HR Toolkit

Getting the Right People


A new employee orientation, (sometimes referred to as employee on-boarding), introduces new employees to the organization and their new role. Beyond providing information about the organization’s policies and procedures, an effective orientation should make the new employee feel comfortable, helping them to learn about their role and the organization’s culture and values.

Developing and facilitating a new employee orientation takes time. Too often, busy workplaces forego a proper orientation in the hopes that new recruits will ‘figure it out’ as they get to work. But in fact, by taking the time to properly orient new hires, employers will increase that employee’s chances of being successful. This could increase employee retention which saves the organization time and money in recruitment in the long run.

A good orientation will enable a new employee to be successful by:

  • Reducing the anxiety of the employee
  • Sharing relevant organizational information and beginning a process of learning about the organization’s mission and work
  • Socializing the employee to the culture of the organization, including the values, behaviours, formal and informal practices, etc.
  • Building relationship between the new employee and colleagues, including managers or supervisors

Related HR Management Standard:

Standard 3.1

All new employees are oriented to the position and to the organization.


Good Practice

There are many elements of an orientation that should be prepared in advance of a new employee starting work to ensure a smooth on-boarding process:

  • Advise board members and staff of the new employee’s name, position, and start date
  • Arrange for and equip a workspace with the necessary furniture, equipment and supplies (ensure that all equipment is working)
  • If applicable, set up email address, phone extension, prepare business cards, office keys, etc.
  • Add the employee to organizational lists (telephone, email, website directory)
  • Prepare documents for the new employee (copy of job description, relevant reports or organizational documents)
  • Ensure the staff handbook is up-to-date
  • Contact the new employee to confirm where and when they should report on the first day
  • Plan the orientation process including what will happen on the first day, week and month
  • Set up the orientation team – who will be doing what in the orientation process
  • Decide what meaningful tasks the new employee will start on and prepare the necessary background material


Getting started – covering the basics

  • Make introductions (new colleagues, a mentor or orientation ‘buddy’, managers, etc.)
  • Give a tour of the assigned workspace and the rest of the office/facility including:
    • Where to safely put belonging (if not in their office)
    • Where to hang coat, store lunch; location of the washrooms
    • Location of the photocopier, fax machine, and supplies, etc.
  • Provide an organizational overview, including an organizational chart if available
  • Review new employee’s job duties and responsibilities including:
    • Job description and expected outcomes
    • Identify work to be accomplished in the first days/ weeks
    • Provide relevant reports and information needed for the job
    • Explain how the job relates to other roles in the organization
  • Review work expectations and schedule:
    • Start and finish times, lunch time and breaks
    • Probationary period
    • Appropriate safety procedures
  • Review HR and administration procedures including:
    • Necessary paperwork for pay and benefits
    • Employee policies and procedures manual
    • Travel and reimbursement processes
    • Absences, leave, vacation, etc.
    • Telephone and email protocol, internet use policy
  • Review health, fire and safety procedures
  • Review the performance management system, learning and development plans
  • Explain the internal communication processes including staff meetings

Moving beyond orientation basics...

Many organizations have the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a new employee orientation process in place, meaning the information is already available. But beyond the what, it is just as important to consider how to share this information, when to schedule addressing the different elements and who needs to be involved to make for an engaging orientation process.

Below are some important tips and reminders for creating a thorough and, more importantly, effective new employee orientation process. If a process is already in place, it would be good practice to review based on the information below:

Design a process, not an event
The orientation process is just that – a process – that will unfold over time, not just in one day. While it is important to share enough information so that a new employee feels equipped and prepared to do their work, employers should avoid overwhelming a new employee with too much information on the first day.

An orientation period supports the intense learning curve that a new employee will experience. It does not set up the expectation that they learn everything at once, but allows them to get good answers to urgent questions immediately, and to continue asking questions in the first few months as their needs change. It lets new employees know there is ongoing support for their successful integration into the organization.

When planning the process, consider how and when you will schedule the activities and information sharing with the new employee and pace it according to what information is vital and what will be more useful and relevant at a later date.

