Orientation Done Right

Orientations should provide only what’s important to know “right now.”

Whenever a manager asks me for help revamping an orientation program, I tell them to “think spring.” See the leaves sprout, the flowers bloom, and the grass start to turn green: It’s a time of rebirth and new growth. That’s how you should think of orientation.

A successful orientation is very much like springtime. It’s an opportunity for the organization to refine what it presents to new employees, and for new employees to reinvent themselves in a fresh environment. It should be an occasion of excitement and promise.

If that’s not the case for your orientation program, I want you to picture three more images: an empty five-pound bag, a dartboard, and a skyscraper under construction. Each represents a potential orientation failure.

Don’t overload the bag

Too many orientations try to cram 10 pounds of material into a five-pound bag. Orientations should provide only what’s important to know “right now.” Benefits, bathroom locations, appearance standards: They’re all good to know, but they’re not critical to an employee’s long-term success. Think about filling that five-pound bag with three pounds of information—and leave the employee wanting more. 

Don’t miss the target

Dead center is a dartboard’s sweet spot. Other locations are off-target and earn fewer points. It’s the same principle in orientation. “Who we serve,” “how we serve,” “when we serve,” “where we serve,” and "why we serve” are all critical topics worthy of their own meetings. But they’re off-target for an orientation session. Orientation needs to focus specifically on “what we are.” 

Don’t start at the top

Construction crews lay the foundation for skyscrapers and then work their way up. The top floors are where the excitement is; the height is impressive, the floor layouts are unique, and the views are spectacular. It’s all the construction firm and the building landlord want to talk about. But nobody enters a skyscraper on the top floor. You have to come in at ground level, on the floor that supports everything above it. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the building under construction, your first thought on walking in the front door is likely to be, “What is this place?” The answer to that is the three pounds in the bag, the sweet spot, the very foundation of a successful orientation. It’s the reason your business exists, boiled down to its essence: what makes us different than all the others that do exactly the same thing. That’s the message to deliver at orientation. That’s how you’ll connect with new employees.

Orientations should boil down to this:

"The purpose of our organization is to ___________.  We accomplish that by ___________.   So that _________!”

People want to be part of something larger than themselves, something necessary and important. For new employees, filling in the above blanks helps them understand and appreciate their role in your organization. 

Getting to Know You: 3 Steps

  1. Offer a genuine welcome. Say how glad you are to have new hires on board. Your enthusiasm can put them at ease.
  2. Provide context. Defining the core-value philosophy that distinguishes your organization from all the rest helps new hires understand how what you are informs what you do and how you do it.
  3. Show the way to more. Let new hires know how they can learn more about your brand—longtime employees, online, manuals, videos, press clips, social media, etc.

Orientation Express

Automate orientation paperwork with TraitSet OnBoard, an online service that enables new hires to complete and electronically sign all forms in as little as 10 minutes. Ask your Customer Development Specialist for details.