What Is the Optimum Length of a New Employee Orientation?

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When you hire a new employee, an orientation of some kind is mandatory. Even if he is familiar with your systems and the work, he still needs to fill out paperwork and know the basics of your company policies. The optimum length of an orientation will vary drastically from company to company, but it's still important to offer one no matter how easy you think it should be for an employee to learn the ropes.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

The optimum length of a new-employee orientation varies based on the company itself. In general, an orientation should ideally last at least a few hours but no longer than one day.

Variables That Affect Orientation Length

Some companies have orientations that don't even last until the employee's first lunch break. Others have workers go through three-week-long orientations before they even sit down behind their desks. So, which is right? Well, both of them – or at least potentially.

The real answer is that because every company has its own approach to orientation, there is no set answer as to how long an orientation should last. Some companies ask the workers to fill out new-hire paperwork, provide some basic information about company policies and then set the employees to work within an hour. Other companies host diversity seminars, drill workers on safety procedures, offer long training sessions on company policies and specific software, play lengthy videos introducing the company culture, go over every aspect of the employee handbook, provide team-building exercises to introduce them to the rest of their department and more.

The bigger and more complicated a company's organizational structure, the longer the orientation needs to last. Is it any wonder that an employee orientation session at a company with a massive campus like Apple or Google would last longer than one at your local gas station?

The Optimum Length of an Orientation

Realistically, a good employee orientation should be long enough to cover everything a new hire needs to know about the company without dragging on so long that the worker becomes bored and starts to feel like the business values bureaucracy over productivity. The information should therefore be presented in an informative but concise manner.

Aside from making employee feel like their time is not valued, an overly long orientation is likely to provide too much information to the point where the worker is so overwhelmed that she ends up forgetting most of what she was told.

Research demonstrates that attendance at an orientation can benefit employees but that workers start to lose interest when going through overly long orientations. That's why most experts believe that an orientation for most companies should ideally last at least a few hours but no longer than one day.

What Should an Orientation Include?

Every business's orientation will vary based on the workplace values, company culture, size, industry and more. That being said, there are some things every orientation should include. Some of the issues an orientation should cover are:

  • Distribution of the employee handbook for workers to take home

  • An overview of the most important workplace policies (be sure to have workers sign a form stating they understand these policies)

  • The new-hire paperwork, including a W-4, direct deposit information, emergency contact numbers, etc.

  • Company benefits package information, particularly focusing on optional benefits the worker may choose

  • Any required training programs

  • Workplace safety procedures

Additionally, many workplaces choose to also include the following:

  • Diversity training seminars

  • Information on the company culture

  • Introductions to co-workers or managers

  • Welcome gifts or an introductory breakfast to make new hires feel welcomed

  • A tour of the business

  • A question and answer session

  • A meeting with the IT department to set up computers, email addresses, badges, etc.

Be sure the employee will receive anything she needs to get started with her job at the end of the orientation. This may include a laptop, a project on which to work, a company uniform, etc. Also remember that many things an employee needs to know can be taught through on-the-job training or by following up with the worker after a week on the job.

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About the Author

Jill Harness is a blogger with experience researching and writing on all types of subjects including business topics. She specializes in writing SEO content for private clients, particularly attorneys. You can find out more about Jill's experience and learn how to contact her through her website, www.jillharness.com.

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