Welcome New Hire! Please let me bore you.
December 2, 2014 6:47 AM   Subscribe

I am developing a new hire orientation for my MA-based, technology company that is expanding at a pretty steady rate. Our orientation right now is every two weeks, a number of speakers from HR, all PowerPoint, and about 4 hours long. I would like to cut down the length of the presentation, add a tour, and hit the high notes of what we do and how we do it.

I have some work to do in terms of getting people to stop reading straight from the slides anyway, but I'm looking for the following:
- Examples of what your company does for new hires
- What you absolutely needed to know on your first day
- What you wished you knew in your first month of work
- What did you learn/hear about during your new hire orientation that made you say, "That was a waste of time."
- Any other bits of advice in regards to orientation!
I know I will have some push-back from the "but we need to tell them all this stuff!" (even though it's not mandated by law and they have already signed off that they've read the policies) crowd, so hot tips and resources are much appreciated.
posted by thefang to Work & Money (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What did you learn/hear about during your new hire orientation that made you say, "That was a waste of time."

Say there are two representatives from HR during that orientation. Say there are five new hire engineers and three new hire support personnel. That implies the following cost of the meeting:

$150/hr/engineer x 5 engineers x 4 hours = $3000
$100/hr/HR x 2 HR x 4 hours = $800
$85/hr/support x 3 support x 4 hours = $1020
Total: $4820

I've never had an orientation that had $5000 of value in items that couldn't be simply looked up on the corporate website.

What you absolutely needed to know on your first day

Log in information for phone and computer. Verification of employment eligibility.

Any other bits of advice in regards to orientation!

If you hire competent employees, and I think you want to do that, they can figure all this stuff out by themselves.
posted by saeculorum at 6:57 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Waste of time bits:
--two truths and a lie (SERIOUSLY. This was at a major research university. Everyone in the room visibly sighed and very reluctantly participated.)
--Lots of background information on the institution, which presumably people would have either known before applying for the job, or could find out if they wanted to, or really didn't care. The year in which so-and-so founded such-and-such program isn't relevant unless it directly impacts people's jobs.

Useful bits:
Quick-and-dirty presentation from someone who worked in the benefits office. She laid out the different plans for health insurance, options for life insurance, stuff like that. This was really useful because while that's all online, it's actually more efficient than going to the ten different websites and hunting around. Also, some of this stuff was time limited (for example, certain types of insurance you had to sign up within a certain number of days), and there were lots of moving parts, so it was great to get a little checklist of everything you needed to do and a quick overview of options. Does require a good presenter and someone who is ruthless about telling time-wasters in the audience that they really need to make an appointment if they have a super-specific question that literally applies only to them.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:13 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Agree that a quick-and-dirty of the benefits (medical, life insurance options) is a good idea, especially if you're offering multiple options. Especially through the lens of "this is a good idea for you if... here's how these plans compare... etc.)

I recently worked for a large global (100k+) company in a role where I had to do a lot of external communication and it would have been extremely useful if they had used the orientation time to visually present a diagram of the entire company, what the divisions did and how they fit together; instead of the self-congratulatory company values nonsense they did instead.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:32 AM on December 2, 2014

This seems like a perfect opportunity to involve the people in your company, perhaps through a task force, to design the new employee orientation. Instead of just posing your questions to people on the internet, you could ask them of your own employees. And how cool would it be to have a new employee orientation designed, and maybe even delivered at least in part, by the people who were once new employees of your own company?
posted by DrGail at 7:32 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did dozens and dozens of orientations at my last job. We split them into two sessions. 2 hours on day one and 2 hours once a month.

First session - benefits and policy overview. How to sign up for medical insurance. What the company match for 401(k) is. How much PTO you get for the remainder of the year. New hire paperwork and fingerprinting (financial services company). Company tour (bathrooms, cafeteria, workout facility, employee badge overview, etc.).

Second session - guest speaker heavy. One member of the senior leadership team. A few committee heads. Company video. Chance to answer questions that didn't get answered in the first session.

I think the ideal setup is only the absolute basics on day one. The new hire has a ton of new things to learn (their coworkers names, where the bathroom is, how to setup their computer, where they parked, etc.) so minimizing the non-urgent things are important.

Ice breakers can be helpful if multiple people from the same department/function are starting together. If not, keep it to just simple introductions.

However, time with individuals is not time wasted. Whatever helps them get to know the company culture, org charts, how what they do fits in with the mission of the company will all pay dividends. Just because it's on the intranet does not mean it will be found, let alone read.
posted by Twicketface at 8:23 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

What the company match for 401(k) is.

