In business, think of orientation as a new employee's first impression of her workplace. The orientation process usually lasts just a few hours, but it's an integral part of the weeks- or months-long onboarding program. On the whole, onboarding gives new hires time to adjust to their surroundings, equipment, computer programs, duties and coworkers – for starters. But often, it's the first half-day or so that sets an impressive, enlightening example (or an irreversible poor one), which is important to the employee and the organization too.

Ingrains Loyalty

Positive first impressions fill a new hire with excitement and pride, jump-starting his sense of loyalty to the company. So rather than begin the orientation meeting with the company's strict rules or firing policies, open on an upbeat note, with introductions, the mission statement, vision statement, company culture, goals, benefits and a short summary of your plans for growth. Warmly welcome a new employee on board, making him feel like an important member of a caring, supportive team, rather than a resource on an assembly line. If you're earnest when you outline how the company values its people, you let your newest member know he made the right choice by accepting the position.

Accelerates Learning

Who hasn't left a lengthy conversation with an overwhelming, topic-twirling fast talker feeling exhausted and baffled? Similarly, cramming too much information into a half-day orientation is going to backfire. A session that clearly outlines the company in easily digestible pieces – nothing more than necessary on day one – and allows time for a midpoint break reduces confusion. When you make initial information easy to understand, you help streamline and accelerate the learning process, letting everyone involved get on with business sooner rather than later.

Promotes Communication

An ideal orientation process also makes a new hire feel comfortable, welcomed, supported and able to communicate freely, even as you explain how she's expected to approach higher-ups in an appropriate manner. While discussing topics around the company's chain of command, occasionally stop to ask if the employee has any questions. By encouraging questions and happily answering them, you develop a rapport and nurture communication skills from the get-go. It's no secret that the better a company communicates on all levels, the better its success. An anonymous feedback survey gives new hires a voice and gives your orientation staff or human resources team a way to improve.

Increases Performance

Of course, someone needs to show the new hire where to hang her coat and where the lunch room, fax machine and washrooms are on her first day. But why not make it a well-planned experience that'll get her efficiently up to speed by arming her with helpful info early? Maybe you'll send her an email a few days beforehand, extending a welcome in advance and touching on what she can expect the first day. You might include an FAQ list, the dress code, a work schedule and maybe even benefit forms to fill out ahead of time.

On orientation day, you're probably going to cover some heavy policies, so it's smart to post the rules and regulations in a convenient location, directing the new hire to refer to them as needed. An orientation handbook is another handy source of information to use to establish a solid base, boost efficiency, build confidence and increase performance during the onboarding program and beyond.

Reduces Turnover Rate

No company likes to lose employees early on because of a lack of connection or direction, especially after spending weeks or months handpicking them from a long line of interviewees. But unless the onboarding process is a success, high employee turnover could become a serious problem. The ideal orientation program supports each new hire, giving them what they need to feel confident, heard, loyal and eager to stay with (and grow with) the company long-term. Although the orientation program may only last half a day or so, its positive impact, coupled with an upbeat company culture, helps keep an organization's turnover rate low by keeping morale high.