Make a good first impression
For many new employees, their first day experiences will be carried with them throughout their involvement with the organization. For employers, the first day with a new employee provides the opportunity to welcome them to the team and help them feel comfortable.

Consider the experience from the employee’s perspective, and then make an effort to make it fun, interesting and as simple as possible. By engendering these positive emotions from the beginning, the new employee will be inspired to do great work and add value to your organization.

Don’t bury a new employee in paperwork!

Often the best way to learn about a new workplace is to meet and talk with the people who work there. Rather than hiding away a new employee to read over policies, procedures, handbooks, and every report produced in the past five years, consider making the first few days of work as much about meeting people as digesting information.

Consider who you can involve in the process – what different stakeholders can share in the welcoming and orientating process. Often, meetings with colleagues, volunteers, board members and even clients can tell a new employee a lot about the organization - including important cultural elements that often aren’t well documented or articulated in the paperwork.

Make it personal and meaningful
It is important to tailor the orientation process to the individual employee’s particular needs.While there is basic information that all employees need to access, someone with 10 years professional experience may not need the same process as a new graduate who is working for the first time. Similarly, if an employee is new to the nonprofit sector, they may require more information or cultural acclimatization than someone with extensive sector experience. Another example is designing an orientation for New Canadians. Recent immigrants aren’t just new to the organization, they may be new to the Canadian workforce; some workplace practices or norms that Canadian employees take for granted may therefore be worth reviewing.

One of the most difficult parts about being a new employee is that it is difficult to get ‘into’ the work, meaning the employee can feel unsure of themselves and their place within the organization. Assigning specific, meaningful work to do as soon as possible will help to anchor and situate new hires.

Help new employees understand and build their network
New employees need to figure out who people are, what their roles are and how they interact within the organization. To become a fully-functioning member of the team, employees need to know whom to call to get something done, understand who reports to whom, etc. Build time for formal and informal interaction into the orientation process and be sure to give new employees multiple opportunities to engage with their new colleagues. For some new hires, a visual representation of the organizations, (often called an organizational chart) that depicts names, titles and relationships is very helpful. A simple bulletin board with staff pictures, names, and positions will get the job done.

Go beyond the HR basics to share the workplace culture and informal practices
An orientation process that only covers policies and procedures is only telling a small part of the organization’s story. Orientation is supposed to answer new-hire questions such as: What is this organization really all about? What is it like to work here? How are things organized, and where do I fit in?

Think of the formal and informal ‘rules’ at your workplace. For example:

  • Do you observe a casual Friday? What is the office dress code?
  • Do you celebrate birthdays or other significant days in the office? How?
  • Beyond when you convene for staff meetings, how do you meet? Is everyone there? How do you get something on the agenda? How are they facilitated?

Make information accessible
An employee handbook is often used in an orientation process. The handbook serves as a ready reference to the material covered during the orientation period. The orientation of new employees can provide a great refresher or learning opportunity for their colleagues, who can be asked to present information or guide the newcomer.

You may also choose to post new employee orientation schedules, materials, benefits forms, and a FAQ about the organization on an Intranet that is accessible to new hires from a link in a welcome email before their first day on the job. Once they’ve settled into their new job, send a reminder email that certain materials are available online, and encourage them to frequently visit the Intranet for information

Post policies and procedures in writing somewhere convenient. Verbal mentions during a new employee orientation meeting can easily go unheard, especially on a new hire’s first day in the office. Similarly, a stack of papers and reminders can easily get lost in the shuffle. An online resource that is regularly updated, and always accessible, is the best practice when it comes to information sharing.

Assign allies, buddies and mentors from the start
Once settled in, a new employee may naturally connect with a senior employee or proactively seek out a mentor in the workplace. However, it can be very helpful to assign a welcome mentor to each new hire, so they can immediately get a feel for the personality of the organization and know who they can go to for information or guidance for those first weeks on the job.

Similarly, it can be helpful to assign a ‘buddy’ to each new employee. This is a great way to involve a co-worker in the process. This person could interact with the new hire on a more informal basis, filling him or her in on company norms and values, all the unwritten expectations that are part of the culture, as well as facilitating introductions around the workplace.


Good Practice

Next Section: Non-standard Employment