How To Use Employee Orientation To Set New Hires Up For Success

Female manager training new employees at orientation.

Employee orientation onboards new hires to a company and lays the groundwork for a long and productive tenure there.

If you want to retain workers and ensure their success, standardizing the employee orientation process is an incredibly important step. Research by the Aberdeen Group found that 54% of companies with a formal onboarding process experience greater new hire productivity, while 50% see increased retention. 

We’ll explain what goes into an effective employee orientation process and share tips for making the most out of a new hire’s first few hours on the job. 

What Is Employee Orientation?

Employee orientation is a structured process for introducing new employees to the company and helping them get acclimated to their workplace. The purpose of employee orientation is to: 

  • Make new hires feel welcome
  • Acquaint them with their fellow team members
  • Educate them on company policies
  • Complete important paperwork
  • Answer any outstanding questions they may have

Employee orientation is a collaborative effort between HR, the hiring team and the department the new hire will be joining. It’s conducted for every new employee regardless of their position and precedes any onboarding that’s done at the team level, like training that’s specific to the role. 

Employee orientation typically only happens on the worker’s first day on the job, as opposed to job-specific onboarding which may take place over several weeks. 

Why Is Employee Orientation Important?

Employee orientation has many benefits for new workers and the companies they’re joining. Here are a few of the big ones. 

Sets a positive tone

A well-planned orientation kicks off the employee-employer relationship on a high note. It helps create a positive employee experience from day one, which is important for worker longevity, employer brand building, and future recruiting efforts. 

Capitalizes on new hire momentum

Getting a new job is exciting, and new hires are typically eager to hit the ground running. Nothing kills that enthusiasm faster than a dark room and a sexual harassment training video made in 1984. A well-crafted employee orientation, on the other hand, can help you take advantage of your new recruit’s excitement and parlay it into a successful first few weeks on the job.  

Shares important information

Orientation is an effective way to make sure all new hires receive need-to-know details. Use it to share important pieces of information like your company policy on harassment and the expectations for how employees will conduct themselves while at work. 

Helps ensure a smooth transition

When you give new hires an orderly orientation, it contributes to calmer feelings overall about starting their new job. It can give them the confidence boost they need to get up and running successfully in their role and help them reach full productivity faster. 

Provides structure

Approaching new employee orientation in the same way every time takes pressure off managers, who can devote their attention to providing clear goals and direction to their new reports. Systematizing the process allows you to fine-tune it over time, making your orientation as effective as possible. 

How Long Should Employee Orientation Last?

Employee orientation should range from a few hours to a full workday. Avoid spreading your orientation over multiple days as this can be frustrating for new employees who are eager to get started on the work they were hired to do. 

Note that employee orientation is different from role-based onboarding, which is more tailored to a new hire’s specific job and may take place over a longer time period. 

What To Include In Employee Orientation

Here are some key components of a solid employee orientation program. 

Completion of new hire paperwork

While it’s the least exciting part of starting a new job, filling out some paperwork is par for the course. Knock out all the essential documents like tax forms, confidentiality agreements, and non-compete contracts. Provide documentation on any benefits available to your new workers, like health insurance or stock options, and have them signed if necessary. 

If you want to save time and skip this usually-boring part of orientation, email paperwork in advance and have new hires complete it prior to arriving on their first day. 

Related: New Hire Checklist

Overview of company policies

Provide new hires with your employee handbook and go over the most important items. Things like anti-harrassment and anti-discrimination policies, leave policies, and safety measures are good things to cover. 

Introduction to colleagues

Give new hires a chance to meet the people they’ll be working with the most frequently. Many companies do this over a group lunch, which is a great opportunity for a new addition to get to know their colleagues in an informal setting. Consider pairing new hires with an orientation ‘buddy’ within their department who can serve as the point person for their first-week questions.  

Workplace tour

Show your new hire around the office, building or campus, identifying points of interest like vending machines, restrooms and any amenities like an onsite gym. Get them set up at their workstation and provide the login credentials they’ll need to access their company-issued devices. 

Initial assignments

One of the biggest complaints new employees have when they first start a job is a lack of direction. While a little bit of uncertainty is to be expected, you can help set new hires on a clear path from day one by giving them an assignment to start working on. This might be something small like a low-stakes task on a team assignment or a long-term project that they can begin planning toward. 

Employee Orientation Checklist

  • Company introduction
    • Work hours
    • Dress code
    • Code of conduct
    • Employee handbook
  • New hire paperwork
    • W-4 federal and state tax withholding forms
    • I-9 employment eligibility verification
    • Emergency contact information
    • DIrect deposit and payroll forms
    • Benefits information
    • Any other employer- or state-specific documents
  • Introduction to colleagues
  • Announcement of their arrival via email
  • Pairing with an “orientation buddy” who can answer questions
  • Tour of the office
  • Set up workspace
  • Handoff of login credentials
  • Review schedule, what to expect in the coming weeks
  • Assign first project 
  • Answer questions

Tips For Conducting An Effective Employee Orientation

Start before their first day

The most effective employee onboarding process starts well before the employee shows up for work for the first time; rather, it’s more like a seamless continuation of the hiring process. As soon as you’ve agreed on a start date, get the ball rolling on the necessary paperwork, send copies of documents that require a signature via email, and do what’s needed on your end to get their login and security credentials ready so you don’t lose time on your new hire’s first day.  

Related: New Employee Welcome Letter Template and Tips

Change up the format

To avoid losing your new hires’ interest over the course of a day-long orientation, it’s a good idea to switch things up at least once or twice. Use a combination of written materials, video, and face-to-face onboarding sections. Move between a few different locations to avoid it feeling like one endless meeting. Consider incorporating an ice-breaker or team-building exercise to give recruits a change to talk amongst themselves. 

Don’t overdo it

Avoid using your orientation to unleash a firehose of information or introduce new employees to so many people they’ll never remember who’s who. Getting acclimated to a new company takes time; it’s not something you can force to happen in a single day, no matter how great your orientation is. For many companies, half a day is a completely sufficient amount of time and will keep the experience from being an overwhelming one. 

Involve their team

Orientation shouldn’t fall solely on an HR staffer that the employee spends their first day with and then rarely sees again. It makes more sense and will help make for a smoother transition if you incorporate the people your new employee will be working with regularly, especially their direct manager. This can set them on a path for a strong manager-report relationship. 

By creating a structured, intentionally planned employee orientation process, you’ll help recruits feel welcome while giving them the tools and confidence they need to have a strong start in their new roles. 

Related: How to Involve Employees in the Hiring Process

Resources and sources

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn