Orientation for new hires: The art of being more human

Two people speaking in front of a computer

8 mins, 5 secs read time

It’s easy to forget the experience of being a new employee. From preparing for interviews to understanding the company, discussing whether the fit is right and ultimately getting the offer, new hires have spent much time preparing for their first days and weeks on the job. That’s why it’s important for every company to provide a high-quality new hire orientation experience in return.

As a new hire at Greenhouse, I recently got to experience our orientation first-hand. In the process, I discovered that orientation for new hires like me isn’t all cut and dry – in fact, the process of welcoming a new member of the team shouldn’t happen in one day, or even one week. Creating the best new hire experience actually happens in several stages. Just like making friends with someone and developing your friendship over time, employees treat new members of their team in the same way. It’s the art of being human at its best.

What happens when the employee experience for new hires isn’t considered business critical? Well for one thing, Bersin by Deloitte found that 22% of employee turnover occurs during the first 45 days on the job. Deloitte also reports that 90% of new hires make the decision to stay with a company long-term within the first six months.

After I started at Greenhouse, I found that our own new hire orientation experience is designed with the intention of making a human connection with every employee. In our white paper, “How to understand the ROI of investing in people,” our research shows that a better onboarding program – one that encompasses pre-boarding, new hire experience and training – can decrease an employee’s ramp-up time by 30%. And organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%, according to Brandon Hall Group.

We apply these insights and more to our own employee experience – and continue to iterate and improve – but it’s not just Greenhouse that can benefit. From my own experience with new hire orientation at Greenhouse, here are my top takeaways for any company that wants to become great at hiring.

Be more human before the first week

According to Forbes, Group Vice President of research firm Gartner‘s HR Practice Brian Kropp says the most important time to keep communicating is between when the offer is extended and the first day on the job. No one likes it when they’ve left a familiar role at a previous company only to feel out of touch with their new employer for long stretches of time. It’s one of the most vulnerable times for any new hire: before they really feel like part of the team.

Let’s say you’re a new employee and you’ve just signed your offer letter. You decided to start your role in three weeks because you had a pre-planned trip, but you’re really excited about the company. As time passes, however, you realize that you haven’t heard from your employer in a while. You check your calendar and notice your first day is only a week away. The nerves begin to set in, and then come the questions. “Did they forget about me?” “Was this the right decision?”

Luckily, at Greenhouse, I was happily surprised to receive a series of welcome emails following my offer letter, before I stepped into the office on my first day. From asking me more information about myself (there’s that human connection element again) to asking me to fill out employment paperwork, I was able to be productive and feel more connected to my new team before I even began.

There are multiple benefits to keeping in touch with a new hire before they’ve officially started employment with you. Use the time productively by sharing information about your office and policies, taking care of logistics like tax and legal paperwork and prepping new hires for what to expect once they begin. And rest assured, with the increased communication, your new hires will feel they’ve made the right decision in coming to your company.

Use this handy checklist to ensure you’re communicating effectively with your new hire before week one:

  • Have new hires digitally fill out paperwork such as their NDA, patent/inventions agreement if applicable and tax forms.
  • Make sure everyone involved (from the people team to the hiring manager) knows their role when onboarding the new hire. Assign a “new hire buddy” to act as a liaison throughout week one for every new employee.
  • Provide new hires with a detailed schedule of their first day (including directions to the office, the names of the people they’ll be meeting, whether the office clothing is dressy or casual and what they should plan to do for lunch).
  • Share a copy of your employee handbook and a guide to benefits.
  • Allow new hires to request their preferred desk/computer/equipment setup.
  • Give new hires access to your company intranet or onboarding software like Greenhouse Onboarding so they can familiarize themselves with their coworkers.
  • Share contact information for HR staff or employees who can address their questions before their start date.
  • Inform all employees of the new hire’s upcoming arrival via internal communication channels and encourage everyone to welcome them.

Be more human during the first week

New employees might have felt anxious about even the littlest details, from their first team lunch (should I bring one?) to their day one outfit (business casual or jeans ok?), but if you’ve followed the above, they already know what to expect. We’re off to a great start! But week one is often the most overwhelming time to a new hire.

Think back to the last time you met a new member of your team. You knew your coworkers’ names already because you’ve known them for years, so adding one new person isn’t so tough. Now turn the tables for that new hire! They’re meeting and memorizing each of your names and identifying information about each of you. The larger the company, the more information they have to process – and that’s just the people, let alone the systems and processes. It’s easy to see why that info dump can make just about anyone exhausted. So, for goodness sakes, don’t make your orientation a one-day affair.

At Greenhouse, I was pleasantly surprised to find the on-site orientation spanned one week, with scheduled times within each day to decompress from learning sessions. Each day, our orientation group had time to get to know our fellow teammates better, take an office tour, have a team lunch and better understand what makes the company special. My new hire buddy was on-hand for any questions I had and my hiring manager had already shared additional materials with me about my new role. I emerged from that on-site new hire orientation week feeling excited, motivated and part of the team.

Another important element I discovered with the new hire orientation process was the request for feedback. Even during the process itself, the teams at Greenhouse were eager to understand our reactions to the new hire schedule, the information presented and even the format and scope in an effort to iterate and improve the process for all. I was also asked to provide survey answers throughout the process and beyond. As an employee, I feel valued and listened to when I’m able to provide feedback via survey and in person. It strengthens the bond between me and my employer.

This checklist will help you guide your company through week one of new hire orientation:

  • Confirm with HR that the new hire has signed and provided all required documents.
  • Make a company-wide announcement that the new hire is starting via internal channels.
  • If possible, have new hires start on the same day and report to the same room for a quick welcome gathering.
  • Have the new hire’s buddy give an office tour and take them to their desk.
  • Introduce the new hire to their manager and any other essential people they’ll be working with.
  • If your company uses Slack, add the new hire to the appropriate channels so they can start communicating with their teams.
  • The new hire’s manager should host a weekly 1:1 meeting to clearly outline progress and expectations. This is a great chance to discuss the new hire’s own career goals.
  • Assign work that helps the employee understand the company and the role.
  • Set up essential orientation meetings on their calendar (company values, benefits, IT instruction sessions, etc.).
  • Set up a team lunch for the new hire to get to know their team members.
  • Practice inclusion from the start and get new hires involved. Invite them to upcoming birthday celebrations, happy hours, team outings, karaoke nights etc.

Let’s all be more human throughout the hiring process

Once the initial stage of orientation has concluded, it’s important to note that your new hire is still, well, new. They’ll continue to need guidance, training and support throughout their critical first 90 days at your company. And after that? Their first six months will determine much of their perception of their role with you. It all starts with a strong foundation, built even before your new hire logs into their company email on their first day.

Being more human throughout this process is essential – it highlights empathy and understanding that being new isn’t always easy, but it can be exciting and fun. I’m grateful that my onboarding experience was such a positive one – and I hope that you, too, can create a positive employee experience for all your new hires.

Looking for great new onboarding trends for this year? Read this article from Zavvy for more ideas on creating a more human experience.

Read now
Marnie Williams

Marnie Williams

is Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Marnie has been in the thought leadership content space for 10 years, previously at WeWork and Oracle. She has a master’s in marketing from the University of Denver and a bachelor’s in English from Colorado State University.