What is a new hire orientation?

Woman working from home checking email on phone

Remember the last time you started a new job? Whether it was a week or a year ago, chances are you remember the roller coaster of emotions you felt at the time. There’s usually a mix of excitement, nerves and maybe a little fear of the unknown.

One of the reasons we experience all these feelings when starting a new role is that there’s a lot of uncertainty. We don’t know our manager and teammates’ communication style, the company culture and working norms or even small things like where people go for coffee or lunch.

New hire orientation is a process that helps provide new employees with essential information they’ll need, not just to do their job well, but to feel comfortable in a new role and company. It often gives new hires the chance to meet people from different departments throughout the company and connect with other new employees who are joining at the same time. Orientation is often one part of a larger onboarding process for new employees.

Creating an intentional new hire orientation helps create a positive first impression for new employees. According to Gallup, one in five employees report that their most recent onboarding was poor – or they received no onboarding at all. But employees who had exceptional onboarding experiences are 2.6 times as likely to be extremely satisfied with their workplace.

When new hires feel good about their early experience at a company, they’re more engaged and motivated. Harvard Business Review found that 51% of employees would go above and beyond if they had a positive onboarding experience.

Orientation also provides an opportunity to introduce new hires to the company culture, values and working norms, which helps them gain confidence in how to approach their work and handle routine tasks like requesting time off or setting up meetings.

Creating a new hire orientation program

If you’re wondering how to go about creating new employee orientation at your company, here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Choose the right day and time for orientation

Generally, a member of the HR or People team will lead the company’s new hire orientation and the new employee’s direct manager will be responsible for their orientation to the role and team. In either case, it’s helpful to think about when will be the best time to plan orientation activities. For example, you might choose to have a new hire start on a Tuesday or come in a few hours later than the usual start time so whoever is responsible for orientation has time to address their regular work tasks ahead of time. Some companies that hire in larger volumes schedule orientations to happen at specified dates so that a large number of new hires can go through orientation in a cohort, but at smaller companies or for certain high-priority roles, this might not always be possible. The important thing is to be intentional about every aspect of orientation so new hires feel welcomed and taken care of from the moment they start on their first day. Are you welcoming new hires who are starting remotely? Check out this article to learn more about creating a virtual onboarding program.

  • Share the agenda in advance

Remember what we were saying earlier about the fear of the unknown? It can be scary walking into a brand-new place and not knowing what to expect. If you’ve planned out an agenda for new hire orientation, sending it to participants ahead of time can help put them at ease. Make sure you let them know about anything they’ll need to bring (such as specific forms of ID or bank details) and give them an idea of how long each session will take. If there’s any other information that could be useful (for example, if they’ll have their photo taken for their badge or they’ll be going out to lunch or happy hour with the team), make sure to communicate that ahead of time. Your goal is to over-communicate and eliminate the chance of surprises.

  • Ensure all necessary paperwork is completed

New hire orientation often occurs on a new employee’s first day or throughout their first week on the job. This presents a good opportunity to ensure they’ve completed any necessary paperwork like their contract and non-disclosure agreement and shared any information you need such as their work eligibility documents or bank details.

  • Cover important policies and procedures

Does your company have specific policies about working from home, taking time off or handling customer data? Or maybe compliance or legal issues like how to handle customer data or create a safe and harassment-free workplace? Whatever the topic, new hire orientation is the ideal time to communicate these policies and procedures.

  • Provide an employee welcome packet/swag bag

If your company has an official employee guidebook or other materials all employees should have, schedule time during new hire orientation to distribute them. And on a lighter note, if you have branded swag like notebooks, pens, coffee cups, stickers, backpacks, hoodies, etc., giving employees these items during orientation can help them feel welcome and well-prepared.

  • Introduce managers and key team members

New hires will usually already know their direct manager and at least a few teammates they met through the course of their interview process. But they might not necessarily know the managers or team members from other departments. New hire orientation can be the perfect opportunity to bring in different leaders or team members to briefly introduce their teams and help new hires get a sense of your company’s organizational structure. In large companies, this may be done virtually (with the relevant people calling in via video conference) or even asynchronously (with people recording video introductions in advance and new hires watching them during orientation or sometime in their first week).

  • Provide one-on-one time for new hires

While the group setting can be helpful in communicating information to all new hires (and give them the chance to connect with each other), it’s also important to create opportunities for new hires to connect with their new coworkers on a one-on-one basis. Make sure your orientation includes one-on-one time between new hires and their direct managers, team members and anyone else they’ll be working with closely. Organizing these one-on-one sessions will likely be a team effort between someone from the HR/People team as well as the new hire’s direct manager.

Overcoming challenges in new hire orientation

The tips we’ve covered in the previous section should help you design a thoughtful and comprehensive new hire orientation. But there are a lot of moving pieces, so here are a few tips to help you overcome common challenges.

  • Create a checklist to simplify the process

There are many people who can be involved in getting new hires set up, including members of the HR/People team, IT and the new hire’s direct manager (to name just a few). Creating a checklist – either a master list for everyone or a version that’s tailored to each person – can help everyone keep track of their tasks and timelines. If you don’t already have these checklists, we’ve created some templates to help get you started.

  • Avoid information overload

It can be tempting to try to squeeze as much information as you can into a new hire’s first day and week. People often describe this experience as trying to drink from a firehose. It’s a little too intense and not very effective. Whenever possible, you want to help new hires learn how to answer their questions. Your goal is to help them become familiar with different resources and channels of information so they can get the exact information they need at the moment they need it. For example, if your company has an internal wiki or intranet, make sure new hires get access and learn how it’s organized. You don’t have to go over the content on every single page with them. Similarly, if you use Slack or another messaging platform, make sure they understand the general conventions for how it’s used and give them time to explore it on their own.

  • Use technology to automate paperwork

Collecting documents like contracts and bank details can be time-consuming and prone to error when done manually. Using technology to gather and store all relevant documents can help speed up the process, reduce manual work and lower the risk of compromising employees’ personal data. Learn more about some of the ways technology can help you complete administrative tasks for new hires here.

  • Continuously evaluate and improve the orientation process

Just like any time you roll out a new process, your orientation might not run exactly as you imagined it would. Or even if it does, your new hires might identify gaps or areas for improvement. Make sure you spend time reflecting after you run an orientation program and collect feedback from others who were involved, whether it was direct managers, department leaders or the new hires themselves. Did everyone who participated feel it was a good use of their time? Find out whether new hires had everything they needed to start their job and if they have any suggestions for how you could improve the process for future cohorts. Looking for more guidance? Check out these tips on measuring the success of your onboarding program.


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