Within three to six weeks of their start date, a new employee should attend an organization orientation that addresses the company's history, philosophy, culture, goals, and direction. The purpose is to introduce employees to the organization as a whole, and to help them feel a part of it. Orientation or onboarding is also a good time to elaborate on career opportunities and emphasize the importance of each person's role to the success of the organization.
Members of senior management should participate as guest speakers—preferably in person or, at the very least, through a video presentation. A nice touch is to host a short reception either during a break or after the session during which members of management mingle with the newcomers, getting to know them on a personal level, and answering any questions they may have but were afraid to ask in front of the group.
Depending on the size of the organization, "Breakfast with the President" could be another element of the orientation process. In this particular program, the president or another senior manager meets with new employees who have been on the job approximately three months in small groups of ten to twelve. At this time, the senior member solicits feedback and answers questions employees may have regarding the organization as a whole.
Printed materials are an important element of a new employee onboarding program. Each new employee should receive the following materials and information electronically or in hard copy:
- Mission, Vision, Values
- Organization History
- Organization Structure
- Products and Services
- Employee Handbook
- Resources and Contacts
- Helpful Information
- “Fun Stuff”
Be sure to include organization mementos such as logo pens, pins, mugs, product samples, etc. You might also include the annual report, brochures, and maps. Create a fun, practical, and professional package that can also serve as important and useful reference material.
Creating the Orientation Environment
One of the major underlying goals of the new employee orientation program is to make it enjoyable, and to show new employees how much we value them. To that end, put the time, energy, and money into making the actual training session a memorable experience.
One way to accomplish this is by establishing a theme and creating the physical environment that reflects it. For example, you might choose a cruise ship theme, whereby the cruise ship becomes the metaphor for the organization. Here are some ways this theme can be used to support orientation activities.
- Throw a “bon voyage” party to celebrate the beginning of the cruise. In effect, the new employees are celebrating the beginning of their new job and career opportunity.
- Post a sign at the door to the training room that reads, “Welcome Aboard the SS (Your Company Name).”
- Greet each new employee with a Hawaiian lei and a “welcome-aboard” packet of materials including some “fun stuff.” Decorate the room with streamers and balloons.
- Play party music, and have each new employee pose for a picture as he or she enters the room (just like people do on a real cruise ship).
- Expand the metaphor to include “ports of call” (learning about various departments) and “life rafts” (various resources to contact with questions).
Of course, just like on a real cruise ship, you will have to have food! Now that the new employees are “on board” you can “set sail” for their exciting journey. Let your imagination and creativity run wild. Try out other themes such as outer space, the old west, races, sports events, and so forth.
For more tips on how to design an effective onboarding program, check out New Employee Orientation Training (ATD Press, November 2015).