Crafting the New Hire Onboarding Experience: Orientation Schedule (PART 3)

This is the last post in a three-part series on creating a great new hire onboarding experience. You can catch up on the first post here where I cover best practices to implement as you build your custom program. In part two, I recommend different onboarding checklists to have ready ahead of their first day. In this final piece, I’ll share an example orientation schedule that you can add to your toolkit.

Before you go straight for the gold, I have a few recommendations for what to include when crafting an onboarding schedule.

1. Assign responsibility

Once your team has a solid schedule in place, it’s key to designate a lead for each section to promote better accountability throughout the process. For instance, your Marketing department should know upfront that their team will be responsible for ordering business cards and your purchasing manager should know that s/he will need to order supplies for the employee’s workspace before they arrive. There will always be more pressing priorities within departments, but onboarding tasks should take precedence to facilitate a seamless first week experience.

2. Advance notice

When advance notice is possible, our general inclination is to provide that information. Since life is all about accommodating the unknown, give the new employee a break and send them a tailored orientation schedule ahead of time so they know what to expect. It’s always nice to have a chance to mentally prepare, especially since the first week will be their first real opportunity to connect with the rest of the team and acclimate to a new environment.

3. Build up to the role

As you create a custom schedule for your company, make sure to start slow and build up to their core work. Make the first day more about introductions and an overview of company minutiae. As many businesses have discovered, it’s better to start the first day later in the week when everyone is more relaxed and has broader availability. It also helps when the employee has the weekend to grow accustomed to the position. If you do this, I’d suggest giving them time to review what they learned the previous week as a refresher before taking on new content the following week.

4. Manager touchstone

Start off each day with a brief 1:1 with their manager. This can also be expanded to a team check-in when it makes sense. Think of it like a pulse check. It gives them a chance to learn about the pressing needs of the day and an opportunity to shadow their manager. They should also sit in on any key tasks or meetings that will later be crucial to their position.

5. Department storytelling

As I mentioned in part one, storytelling is a necessary part of the experience. It’s important to provide the origin story of the company but it’s also crucial to allow each department to talk about what they do. Make sure the new hire interfaces with every department so they get a first-hand look at the inner workings of each team and hear about their specific stressors and successes. It’s an especially good idea to include how they’ll interface with each person in their day to day work. Even if the new employee and a given department won’t work much together, it’s still a great opportunity for them to mingle. Everyone at the company should have a general idea of what type of projects each team is working on, along with a few of their long-term goals.

6. Reflection

Schedule enough time for the employee to independently review elements of their role. You’ll be throwing a lot of information at them and they’ll need time to decompress and read up on various company processes. If possible, it’s even better if they can take a day off after completing the whole onboarding process. If that’s not feasible, give them the flexibility to work from home on the last day to have more uninterrupted time to absorb their new role.

7. Lighten up

Don’t make the experience mentally taxing without providing an outlet to relieve some of the first week pressure. Add in plenty of opportunities for fun, whether that’s in the form of happy hours, group lunches, or a more novel activity. Give them a chance to ease into the role and get excited about what they can bring to the opportunity.

Below you’ll find a link to a sample onboarding schedule. At long last! I’ve divided the schedule out by day and included the entire first week. Depending on your company size, it can be shortened or specialized to accommodate reality. With these principles in mind, go forth and create a kickass experience filled with attention, passion, and reflection.

Template: New Hire Orientation Schedule

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