New Employee Orientation: A practical guide – AIHR

New Employee Orientation: A practical guide

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In this article, we dive into new employee orientation. We look at its definition, benefits, and best practices and we’ll give you an example of what orientation can look like. We’ll also share a new employee orientation checklist. Here goes!  

What is new employee orientation?
Onboarding vs. new employee orientation
Benefits of employee orientation 
New employee orientation best practices 
New employee orientation ideas
New employee orientation checklist 
Wrapping up 

What is new employee orientation? A definition 

New employee orientation (NEO) is the process of introducing new hires to their jobs, colleagues, and the organization. It’s about who you are as a company, about how new hires fit in, and about why they are important.  

A proposed framework for designing a new employee orientation program is called ROPES, an acronym for Realistic Orientation Programs for new Employee Stress (Wanous & Reichers, 2000). Fun fact: it was John Wanous who came up with the term ‘ROPES’ in 1992 since newcomers need to ‘learn the ropes.’ 

We’ll discuss some aspects of the ROPES model in more detail in the best practices section of this article. 

Onboarding vs. new employee orientation 

A word on the difference between onboarding and new employee orientation is in order since one can easily be confused with the other. 

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The onboarding period starts as soon as a candidate signs the offer letter – and hence becomes a future employee. It ends when the employee is able to autonomously do the job they were hired to do. 

New employee orientation, on the other hand, focuses on newcomers during their first day/week. As such, NEO is (an essential) part of the onboarding process.  

In other words, when it comes to onboarding vs. new employee orientation, the former involves a (much) longer process than the latter. Both, however, have the same goal; to familiarize new hires with the organization, the people, and the job. 

Benefits of new employee orientation

Frequently named benefits of employee orientation include: 

  • Reducing stress and anxiety. This is probably the number one benefit of new employee orientation. No matter how well you’ve prepared candidates during the recruitment process, they’ll still be nervous on their first day.
    A well-organized orientation helps to reduce that stress and provides clarity about what’s on the agenda for people’s first day and beyond. 
  • Increase commitment to the organization. A proper orientation will make new hires feel welcome, appreciated, and needed right from the start. This will increase their commitment.
  • Increase productivity, decrease mistakes. When done well, new employee orientation will help employees get up to speed faster. It will also help in avoiding (unnecessary) mistakes.  
  • Reduce turnover. As a result of the three benefits just mentioned, employee turnover should go down; employee orientation shows people the organization cares and provides them with the tools they need to do their job well.     
  • Contributing to a positive relationship and communication between the new hire, their colleagues, and manager.

9 New employee orientation best practices 

Let’s have a look at some new employee orientation best practices. According to Wanous and Reicher, new employee orientation should first of all focus on teaching coping skills for the most important stressors that newcomers are facing. This leads to the following best practices:   

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  • 1. Include realistic information. This is to manage expectations and avoid disappointment – once again. I say once again because ideally, you have already presented candidates with a realistic job preview during the recruitment process to avoid unrealistic expectations in the first place.
    Include information about what you expect from the new hire, for instance in the form of a 90-day plan. 
  • 2. Provide general support and reassurance. Starting a new job is (very) stressful for most of us. The purpose of new employee orientation is to take away this stress and to reassure people. 
    Research has found that one of the best ways to cope with stress is to have social support (Fisher 1985, Nelson et al. 1991). One way to create this kind of support is by assigning every new hire a buddy or peer mentor. Not only can they play a big role in socializing newcomers, but they can also help them find their way around the organization. 

New employee orientation, however, involves more than teaching people how to deal with stress and managing expectations. Other best practices include: 

  • 3. Include the organizational culture. While certain ways of doing things (as simple as having lunch and addressing colleagues by their first name) might seem obvious to those who are already in the company, they probably won’t be for newcomers. Make sure to include this so-called organizational socialization in your employee orientation.  
  • 4. Prepare for the first day of orientation. This is true for the organization, the manager, and the new hire. Before orientation starts, make sure the new hire’s workspace is fully ready (this means hardware and software) and that the manager is fully ready (this means present on d-day) too.
    As for the new hire, make sure they have all the information they need to get to the office, park if necessary, and that they are able to actually get into the office. This already takes some uncertainty/anxiety away. 
  • 5. Colleagues, fun, and games. Make sure the new hire’s future colleagues know he or she is arriving and plan some quality time during orientation. This can be when the newcomer gets in first thing in the morning, during lunch, or during an office tour.
    Someone’s first day is one of those moments they tend to remember so try to add some fun elements to the mix. Like new employee orientation games. There are plenty of games you can come up with but one example is a game called Photo Hunt. The idea is to give the new hire a picture of other employees and a list of names which they have to match.   
  • 6. Explain the software. Employee orientation should include a part about the software and tools new hires will be using. This will for sure involve an explanation about the tools everyone in the company uses (think of internal chat systems, email, expenses forms, etc.). Depending on the role-specific software someone will be working with the software training will be more or less elaborate. 

The aforementioned best practices are related to the content side of new employee orientation. We’ll conclude with a few best practices regarding the process:

  • 7. Use checklists. Checklists are a great way to create structure and to make sure that all the necessary steps are done.  
  • 8. Be consistent. Creating structure is all well and good, but if people don’t consistently use the checklists provided it’s useless. In other words, make sure managers use (the latest version of) your checklists for every new employee orientation.   
  • 9. Evaluate & improve. Gather feedback from new employees, improve your process, and keep optimizing your new employee orientation. 