Are you saying a financial services company hires people that don't even know how much money they make? That sounds like an unfortunate hire.

Whatever helps them get to [...] will all pay dividends.

For the OP - this is exactly the sort of mindset that results in onerous new hire orientations that employees hate. The best orientation is the one that realizes that employee time is valuable and that an absolute minimum amount of employee time should be spent. If the guideline is, "anything is helpful", your employees will view the orientation as a waste of time.
posted by saeculorum at 8:33 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm with saeculorum that the meeting should be brief, but I'd add a few more things.

Log in information for phone and computer. Verification of employment eligibility.

Benefits details and enrollment forms, with deadlines clearly noted. BRIEFLY go over the various types of benefits offered, but not all the details. Printed copy of the employee handbook so they can't claim they never saw it (make them sign a receipt). Maps of the building (and another showing the location of other buildings if you have a sizable campus). The network name of the closest printer to their desk. The URL of the entry point for the company intranet (and possibly other sites they will use a lot), which should have everything else they might need, and your phone number in case it doesn't.

Give them a Frequently Asked Questions sheet (FAQ) (in a large company, maybe customized per department) and follow up to encourage new hires to contribute to the FAQ after they've been there a month or two by asking "What question do you wish you'd known the answer to on your first day?"

Rather than holding a lengthy meeting, take new hires out to lunch in small groups, aligned by team (with their managers if at all possible). Also take them around to meet others in the company (if small) or department. This is as important for the existing employees as it is for the newbies. Make sure your company directory has headshots of all employees and get new ones in immediately. Encourage them to set up their My Site (assuming Sharepoint).
posted by kindall at 8:59 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm on job number four at the moment. Two of these jobs were at large enough companies to actually have an employee orientation.

From those two orientations --

Waste of time things:

- Corporate history. It's interesting, but not necessarily essential to know on my first day.
- Think about the jobs your new hires will be doing and be intelligent about the orientation. For example, I don't need a safety training video on how to use a pallet jack or where to find MSDS sheets when I'll be working as a software engineer and will likely never even see the inside of the warehouse.
- Org chart. Yawn -- now is a great time to take a 20 minute nap. At this point, these are merely random people's names to me, and several levels above me. I'll hear their names, learn their roles, and perhaps even meet them in due time.

Essential items:

- Facility tour. Where is my office/cubicle? Where are the bathrooms? Is there a cafeteria and where is it -- if not, what places to eat are nearby -- is there a kitchen or similar break area with a refrigerator, microwave, vending machines? Where is that? Is there a fitness center? Where is it? Do I have to sign a waiver to use it?
- Who is my boss? He or she should at the very least show up for a few minutes at the beginning of my orientation for introductions and a welcome to HugeCorp. Don't just have him or her pick me up at the end.
- Have my computer and phone already set up at my desk, and give me the login information. This way, I can do something somewhat productive -- like start the required online policy training sessions -- when you let me out of orientation at 1 PM and say we'll start up again tomorrow at 9, and don't have to just go home. (I actually made this complaint at my current employer -- they responded by shortening the new hire orientation from two five hour sessions on two days to a single full day, and new hires often still don't have that stuff set up right away).
- Essential administrivia. How do I fill out my timesheet? What charge code do I use for this meeting? What charge code do I use for my normal work? (Can you tell I've worked for a lot of government contractors?) How do I sign up for direct deposit of my paycheck? PTO/vacation time policies?

Things that could have been done better:

- Benefits walk-through. Just cover the high points and show me where I can get more detailed information -- enrolling in my 401(k), picking a health insurance plan, etc. I'll review it on my own time and ask someone in HR if I have any questions.
- How do I use my own photo for my ID/access badge instead of the awful photo the security guard just took of me?
- Who do I talk to if I have a problem with (IT issues, security/facility access issues, HR issues)? What is their extension and e-mail address?

