5 Ways to Keep Employee Orientation from Being a Snooze-fest

Orientation does not have to be boring, and the more fun and engaging you make it, the more eager your recruits will be to join the team. 

Employee Orientation- Training Magazine

Your employee orientation is the first impression your new hires get of your organization. The question is: Are you rolling out the red carpet or putting them to sleep? If your company is like many, new team members are “welcomed” with a barrage of compliance training, paperwork, policies, and procedures and then thrown into the job with nothing more than a “good luck!” If that’s the case, it should come as no surprise when a new employee ditches the job within the first month or, worse yet, disappears during the lunch break on orientation day.

This is where your expertise in learning and development comes in handy. While you may have abbreviated orientation to the bare minimum out of necessity due to the pandemic, it’s time to put more thought into how you welcome new people to the team. Whether virtual or in-person (or a combination of both), you want the beginning of a new hire’s onboarding experience to be one that excites them! It should make them more in love with your company’s purpose and people. They should leave those first few days glad you chose them and glad they chose you.

If your current orientation isn’t consistently generating that level of enthusiasm, it’s time to take another look and make some changes.

Let’s Start with the Basics

The orientation itself is an event that is one part of the overall onboarding process for a new team member. It’s usually at the beginning and could range from several hours to several days or weeks. The goal is to set the stage for a new person’s time in the company; familiarize them with the organizational culture, policies, and practices; and prepare them to begin their new job successfully.

If it’s well designed, it should include four elements:

  1. Culture: An introduction to the mission, vision, values, and overall feeling of the organization.
  2. Communication (or Clarification): Clear direction on where to be, what to expect, and what’s expected of them.
  3. Connection: Opportunities to meet and get to know others in the organization.
  4. Compliance: All the mandated activities, education, and procedural steps that must take place for them to start the job.

Look at the current agenda for your employee orientation. Is it well-balanced in all four areas? Or do you focus more on one than the others? If so, that’s a good place to start. Find ways to incorporate all four elements into your next event. Here are some ideas:

Immediately Immerse Them in Your Culture

Give your fresh recruits a dose of what it’s like to work for your company by immersing them in your cultural traditions on day one. Involve them in the morning stand-up where you discuss the core value of the week. Have leaders take turns sharing stories that relate to the company’s mission and values. Take them on a hands-on adventure, allowing them to participate in various departmental activities led by their new co-workers. Does your company have unique traditions? Food truck Friday? Themed casual days? Or Beer O’clock? (Yep! That’s a real one!) Invite your new employees to participate as part of their orientation.

If orientation is virtual, utilize breakout rooms to connect people with new co-workers who can conduct “speed-dating-like” sessions related to organizational values.

Give Them Practical Pointers for Clarification

Be sure to incorporate all the little practical pointers employees need and want to start their job successfully. You may want them to know about all the company policies, but they want to know how to use the time clock and when they get paid. Capture all the questions you typically get asked. For instance:

  • When and where do I arrive?
  • Where do I park?
  • How do I get into the building?
  • What about lunch?
  • How do I get the information I need?
  • Do we use specific software to communicate?
  • Who are the key players, and how do I get to know them?
  • What’s the office lingo?
  • What training is offered after orientation?

You can have fun with these pointers by creating a game or scavenger hunt around them or by sprinkling them throughout your in-person or virtual event.

Use Icebreakers to Connect

Remember to incorporate icebreakers and partner activities to help people get to know one another. If you’re conducting virtual orientations, you can use the time you wait for the next speaker to encourage some conversation verbally or in “chat.” Ask questions such as: “What’s something about you that is 100 percent true but sounds made up” or “If you were famous, what would you be famous for?” You also could play clean versions of games such as “would you rather.”

In-person, move people around and put them in pairs throughout the event, enabling them to get out of their seats for a while and meet new people every few minutes.

Gamify to Spice Up Compliance

Even those pesky compliance activities can be fun if you gamify them. For instance, you could give each participant a policy to read and have them come up with two truths about the policy and one lie. Each person reads their three attributes, and the others guess which is the lie. This cues the facilitator to discuss the policy in a much more engaging way.

Apply Scenario-Based Learning

Finally, remember to include specific scenarios in the curriculum related to the jobs your new employees will be doing. If they are dealing with customer complaints, have them work through scenarios to practice their skills in a safe setting before jumping in.

Orientation does not have to be boring. The more fun and engaging you make it, the more eager your recruits will be to join your team. 

Donna Cutting
Donna Cutting is the author of three books, including “Employees First! Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the HEART of Your Organization.” She’s the founder and CEO of Red-Carpet Learning Worldwide and works with leaders to help them create cultures of happy people delivering exceptional service.