Five Steps to Successful Employee Orientation in a Distributed Environment

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Charleen Allen

Every time an employee quits, it costs the company an average of $45,000 in profits. Unwanted employee turnover is costing U.S. companies more than $140 billion annually. What can human resources do to keep good employees?

What is included in the essentials of onboarding?  Click here to find out.

Retention begins on the first day on the job. Using a well-planned, multi-dimensional process for employee integration can improve employee retention by as much as 25 percent.

The key is integrating new employees socially and emotionally, while streamlining the process. Orientation is not automatic when everyone works in the same location, and it is even more challenging in a virtual organization. Here are a few tips to help you make your new hire's onboarding experience as successful as possible for all concerned.


Step 1: Onboarding

Onboarding is all the tasks necessary for a smooth transition into the organization. This is most difficult for companies with knowledge workers in distributed locations. Realize that a worker might be the only one in your organization at this particular location.

Make detailed directions about getting into the office available, especially if there are security procedures. Give them instructions as to where they will sit and who they will be working with. Make sure you call them the first morning to welcome them and answer any questions.

Ensure a cube or office has been designated, a computer with the needed software is installed and phone numbers, e-mail accounts and a user ID have been assigned.

When they arrive on the first day, have their name plates printed and installed. Make sure that someone at the location meets and takes them to lunch, even if that person works for a different business unit. Help them build their network. Show them you are happy they joined your organization.

Step 2: Acclimation

Starting at a new company is like going to a new country. Everything is different—the people, the systems, the language and the culture. New employees need to understand the culture of the organization. With a virtual environment, ensure they receive phone calls by other team members. Send photos and bios of team members to their e-mail accounts.

Help new employees become familiar with the office environment by developing work aids such as an online orientation.

Provide them with support tools such as acronym dictionaries, process diagrams, checklists, organizational charts and phone lists. These types of tools help new employees feel comfortable in their work and enable them to be productive immediately.

Step 3: Integration

Many people spend more time at work than they do with their friends and family, but who wants to spend the workday with total strangers? An emotional connection develops when new employees really get to know their co-workers and create friendships with others in the workplace.

Personal connections positively contribute to employees wanting to stay with the company. Create opportunities for new employees to meet other people in the company, beyond those in their immediate work group.

New employees come into an organization with a fresh perspective. Encourage them to share any new ideas or approaches to products and processes that would increase productivity or customer satisfaction. Smart organizations take advantage of this source of innovation. Create a structured process to enable "feedback loops" that encourage discovery and networking. For example, assign an employee the task of recommending one way to improve a process within his work group. Most organizations want employees to be proactive and to develop their networks; but this doesn’t happen effectively without assigning tasks to explore the organization.

Step 4: Relationship Management

Help employees build lasting relationships by having regular one-on-one conversations with management. Go out to lunch together and get to know each other as people. This will keep them in the company longer.

During their first 90 days, initiate scheduled times in which the new employees can discuss things with management. Even senior management should plan regular events, such as monthly conference calls where they can share ideas with new employees. If a senior-level manager is going to be in the location where there are employees, create opportunities to meet and share goals and business strategies. Alignment of goals within the organization can produce a competitive advantage.

Step 5: Expectations

Both the employee and the manager are coming into the relationship with expectations. It is important to share these expectations with one another. Find out what the new employee expects. Encourage questions because many things you take for granted are unknown to the new employee. Assign an immediate goal of getting to know the organization and the job. Persuade new hires to be proactive and network.

Set specific performance goals with new employees inside the first 90 days. Assign them the task of finding out how their jobs provide value within the overall organization. Encourage the new hire to create his/her own network within the organization. Align their performance expectations with the organization through mutual goal setting.

Integrating new employees into your organization and reducing turnover is one of the most effective ways of increasing company profits while reducing headaches, financial loss and risk.

Putting It All Together

Take this opportunity now to make changes in your New Employee Orientation so you will be ready. Making people feel welcomed, preparing them with the resources that help get work done immediately and adding value will not only reduce the learning time—it will also increase retention.

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