to complete a new hire questionnaire, so you can learn more about them, such as their food preferences, favorite holiday locations, and a t-shirt size for company swag. Use this information in a weekly new hire announcement, so the rest of the team can get to know new employees.
  • - Set the new employee up with a Slack account so they can connect and communicate with their new colleagues.
  • - Encourage employees to reach out to new hires via email, Slack, or LinkedIn to say hello and welcome.

First day

An employee’s first day is a crucial time to make a positive, lasting impression. With some of the administrative, logistical stuff out of the way, the first day can be reserved for a warm welcome to the team, company culture, and environment:

  • - Offer your new hire a later arrival time, so they can enjoy a stress-free morning and commute.
  • - Ask the hiring manager to meet their new team member at the door, and introduce them to their buddy.
  • - Schedule breakfast or coffee for your new hire and their buddy so they can get to know one another.
  • - Offer the new hire an office tour, so they can learn the lay of the land and be introduced to some of their new colleagues. [Tip: a people directory or org chart can help your new hires remember everyone’s names after this tour is over.]
  • - Invite the new hire to join you for their new hire orientation. Go into more depth on some of the topics covered during preboarding, such as how you came up with each company value, and examples of employees embodying those values. Allow new hires to ask any questions they may have from their preboarding process.
  • - Invite the new hire to lunch with their team, to celebrate their first day.
  • - Schedule a meeting between the new hire and hiring manager to review responsibilities and goals. Also schedule regular check ins to review performance, and discuss what the employee needs to be successful in their role.

Beyond the first day

While new hire orientation has traditionally been a one-time event on or near the employee’s first day, extending some aspects into the rest of the onboarding process can be useful. For instance:

  • - Schedule all of your new hires for a breakfast or lunch with your CEO or leadership team, rather than using an impersonal video introduction. This can’t always be done on the first day due to scheduling, but working it into the first month of employment can show your organization’s dedication to transparency and communication.
  • - Introduce all of your new hires at all-hands meeting, with information from their new hire survey, so you can continue building strong relationships between employees.
  • - Give regular shout outs to employees who have embodied company values, to recognize a job well done, and to reinforce values to the entire company.
  • - Maintain a people directory and org chart so employees can continue getting to know one another, and can easily find people in the organization.
  • - Continue the buddy system to provide new hires with a resource to answer any company-related questions that come up.
  • - Maintain regular employee communications around their goals and progress.

Final thoughts

Too many new hire orientation programs are employer-centric, focusing on administration and compliance, when they should be more candidate-centric, focusing on engagement. With 25 percent of the U.S. population experiencing some type of career transition each year, it has become increasingly important to engage, retain, and develop your talent. That begins with a strong new hire orientation program. You have exactly one chance to make a positive first impression—don’t waste it.

New call-to-action

Jen Dewar

Jen Dewar is a marketing consultant in the HR technology space with a focus on developing educational content for HR professionals and recruiters. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion, lifelong learning and development, and treating people like people throughout the candidate and employee experiences. Outside of work, you can find Jen snowboarding in Tahoe, enjoying a glass of wine in Sonoma, or hanging out at home with her husband and son.