New Employee Orientation

This is a First Look at a column to appear in the May issue
of Water Well Journal

It’s important to have a plan when new hires come on board.

By Alexandra Walsh

An orientation program creates a positive first impression of a company for employees coming on board.

Orientation demonstrates the company is sensitive to the needs of new hires, which can lead to a greater level of comfort. New employees can also gain the sense their new company is a professional, well-managed organization that pays attention to details and is willing to assist employees during the sometimes difficult transition when starting a new job.

Orientation programs help employees gain an understanding of what is expected of them. Each company has its own set of rules and policies regarding areas such as dress code, attendance, and conduct—the orientation should make clear what is and is not acceptable. Employees should also get a sense of the company culture during this time so they have a better understanding of what they need to do to fit in more quickly.

Welcoming new employees is a collaborative effort including human resources, the hiring supervisor, and other team members.

Preparing for new hires and providing appropriate guidance and information during the first several days of employment can lead to their success. This short-term orientation process is not a replacement for what’s called onboarding, the process of getting new hires adjusted to the social and performance aspects of their new jobs and their specific role and department, a more detailed and longer process.

First Day on the Job

Human resources or the hiring supervisor should meet the new hire at the start of his or her first day of work to complete new hire paperwork, prepare keys or ID cards, and review benefits information.

Hiring managers should be well prepared for the employee’s first day and welcome new hires with:

  • Appropriate equipment and supplies
  • Introductions to coworkers and a tour of the facility
  • A buddy assigned to coordinate onboarding activities
  • Scheduling lunch with the hiring manager.

Orientation Meeting

Schedule new hires to attend an orientation meeting during the first week of employment. The meeting should be conducted over one full day and include the following:

Human resources

  • Introduction to the company, its mission, functions, culture
  • Employee handbook review
  • Benefits plan information, discussion, preliminary enrollment.

Safety

  • Company safety policy reviews: safety, health, fire, emergencies, evacuation, job-related safety issues.

Key administrative policies

  • Anti-harassment policy review and discussion
  • Pay periods, travel, personal vehicle use, training requests
  • Security, computer systems and logins, phone systems, supplies, equipment.

Department overviews

  • An overview provided by a management representative from each department about the purpose of and functions within his or her department
  • A discussion led by a management representative from each department focusing on frequently asked questions as well as individual questions from participating new hires.

New Hire Paperwork

Paperwork for new hires is the part of human resources that can be daunting to small business owners. Having a checklist helps so you don’t forget anything crucial. Here’s a list of the documents and forms you might need the employee to complete, review, and sign.

  • I-9: Use to verify employment eligibility. Ask the employee to bring identification on their first day.
  • W-4: Use to gather employee tax withholdings. There may be a state tax version of the W-4 that also needs to be completed.
  • Employee handbook: Have the employee review and sign the employee handbook.
  • Other company policies: If you have policies unique to your business not covered in your employee handbook, you’ll want to spend time explaining them and having the employee sign a document that they’ve read and understand them. Examples include sexual harassment policies, time-off policies, non-compete agreements, non-disclosure agreements.
  • At-will employment: Explain and ensure the employee understands your employment at-will policy.
  • Direct deposit form: Use this to gather banking information for employee payroll if you offer direct deposit.
  • Emergency contact information: This is important in case of an emergency.
  • Signed offer letter: New hire should request a signed copy if they haven’t already received it.

Space out reviewing paperwork and policies throughout the first few days instead of handing the new hire a stack of documents and walking away. Also, try reviewing each item with the new hire to prevent them from being overwhelmed. For example, you could complete payroll and I-9 documentation on day 1, benefits documentation on day 2, policies on day 3, the handbook on day 4, etc.

If more than one new hire starts on the same day, you can schedule time with them together to review important policies and the employee handbook, allowing them to ask questions and learn with and from one another.

First Week on the Job

During the first week of onboarding a new hire:

  • Schedule one-on-one meetings with key staff members the new hire will work with.
  • Offer cheat sheets such as the company phone list, office map, or voicemail instructions.
  • Provide a list of who does what in case they have questions.
  • Give them a copy of the organizational chart and explain how the company is structured.
  • Show them where labor law posters are located and offer to answer questions.
  • Provide a building tour so they know where to locate the breakroom, copy machines, and emergency exits.
  • Describe the training they will receive, and when and where it will occur.
  • Make sure they know where to find user manuals, documents, and reference materials.
  • Have them shadow a peer, so they see what a day in the life of an employee at the company looks like.
  • Check to make sure they have all the tools they need for their job.
  • Orient them to the company mission, vision, values, and strategic plan.
  • Schedule time between the new hire and their supervisor to review their job description and answer questions.

Assign different team members, managers managers, and peers to help with these tasks. Even if you don’t have a formal mentoring program, choose a peer to check in with the new hire periodically for the first few weeks. That person can be a go-to resource for the new hire to ask questions—about work-related and nonwork-related things, like how to submit a timesheet and where to go to lunch.

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It’s important to help the new employee feel welcome and guard against their getting cold feet during the first week on the job. Consider asking a coworker to invite them to lunch that first week. Consider having them go to lunch with their supervisor or mentor and having the company cover the meal.

Use that first week to help your new hire build relationships with their coworkers so that they begin to feel loyalty to your company and their team. The company—and eventually, your customers—will reap the benefits.


Alexandra Walsh is the vice president of Association Vision, a Washington, D.C.–area communications company. She has extensive experience in management positions with a range of organizations.