Orientations for new employees used to be pretty simple: give them a tour, show them their cubicle, have them sign some paperwork for HR, and away they go (hopefully). But does that approach truly set new employees up for success? Not exactly, argues Chris Ronzio, founder and CEO of Trainual and author of The Business Playbook.
What great companies like Disney do is put incredible thought and effort into enveloping new hires in their rich tradition and vibrant company culture. By doing that, they ensure that new employees quickly become an integral part of the team. As Ronzio points out, with more remote and hybrid employees being hired, the time is now to update your orientation process.
If this thought fills you with dread, don’t stress. Updating your process is as simple as taking four powerful steps to ensure every new hire receives the same amazing orientation experience.
1. Lay the foundation
Done well, orientation is an opportunity to start to build trust and engagement between the employee, their co-workers, and their management. Done poorly, it can have a negative effect on how the employee feels about the company, and how they perform their roles.
“This is especially true for remote and hybrid workers,” Ronzio said. “When someone starts at your company remotely, they don’t get the same experience of walking through headquarters and taking in the sights, sounds, and details that make your office unique.”
So, Ronzio explains, aim to mirror that real-life experience with an online one. Build a brief training experience that shares the history of your company and key milestones. To keep it engaging, include photos and artifacts that they might find if they were there in person. Some good examples are photos, awards and other culture tokens.
Have the hybrid recruits go through this training before they start, or early on their first day. That way, anyone who is there in person can reinforce what they’ve learned with what they see in real life, but fully remote team members don’t miss out.
2. Don’t skip a live welcome
As you lay the foundation for a great orientation experience, Ronzio said to “remember that live welcomes are incredibly important.” That’s because you can’t fully automate someone’s onboarding and training, as tempted as you might be to try and do just that.
To make it easier on you and your orientees, pick start dates that allow a cohort of employees to get going on the same first day. This helps them build relationships with others going through the same experience. If the cohort has remote workers in it, find ways to still provide these benefits, even if it’s just through a Slack channel and a series of Zoom calls.
“Whether the orientees are going to be fully remote, fully in-person, or a hybrid of the two, be sure that you and the rest of the leadership team are present to welcome them early on their first day,” Ronzio said. “That will give energy and excitement to the kickoff, and at the same time show the orientees that they are important, valuable members of the team.”
3. Send everything they need in advance
Ronzio argues that while the next step is obvious, so many companies drop the ball: prepare.
“There’s nothing worse for a brand-new employee than feeling like the company wasn’t prepared for them,” he said. “Yet when someone is dumped in an office, told their computer still isn’t set up, and left to do some training on their own, that’s the message they receive.”
That’s why you need to do some proactive legwork to sync the first-day experience: have the new hire’s technology and workspace ready to go before their first day. If they’ll be working remotely, send the kit to their residence, and give them plenty of unboxing time before their start date.
“You can also send a few surprises,” Ronzio explained. “We send a lot of Trainual swag like T-shirts, water bottles, beach towels and a backpack to make their first day memorable and show them we think of them as part of the team from day one.”
If your orientation process includes a team lunch or happy hour, consider sending remote hires a gift card to a food-delivery service so they can join in on the action from home.
4. Put extra time into introducing your team
A big part of the orientation is helping your new people get to know the team they’ll be working with. During an in-person orientation, it’s easy to give a quick “meet the team” tour.
For remote hires, however, Ronzio advocated for paying extra attention to describing the “who’s who” of your business. Include basic biographical information for each team member. You should also make sure you explain their role, reporting structures, and key responsibilities, so that your new hire knows who to ask for anything they might need.
A business playbook is one way to achieve this. It includes personnel information and an organizational chart that orientees can refer back to when they have questions. Business playbooks should be available to all your employees, no matter where they’re located. This way, Ronzio said, if a new hire has a question, “they can quickly pull up the playbook and find the answer they need.” This also serves to create a more saleable and scaleable business, as you aren’t the blocker to team member progression.
Create a positive orientation experience for everyone
“A great orientation experience can make a huge difference in how a new hire performs at your company,” Ronzio concluded. “Like Disney does, we must find a way to make our new people feel part of the team, whether they’re in the office every day or working remotely.”
Achieving that kind of positive orientation experience for all new hires is as simple as laying a strong foundation, giving a live welcome, making sure everything is set up ahead of time, and taking extra care to introduce your new hires to the rest of the team.