Make Employee Orientation Effective, Interactive, and Fun

Thursday, November 5, 2015

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.

Orientation Materials

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).


About the Author

Karen Lawson is a noted international consultant, speaker, and author. As founder and president of Lawson Consulting Group, she has built a successful consulting firm specializing in organization and management development as well as executive coaching. Her extensive consulting and seminar experience includes team development, communication, leadership, and quality service across a wide range of industries. Clients include a variety of prominent organizations from financial services, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, manufacturing, healthcare, government, and education. In her consulting work with Fortune 500 companies as well as small businesses, she uses her experience and knowledge of human interaction to help leaders at all levels make a difference in their organizations. Karen is the author of 13 books, including the ATD Press titles Leadership Development Basics and Improving On-the-Job Training and Coaching. She has also written chapters for scores of professional collections and numerous articles in professional journals. In addition, she has created several assessment instruments and developed new, cutting-edge learning tools and delivery methods, including a 12-session professional development audio series for managers, web-based training programs, and teletraining courses. Karen is one of only 400 people worldwide to have earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation from the 4,000-member National Speakers Association. She has received numerous awards for her outstanding contribution to the training and speaking professions. Karen was named one of Pennsylvania’s “Best 50 Women in Business” and among the Philadelphia Business Journal’s “Women of Distinction.” She has been actively involved in professional organizations, such as the National Speakers Association and the Association for Talent Development, holding leadership positions at both the local and national levels. She is also an active member of the Union League of Philadelphia.

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