Most employers have their process for onboarding new employees down pat. This essential part of the hiring process includes digitally collecting information for all required paperwork and providing employees access to company resources. But it is only part of welcoming new employees. An employee orientation also needs to be part of that first day. Including an orientation process along with onboarding helps new hires feel welcome, which goes a long way towards retaining them.

What is a Job Orientation?

The purpose of a job orientation is to introduce employees to the company culture and their role within the company. If you’ve done your job during recruiting, your new hire already has an idea of what it is like to work for your company. An orientation process can be one day or even six months as long as it introduces new employees to how they’ll fit into the culture. Think of it as a greeting that welcomes your new employee and makes them feel comfortable about joining the team. Employee orientations offer information about the company’s history, mission and values. It should also cover any policies, such as safety, health and payroll, so the new employee understands what’s expected of them. But orientation needs to be welcoming as well. Introduce new hires to their co-workers and department heads, show them where they can grab snacks, park, collaborate with their co-workers and introduce them to any training that they may be taking before getting on the job.

3 Reasons to Provide an Orientation

Employee orientation is more than just a gesture of goodwill, it is the first step towards setting up a new hire’s success and it is a vital part of the onboarding process.

  1. Retain your employees longer. A good orientation process helps reduce turnover which saves money. One in four CFOs says that unwanted turnover accounts for 25% to 50% of labor costs. Good orientation reduces turnover because new hires feel connected to your company from their first day and they feel valued and better equipped to do their jobs. There’s also less anxiety because you’ve set up an open-door policy to ask questions.
  2. Get new hires up-to-speed faster. The better your orientation process, the fewer time managers will need to spend showing new employees the ropes. A good orientation process covers the work environment, culture and your new hire’s role. This allows new employees to quickly adjust and jump into their new position. The more informed they are, the fewer time managers have to spend training the same concepts.
  3. Begin employee engagement from day one. A company’s culture is directly tied to the employees’ happiness and their overall engagement. Forty-one percent of employees leave a job due to its culture. An orientation process that is centered on showcasing company culture builds engagement from the first day. When employees are engaged, they’re positive and have higher job satisfaction which ultimately affects a company’s bottom line.

Orientation vs. Onboarding

Both orientation and onboarding are essential to talent management. But there are distinct differences between the two. Where onboarding builds an employee for their long-term career at your company, orientation provides them with the confidence to start.

Onboarding is all about getting new hires on the job quickly and saving HR time. An automated onboarding process provides companies the ability to connect with new hires before their first day. Employees can log in from anywhere and start filling out and uploading legal and compliance documents: W2s, E-Verify, I-9 and payroll information. Onboarding also gives new employees access to company resources like policies and handbooks.

Orientation is part of the onboarding process but it is more about introductions. It involves showing new hires what Day One will look like, i.e., this is your desk, your parking spot the break room. Orientation is also about making the candidate feel welcome; introducing them to management and co-workers and arranging a team lunch to help them feel included. Orientation is all about ensuring employees feel connected to your company.

Setting the Stage for a Great Job Orientation

Preparation is the key to a successful job orientation. Your new hire won’t feel welcome if they don’t feel the company prepared to greet them.