Things that could have been useful that were never presented:

- Where do people who work at this location typically live (what towns/neighborhoods)? Are there real estate agents or apartment complexes you'd recommend? This was in both cases where I had orientations I'd moved to the job from out of state.
posted by tckma at 10:31 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a great orientation at my current position. The schedule went like this:

First day:
9-10 HR Orientation and Facility Tour (HR - key policies, forms, company overview etc)
10-10:30 IT Orientation (IT - network access, laptop, general IT policies & procedures)
10:30-12 Departmental processes & general questions (with my new boss)
12-1 First day welcome lunch

Week 2
Monday 1-2: Product Overview
Tuesday 1-2: Market & Industry Overview
Wednesday 2-3: Lead Generation Process & Tools
Thursday 10:30-11: Overview of Prof Services
Thursday 3:30-4: Overview of CRM

There are a lot of advantages of doing it this way. The first meeting showed me where the coffee was, a quick skim through the org chart, all the paperwork and essential first day stuff. The IT meeting was with a different person, at my new desk, with logins all set up and simply going through how to access the programs I needed. Then I met with my boss and started doing work. It wasn't too overwhelming, I met with multiple people and I was able to jump right in.

The second week allowed me to become a more well-rounded employee, with a basic understanding of our products and how the company works. Each session (which was a one-on-one) was with a different person from each department. I'm in finance so I wouldn't necessarily have met those people without these sessions, and the understanding of their work has been quite helpful. Each session covered key processes, systems, technology and/or relationships.
posted by valoius at 1:19 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maps of the building (and another showing the location of other buildings if you have a sizable campus).

Absolutely this. The most valuable things I got from my most recent onboarding were an org chart (one with what everyone's title is and who reports to whom*) and a seating chart (where everyone physically is), because nothing's more annoying than:
  • having a problem that wasn't covered in orientation,
  • being told by a coworker that "Oh, Sandy usually handles that," and then
  • having no clue if that actually is Sandy's job or an ancillary duty (which affects how you approach someone), or even where the hell to find Sandy.
*Damned be those who think the only org chart worth distributing is the top-level offices. I assure you that no one outside the exec suite cares if the chief counsel reports to the chief of staff.
posted by psoas at 3:01 PM on December 2, 2014

I'm a big fan of giving information to people in advance (benefits, job responsibilities, safety policies, IT info, etc.), having them look it over, then starting the first session with a general, "What questions do you have?" and answering those. Then see what hasn't been covered and go through anything that is absolutely essential.

I also like the idea of coming back the second week for more in-depth sessions on important points or topics. That gives them time for the overwhelm to settle and will therefore become more useful.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:18 PM on December 2, 2014

seesom: "Organizational culture is hugely important. More importantly, onboarding provides an opportunity for participants to build their network and create relationships in the organization."

I agree that building an internal network is important, however the one group of employees least valuable to new hire's network is other new hires. If network building is important to the organization, it should be done outside the auspice of an orientation. The only thing I've gotten out of them is that we go through a lot of admin assistants, and that the one person I interacted with on a monthly basis disagreed that 'excellence' was an important institutional goal.

If instead, it was 15 minutes of 'here's some of the company interest groups we've organized and how to join them', that would be a much more useful networking measure than two lies and a truth.

Examples of what your company does for new hires

We're a flagship / research state university. Our new hire process runs for about 3 hours and covers:

1. An introduction to our land / sea / space grant history
2. Awkward "everyone in the room introduce themselves to the room"
3. Benefits and how to enroll in them. They're kinda complicated so it makes sense to get everyone an overview and how they interact.
4. A brief chat from the union rep

What you absolutely needed to know on your first day

1. Where the bathroom is.
2. Where the printer is.
3. How to check email.

All of this is better covered by departments than by HR staff.

What you wished you knew in your first month of work

Any kind of data really. How big our budget is, where it comes from and where it goes. How much of our revenue comes from grants vs tuition vs state funding is an important thing for all employees. How big the various colleges are, and how many employees the school has total.

I also wish I knew which criteria my performance review would be based on. And what my manager's performance review is based on. And so on up the chain.

What did you learn/hear about during your new hire orientation that made you say, "That was a waste of time."

History. The personal backgrounds of 30 people picked more or less at random.

- Any other bits of advice in regards to orientation!

My team maintains a new hire orientation wiki page that anyone can edit and improve. Especially for tech firms, the best investment you can make here is improving your sharepoint / wiki, and search in particular. The better search is, the more likely people are to actually use it. And of course, they'll write more documentation, which makes your search perform poorly! I've never seen a good intranet search--they're either poorly implemented wrappers around Lucene, or so focused on permissions and need-to-know basis that search couldn't possibly produce anything useful for the query.
posted by pwnguin at 9:30 PM on December 3, 2014

We send the new hires to do a scavenger hunt as a group. This includes practical stuff like identifying the locations of the conference rooms, frivolous stuff like "find somebody wearing an orange shirt", and serious stuff that seems frivolous, like "find the guy in the fedora (and he will then explain a key product area to you)."
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 11:35 AM on December 9, 2014

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