First impressions are so very important in the business world. That first day, nay, that first hour is when a new employee is going to form their opinion about the organization. And that opinion isn't easily changed. All of us make snap judgements. The average person makes their initial judgement on someone in 7 seconds. Orientation programs are often an after-thought, something that should be done...so it's done.

Proper orientation of new employees gets them to work faster, leads to higher retention rates and increases employee engagement. All of these benefits have a ripple effect on the organization.We know about all the papers and handbooks and signatures. Those are a given. The other part of orientation is what really sticks with employees. They won't remember the time they signed that W-2, but they'll remember the first friendly face in the office. Getting orientation right is much easier with some helpful guidelines. 

Orientation should start before the first day. Send the new employee an orientation package. This can be an e-package, or a physical package. It should include information about the organization, a calender of events, a flow chart of the office heirarchy and where to find all of the company's social media outlets. This package should include something to let the new employee know that you are excited about, and anticipating their arrival. Send out the welcome wagon so to speak.

Let their co-workers know that they're coming, and encourage engagement. Send out an email or memo letting the office know a little about the newb. Hobbies, social media handles (if the new recruit approves), and background information will help everyone gel faster. And be sure to get everyone involved. From the ground, right on to the top, make sure that as many people are involved in orientation as possible. The hardest part of entering a new office isbreaking through the social barriers. Facilitating the social element goes a long way in getting everyone working together faster.

Make the day special in some way.Celebrating a new employee's decision to be a part of the team is essential. You don't have to commission a float, but recognition is important to employee engagement. Whether you offer bagels, mention them in the newsletter or on the company site, acknowledge the start of their journey with the company in a public way.

Show them around and include introductions to relevant co-workers. Taking a tour of the office building while you go over the rules (spoken and unspoken) lends a great opportunity to interact with their new co-workers. As you walk past departments and desks, explain each role and how they ultimately intertwine. When an employee understands how the machine works, their own role becomes more clear.

There should never be a moment in that first week when the new employee is unsure of what to do, or what is coming next. Employee retention starts with clearly communicated expectations. Every task, order of operations and expectation should be defined. Obviously this is a continual process, but getting right down to engagement is vital. They should also know how good performance is assessed. When they know what you're looking for, they're more likely to deliver it. Using real-life career path examples is often an effective way to show employees what to strive for.

Proper orientation goes beyond the signatures and policies. Making employees feel welcome and valued is what really counts. The new hire, alone, by the water cooler is a hard sight to to take in. The whole point here is to reduce start up costs, anxiety and turn-over rates by getting to employee engagement faster. Proper orientation shouldn't be an after-though, it should be the first thought.

photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

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