  1. Tell them where to go. The inner workings of your office may be second-nature to you but they are a mystery to a new hire. Is there a passcode to get in the door? Should they simply go to the front desk? As companies evolve to more non-traditional workspaces, the welcome area may not be clear. Let your new hire know where to go, park and who they should ask for when they walk in the front door.
  2. Go over the dress code. There is nothing more embarrassing for a new hire than over- or under-dressing for the first day on the job. Share any dress code policies and make sure your employees know what they should wear, similar to setting up an interview.
  3. Give them an idea of what they’ll need. It’s likely your new employee is coming from another job where they relied on a vast amount of resources and tools like planners, pens, mobile devices, laptops, whiteboards and so on. It may seem simple, but letting employees know what they’ll need to bring, even lunch, will help them feel comfortable in their role.
  4. Go over the job description. Unlike the job posting that attracted the candidate to the position, a job description explains the nuts and bolts of the position and how it supports the company. It is specifically written for human resources and contains a wealth of information for new hires. It should include:
  5. Get the paperwork out of the way. A major benefit of a digital, automated onboarding system is that it allows the new hire to fill out the stacks of required paperwork before the first day.
  • Position overview: A short explanation of the position’s purpose and its responsibilities.
  • Key duties and responsibilities: Detail all of the actions critical to the position’s success.
  • Tools and skills necessary: Any knowledge the employee must have or develop to perform the work.
  • Physical demands: Specify if the position requires lifting, standing or sitting for long periods.
  • Qualifications: Certifications, years of experience, degrees or education level required for the position.
  • Scheduling requirements: State if the position requires overtime, weekend work or needs to be performed during normal business hours.
  • Levels of authority and supervision: Mention who the position reports to and/or chain of command.

Questions to Answer When Creating an Orientation Process

Orientations are just as unique as the companies themselves. It makes sense considering the focus of employee orientation is showcasing company culture. The Balance Careers suggests beginning the planning process by answering these questions:

  • What do new employees need to know about the work environment that would make them more comfortable?
  • What impression and impact do you want to have on a new employee’s first day?
  • What key policies and procedures should employees be aware of on the first day to avoid mistakes on the second day?
  • What special items (desk, work area, equipment, special instructions, company swag) can you provide to make new employees feel comfortable, welcome and secure?
  • What positive experience can you provide for the new employee that she could discuss with her family at the end of the first day of work?
  • Will the new employee’s supervisor be available on the first day to provide personal attention and to convey a clear message that the new employee is an important addition to the work team?

What a New Hire Orientation Process Looks Like

Here’s an example from SHRM about what your employee orientation might look like.

The First Day

HR meets with the new hire to complete any paperwork, review benefits and prepare key and ID cards. Hiring managers welcome new hires with:

  • Workstations set up with appropriate equipment and supplies.
  • Introductions to co-workers and a tour of the facilities.
  • A buddy assigned to coordinate onboarding activities.
  • Lunch with the hiring manager.
  • An overview of the department’s mission, values and key policies.

The Orientation Meeting

Schedule an orientation meeting during the new hires the first week. It should include:

  • Introduction to the company, its mission, functions and culture.
  • Review of company organizational chart.
  • Employee handbook review.
  • Benefits plan information, discussion and preliminary enrollment.
  • Safety and health policy reviews—safety, fire, emergency evacuation, job-related safety issues.
  • Anti-harassment policy review and discussion.
  • Policy reviews—pay periods, travel, personal vehicle use, training requests.
  • Administrative procedures—security, computer systems and logins, telephone systems, supplies and equipment.
  • 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 new hires.


Here are a couple of frequently asked questions to help you organize an orientation process.

  • How long should orientation last? An orientation can last anywhere from a day to six months. Remember, orientation is not training which can take a year. Orientation is an introduction to your company. The more involved you get co-workers and management involved in the process, the longer it can take. And if your company only has a handful of employees, orientation can likely be wrapped up in a day or two.
  • Who should spearhead the orientation? Orientation needs to involve human resources, the hiring manager, co-workers and IT at the very least. HR is the contact point for all things company policy and benefits, managers discuss roles and responsibilities, co-workers help with welcoming and IT sets up the equipment.
  • What tools do I need for orientation? Orientation is only part of the onboarding process, it can’t stand on its own. The goal of the entire hire process is to create an engaging employee experience, supplies the tools and training to be successful, build trust in the company vision of success, aligns individual goals with company goals, encourages open communication and decreases turnover. Employee onboarding software is key to making this happen.

Want to learn how to get your employees off to a great start? Read The Complete Employee Onboarding Guide.

Read the Guide