New Hire Orientation Ideas – 4 Tips for Welcoming

Employee On-BoardingNow more than ever, it’s critical for learning professionals to address the incredible costs of high employee turnover. The trends are well known: People are staying at jobs for less time than they use to. And that’s leading to extra costs, lost revenue, and generally, a tough environment for organizations to just stay afloat, much less thrive amidst this steady turnover and employee disengagement.

First, let me show you some statistics:

  • 25 percent of Fortune 500 managers change jobs each year.
  • 6.2 months is the break-even point for new managers, (from a Monster.com 2007 survey).
  • 22 percent of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment .
  • 46 percent of rookies wash out in the first 18 months (per Leadership IQ).
  • The cost of losing an employee in the first year is estimated to be at least three times the salary.
  • New employees who went through a structured on-boarding program were 58 percent more likely to be with the organization after three years.


So what can be done?

When a new employee joins an organization, they spend the majority of their time going through the on-boarding process, mostly with learning and development people like me. So ultimately, L&D pros are in a unique position to make a direct and measurable impact on employee retention and performance by rethinking the on-boarding process.

Rethinking On-Boarding

There are many ways to design on-boarding programs. Just do a Google search for onboarding, and you’ll find plenty of ideas. But what we really need to focus on is trying to get people engaged and up to speed more quickly. In other words, to reduce time to proficiency. If we can get a new employee up to a productive level quickly, where they’re contributing value to the organization, not only will they be effecting your organization’s bottom line, but also increasing client satisfaction, and feeling more engaged personally.

Learning professionals need to think beyond the traditional new employee training programs they typically design and facilitate. Here are four ways we can do that:

Think Socialization

Organizational socialization is about integrating newcomers so that new people feel as though they’re really part of the team.Studies have shown that employees who are effectively socialized are more likely to stay with the organization and perform at a high level. Socialization includes several factors:

  • Understanding proper expectations.
  • Role clarity
  • Friendships in the organization
  • An overall sense of belonging to the organization or sub-groups in the organization.


Learning professional should include the concept of socialization into new hire on-boarding in an effort to bring new people into the organization.

Foster the Leader/Employee Relationship

Most employees leave supervisors, not companies. This means the employee/manager relationship is quite possibly the most important relationship a new hire needs to establish. So the more we can build opportunities for managers to interact with new employees early and throughout the on-boarding process, the better.

Design New Hire Classes as Communities of Practice

If a community of practice is a group of people who come together with a shared interest and work as a group to improve, why couldn’t a group of newly hired employees organization as a CoP with the common interest in learning what they need to do their job? In addition to effective new-hire training and a socialization program, we could help newcomers gather together with the right resources and access to experts with the intent of improving their craft, which in this case is their new job.


As I have written before, introducing concepts of gamification into new-hire on-boarding can increase engagement and improve motivation. Gamification is an emerging discipline, but ultimately it’s about adding elements of games — rewards, points, recognition — into your program. So, for an on-boarding program, you could design “levels” or “points” into the program, to incentivize completion. It could also include timelines and deadlines for achieving certain milestones.

And my favorite element is the quest: How can you send your new employees on a quest within the organization so they have to seek out and discover some institutional knowledge? Gamification has the potential to increase newcomers’ enagement and motiviation through just a few minor tweaks to what you’re already doing.

Again, the employee retention statistics are horrifying and by themselves are reason enough to send learning professional back to the drawing board. We have a great opportunity, however, to improve the retention and performance numbers in our organizations by rethinking how we design new hire training programs to consider the entire on-boarding experience.

What have you done to improve how your organization onboards new employees? I am sure everyone reading this post, could love to read your ideas in the comments below.

MoreGen Y to Pollsters: We Love Training, But Not the Traditional Kind.

Bill Cushard, Director of Training and Development at Allonhill, is a learning leader with more than 12 years of experience in training and performance improvement at companies such as E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.

Image used under Creative Commons from Flickr user mcclouds.

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Bill Cushard


  1. Aarti Talwar

    Very well-written and timely article, Bill. As Learning and Development consultants working with technology companies in the Bay area, we are constantly faced with introducing new ideas not just around employee on-boarding, but every aspect of workplace learning.

    I was recently faced with a similar situation where I was charged with redesigning a departmental onboarding training. While the executive leadership acknowledged the need for a more structured onboarding, they were not too keen on committing to a full-on classroom or online orientation program.

    So, we looked at more creative ways to design and deliver the onboarding. We used Webcasts that comprised welcome notes by the executive leadership, short e-learning capsulates, and case studies from projects to enable a dialog and discussion within the new hires.

    I look forward to hearing how other learning and development pros handle such workplace challenges.

  2. Thank you Bill for the insightful post and your earlier post on why it makes sense to gamify onboarding.

    The next generation employees, especially the digital natives, struggle to sit in a classroom for long durations listening to corporate presentations. The experience needs to be made more So-Ga-Mo (Socia, Gamified and Mobile) and that is the mission that we are set out to pursue.

    We have worked with a number of companies both large and small across various industries and countries and have found that there is lot of opportunity for all organizations, business units, managers and teams to organically improve their performance by increasing engagement levels during the first few weeks of joining of a new employee, and better still even before day of joining. Would love to hear your thoughts on the product concept: http://www.mindtickle.com/allaboard/

    Aarti – there was an interesting thread on Quora not too long back, wherein several experts shared their experiences on best practices on new hire onboarding. Thought you might find it useful. Here is the link: http://b.qr.ae/JhWDPC

  3. Aarti,

    Sounds like the webcasts from leadership are working. Another idea, if the executive team is not willing to commit to a full-on classroom or e-learning on-boarding program, how about designing a “quest” for new hires. It is semi-structures by you…but the individuals must go out through the organization finding answers to questions, certain people and have they do, etc. This way, more responsibility is on the new hires (less resources from L&D team), but the quest has a defined purpose. To orient new people.


  4. Mohit,

    Yes, I think on-boarding more needs to be “So-Ga-Mo.” It might not be just generational…it may be a more effective way to on-board new people in the context of the work.


  5. Fiona Smith

    In my experience, the onboarding process(in even the most poor examples) is less often the issue than what happens after it. New hires are generally enthusiastic to learn and open to new information specifically because of their situation, and most onboarding includes some kind of assessment, even if it is only to Kirkpatrick level 1. Point being, when new hires leave an onboarding course they most often know what they need to know and should have enough skill to crack on and develop it further. What happens from that point on is what is often more pivotal to turnover than ways in which to improve the course itself (unless the course itself is so out of line with the role it’s actually onboarding for that performance is almost impossible, which I think is often the exception to the rule). Firstly it’s essential to see the onboarding ‘period’ as at least 3 months long – too often onboarding is a label given to an initial course of some kind – even a day or two long. Onboarding should be about equipping someone with the knowledge and skills to perform a role well, and embedding those behaviours until they become the norm. If first line management are in tune enough with the onboarding process and are great coaches, retention should be acceptable at least, but most often this isn’t the case. Many new hires are disenchanted due to lack of ‘post onboarding’ support, being told that ‘in the real world, we do it this way’ or by poor performance progress…or all three! To reduce retention, the onbaording process should move seamlessly from the L&D dept to first line managers, with a consistent message and method – over a period of at least 3 months – Kirkpatrick level 3 measurement at least should then be achievable – what a rarity ;0)

  6. Fiona,

    I think part of your point is also that we think too narrowly about on-boarding. We think of it as the new hire training that L&D offers, when on-boarding should be a process from pre-start date to a certain period of time well after any initial training training that would include helping people socialize into the organization.

    Thanks for your comment.


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