How to Create an Orientation Program

Being new, your latest hires often have lots of questions about the structure of their new company, its culture, and its goals. A good orientation program can answer many of those questions and start off new employees working in the right direction. Depending on how many new employees you need to orient, you may structure group orientations or take employees one by one. If someone’s first day will not necessarily coincide with the orientation, consider how to make the employee’s first day go smooothly.

Orientation programs can take place in-house or off-site, with audio-visual tools such as informational videos or slides, through role playing or simulations, or through simple discussion and question-and-answer time. However you structure your orientation program, make sure it occurs during a new employee’s first week on the job. Also make sure it covers the following areas:

  • A welcome. This is your chance to make new employees feel comfortable and motivated.

  • An overview of what the firm does as a whole. Be sure to cover activities both inside and outside the employee’s department. Make certain you convey a good sense of the company’s products and/or services.

  • A big-picture look at where the firm fits into its industry. It’s important for workers to know the competition and to be knowledgeable about the industry when talking to clients, coworkers, and potential business contacts.

  • Corporate culture. Is management hands-on or hands-off? Does the company like to promote from within? Are flextime and telecommuting acceptable? Does everyone sit in cubicles, or do managers get their own private offices?

  • The company’s history. Discuss when it was founded, by whom, and for what purpose, as well as major events that have changed the focus of the company. What’s made the company a success?

  • Expected work habits and policies. Review hours, vacation, breaks, and dress code.

Some companies also like to cover health care benefits at orientation, and provide sales or computer training. Often, training classes will follow an orientation program, and last for a few days or even a week.

However your company decides to structure its orientation program, make time for new workers to get to know one another and form a support network. Encourage them to interact, discuss the issues the orientation leader raises, and learn from each other. It’s good for employees to get to know coworkers from other divisions, and orientation can go a long way toward building bonds between departments.

Finally, no matter how complete you feel your orientation program is, don’t let any new employee leave the room without an employee handbook — and ensure that they sign to acknowledge receipt. While someone might not care about your company’s funeral leave policy or the Family and Medical Leave Act on orientation day, they might care later. You want to make sure that there’s no misunderstandings down the road that could lead to legal troubles.

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