Retention / Employee orientation

Use orientation sessions to generate enthusiasm and build connections

Last updated: November 30, 2018

welcome onboard welcome mat

Do you remember your first day in your current job? Thinking about the experience will likely conjure up memories of anxiety and filling out paper work.

We all know how meaningful it is when we are warmly welcomed into a new community. Your new hires’ first experience with your district should be positive and welcoming. It should affirm their decision to join your organization and encourage them to begin build connections with new and experienced staff.

A positive orientation experience contributes to higher retention rates, with 69% of employees more likely to stay with an organization for at least three years if their initial experience was positive. An effective and systematic onboarding program for all new hires can really make a big difference in retaining your employees over the long run.

Although new employees are eager to learn about your organization and get organized, don’t just focus on the forms and other housekeeping items! This is your opportunity to introduce your organization’s culture to new employees and help foster new connections and friendships.

Six strategies for a successful experience

Communicate the details ahead of time

It’s human nature to feel anxious about the unknown and unexpected. Ease these anxious feelings and set a new employee’s expectations at the right level by sending out an email before the in-person orientation.

The email should outline what new hires need to know, including:

  • Date, time and place of the session, as well as information on parking
  • Important documents that the new hire will need to bring with them, such as their social insurance number, a void cheque or banking information for payroll purposes, their personal health number or other information they may need to sign up for benefits for themselves and their dependants
  • A detailed schedule, including which staff members will be present
  • If applicable, confirmation that the employee will be paid for attending the orientation session
  • If food or refreshments will be available during the day
  • Contact person’s information

Cover the basics and generate enthusiasm for your district

New hires will need to know all the basics about your district, such as the number of schools in your district, the education programs you offer, significant dates and important contacts.

You’ll also want to talk about mentorship programs or district-based professional development opportunities for your employees, as well as ways they can be involved and benefit from being part of your district.

Highlight successes and share what direction you are working towards – get your new hires excited about joining your team!

It’s a good idea to provide your new hires with a comprehensive package or employee handbook that includes the information you’re covering so they can refer to it later. Receiving all this information at one time can be overwhelming, and providing supplies for employees to jot down their thoughts or questions will help them remember and process the information.

Get your new hires involved

The best orientation sessions get new hires interacting and involved. Bring in different staff members to share information about different programs and opportunities in the district. Avoid a lecture-style session and get the new employees interacting with each other and staff. Building relationships right from the beginning will help your new hires feel more welcomed – and connected with the community.

Get the paperwork out of the way

While paperwork is not the most exciting activity, it’s important that any needed paperwork be completed correctly and promptly. Make sure your new hires understand the purpose of each form and how to fill it out.

Small gestures have a big impact

Oftentimes, it’s the small things that mean the most. Consider welcome gifts such as branded mugs, notebooks, pens or any other basic supplies new hires may need on the job. For the orientation session, providing light snacks and refreshments also shows that you’re thinking about your employees’ comfort.

Feedback and follow-up

At the end of the session, ask for feedback through a simple survey that you distribute in person at the event or by email just afterwards. It is always valuable for you to hear participants’ feedback about what went well and what can be improved upon. This will allow you to make adjustments for future sessions.

Follow up a few weeks or a month after the new hire has been on the job. Although feedback right after a session is completed is valuable, once an employee has been in their position for some time, they may be able to provide additional insight into how the orientation session could be improved.

Finally, at the one-year mark, you might want to consider giving a gift or symbolic award that recognizes your employees’ contribution. This communicates that you have a welcoming workplace culture where all employees are valued and their contributions are celebrated.

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