Today's Challenge: New Hire Orientation

Horst Schultze, the former president of the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain said, ”The most important time in an employee’s career is the first 40 hours.” How much thought have you given to this crucial period? Today’s Challenge: What to include in new employee orientation?

To start the conversation let me say, every employee has an orientation – formal or informal. The opportunity you and I have as leaders is to think strategically and leverage this time for the benefit of the employee and the organization.
I don’t believe there’s a formula for a successful new employee orientation. I do believe there are a few principles and some key questions that may help as you create your own program.
Orientation starts before the class. When a new employee arrives, is there a designated workstation or office? Is their workspace furnished? Do they already have business cards? Has a computer already been assigned? Does it appear that you’ve prepared for their arrival?
Involve senior leaders whenever possible. Let’s face it a message delivered by a senior leader carries more weight than when the same message is delivered by a middle manager. Horst did the opening session of orientation at each of their new hotels. Dan Cathy, President of Chick-fil-A, invests an entire day with all new employees.
Use the time to establish context. This can include the history of the organization, significant accomplishments and milestones, the competitive landscape, current strategic priorities, annual plans, etc.
Showcase the Vision, Mission and Core Values. These things are foundational! If you don’t let people know what’s important and why, they’ll spend weeks or months trying to figure it out.
Talk about the cultural norms. What do people need to know to be successful? Is there a dress code – official or unofficial? Does correspondence need to adhere to a particular style guide? Are people expected to be early to meetings? Is email preferred over text messages?
Proactively answer questions. Think about the questions you’ve historically received from new employees in their first 30 – 90 days. Go ahead and answer those questions early for new employees.
Constantly evaluate your orientation. Get feedback from new employees. Get feedback from senior leaders. Benchmark other organizations. If you can, participate in other organizations' new hire programs. I’ve personally learned a lot about this topic by seeing what other organizations are doing.
Orientation extends beyond the class. What can you do to help people after the class? Should you assign each new person a buddy or training partner? Should you have a monthly or quarterly “lunch and learn” to expose new hires to other members of your staff? Are there written materials you can share?
Time invested in helping new employees get up to speed quickly will pay huge dividends.[GLS_Shield]

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Dave McAuley

10 years ago

Great article! I've also found it very helpful to have new employees evaluate us as an organization at the 90 point of their employment. "Fresh eyes" can give you valuable feedback on whether or not your practices actually align with what you say is important to you.


10 years ago

Great suggestion, Dave. I challenge new people to do the same thing. I ask them often during their first 12 months, "What do you see around here that makes no sense to you?" Mark

10 years ago

I think orientation is critical. As you've indicated, it speaks volumes about an organization. I'm sorry you've not had great experiences in the past. Our challenge as leaders is to help our organizations get this right. Good luck in the future! Mark

Mbugua kihiu

10 years ago

I have had opportunity of serving with three Christian organizations and l think that on orientation they scored poorly almost on all areas that you have outlined. Any employee can value his/her importance in an organization depend on the reception he/she receives. Or to put it differently, the organization can indicate the value of the position with the way they receive a new employee.


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