New employee orientationNew employee orientation

New employee orientation ideas 

When it comes to new employee orientation ideas there are heaps of examples. Here are some ideas from our own orientation at AIHR on the first day and in the first week. We’ll take you through them as if you just joined our company.

On the first day 

  • Around 9 am:
    The new hire arrives at the office and is welcomed with cake, donuts and (or) champagne. To make the day as festive as possible, we start it off with a cake, donuts, or a few bottles of champagne. The idea is to share these sweet snacks with everyone in the office as it provides a great, informal opportunity to meet the whole team. It also introduces people to the company culture and makes them feel warmly welcomed into their new work family.
  • Around 9h30:
    Discuss the agenda for the day. Once the first pressure is off and the new hire feels more at ease, they sit down with their manager to look at the agenda for the day. The goal is to provide the employee with structure so they know what to expect.  
  • At 09h45:
    Give an office tour. This is a key part of new employee orientation as knowing their way around the office helps people feel more at home immediately. Therefore it’s good to do the office tour within the first hour. Show new hires the kitchen/canteen, how the coffee machine works, where the bathrooms are (crucial information!), the offices, printers, and how to close the office if one day they are the last ones to leave the building. 
    Introduce to colleagues + team. During the office tour, when you show the new hire the actual office(s), we introduce them (again) to everyone including their team. While they’ve already seen many of their colleagues during the cake/champagne celebration in the morning, there are always people who couldn’t be there.
    Since they’ll be working closely with the other members of their team, we always plan a one-on-one with each team member during the first week of orientation (more on that later).
  • Around 10h30 (depending on the size of your office and number of colleagues): 
    90-day plan. Here, the new employee receives his or her 90-day plan including an elaborate explanation of all the different elements. This helps with managing their expectations and providing structure.   
  • Around 11h30: 
    A moment to breathe. For the remainder of the morning until lunchtime, give people a moment to sit down and process their first impressions – and information – they’ve received so far. 
  • Between 12h00 and 14h00:
    Have a team lunch. Organize a team lunch to make people’s first day even more memorable. This provides both the new hire and their colleagues the chance to get to know each other a little better in a more informal setting. 
  • Around 13h30 (or whenever lunch is finished): 
    Company presentation. Kick off the afternoon in a fun, yet informative way with a company presentation. At AIHR, this is done by the company founders and mostly focused on how the company works in terms of teams and roles, and its culture. This is also when we share the company’s goal, mission, and vision.  
  • At 2 pm:
    Weekly + monthly structure. This is when the manager sits down with the new hire again. The idea is to present them with the company’s weekly and monthly structure.
    For us, this includes our weekly and daily standup meetings, monthly drinks and business update, and our weekly lunch surprise.  
    Invite to team calender events + holiday calendar. During this ‘structure sitdown’ the new hire is added to the calendar for the above-mentioned activities and also gets access to our company holiday calendar.   
    Provide access to Employee Resources Folder. (handbook, expenses form, etc.) These are more boring activities but no less relevant and they can also be ‘ticked off’ during the same meeting. 
  • Around 3 pm:
    End the day early. The official agenda for the first day of orientation is closed. Give people the freedom to either go home early to celebrate or, if they want to, stay in the office and start working on a project or chat with colleagues. Be cool!

In the first week

New employee orientation ideas for the first week could be: 

  • Pick a restaurant. Let the new hire pick out a restaurant for lunch. This can either be a restaurant you go to or take away if you prefer having lunch all together in the office. 
  • One-on-ones with team members. You can also include these individual sit-downs in your first-day orientation but if the agenda gets too full, or if certain team members weren’t around, schedule a quick meeting for the first week. 
  • Sit-down with the hiring manager. On top of, ideally, a daily sit-down with the new hire, the hiring manager should have one to recap the first week too. What went well, what could be better, is there anything else that needs to be addressed? 
  • Plan a company pitch. Personally, I like this idea a lot. Asking every newcomer to pitch the company to the rest of the organization helps them to get an even better understanding of what the company they just joined is and does. 
  • Add the new employee to the company page. Adding them to the ‘About us’ team page helps in making them feel part of the family. 
  • Introduce newcomers on LinkedIn. The same thing goes for introducing people on LinkedIn as your newest colleagues. This also helps to build a closer connection with customers.
  • Plan 90-day plan check-in meetings. The 90-day plan you discussed on the new hire’s first day needs to be evaluated – schedule monthly meetings for this during the first week of orientation.  

New employee orientation checklist

Below you’ll find a new employee orientation checklist both for the first day and the first week. You can use these as a source of inspiration for your own employee orientation, literally copy and paste them, or pick and choose the elements that are relevant for your organization.

New employee orientation checklist - Day 1New employee orientation checklist - Day 1

And here’s a checklist example for the first week:

New employee orientation checklist - Week 1New employee orientation checklist - Week 1

Wrapping up

New employee orientation is an exciting time both for the new hire and the organization. A well-structured and thought-out process that doesn’t compromise on the emotional and human side of starting a new job goes a long way in building a lasting relationship with your people. What are your employee orientation experiences? Any good ideas you’d like to share? Don’t hesitate to do so in the comments below.


What is new employee orientation?

New employee orientation (NEO) is the process of introducing new hires to their jobs, colleagues, and the organization.

What are the benefits of employee orientation?

Benefits of new employee orientation include reduced stress and anxiety, an increased commitment to the organization, increased productivity, less mistakes, reduced turnover, and a more positive relationship with colleagues and managers.

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What should employee orientation include?

New employee orientation should: provide realistic information about the job and what you expect from the new hire, include the company culture, reassure newcomers, make room for fun with colleagues, and teach about relevant software and tools.