New Hire Orientation- The Musical


May 26, 2010

If you’ve had a job in your lifetime then you’ve been subjected to new hire orientation of some kind.  Whether that was someone putting a paper hat on your head and telling you to up-sell with fries on each order or if it was a more formal orientation program in a large organization, you’ve been through it.  And, from most accounts, it is typically the most boring time you’ll spend in your working career.

I have to admit that my current organization does a great job orientating new employees.  The experience was factual, yet very personal.  It kicks off with over an hour with the President.  It includes lunch with your new supervisor, receiving a surprise delivery of your favorite candy or snack, and acting out policies with skits.  It not only made me feel immediately like part of the team, but showed me that fun is allowed and encouraged in the hospital.  But what about all the companies that are still using a model of sign these papers, watch these boring Power Point presentations, etc?

I joke at work that I would like to change our employee orientation to be like a broadway musical since it’s held in the auditorium and that would be a way to bring fun, creativity, and passion to the event.  Well, today you have the power to make 2 changes to your organization’s employee orientation program.  What is one thing you would take away and one thing you would create or include? Who knows, what we share in the comments may just spark you to make a change at your organization.


  • The one thing I am working on changing is totally eliminating the paper work element. There is nothing there that can’t be done online prior to the new hire showing up for their first day. I love the skit idea!

  • Agree with Bruce that the one thing to take away is the paperwork. One thing to add is the organizational chart with the name of the go to person for each department. Wouldn’t it be great to know who to ask a question of in each department?

  • Love the skit as well. Sounds like your hospital put some real thought into making their orientation (what a boring word!) engaging. Wonder how many companies think about the impact that “first impression” makes on their new hire. They should ask if their process reflects their culture.

  • I love how your company personalizes the orientation – spending time with the President, favorite snacks and taking you to lunch. Seems that companies put so much emphasis on content the first day, which is always so overwhelming for the new employee. It would be great if orientation could last more than a day. Not necessarily a structured first week, but maybe ongoing learning about the company history, business, expectations and colleagues, while keeping it as personal as possible. Anxious to see what others think.

  • I’m not currently employed, so it’s hard for me to pick one and one. However, as I think about an “ideal NEO program” I’d a) limit the amount of time one has to sit in a chair listening to others and b) extend the time one gets to pump palms, kiss babies, socialize with peers, and learn (in kind of a shadowing environment) a little bit about each of the key functions in the business. Hopefully I’ll be going through one of my own in the not too distant future so I’ll report back….eventually.

  • The best NEO I experienced was at a small start-up company in the SF Bay Area. They had a mandatory two-week program where you did everything from install Windows NT and other necessary programs onto your new blank desktop, to learning what marketing and engineering did on a daily basis, and most importantly, understanding the product we were making and to who we were targeting our sales effort.

    The training was a couple of hours each day, so there was also time to learn what your actual job was at the same time. It got a little thick at times (my eyes glazed over a little when they started explaining relational databases at length, but guess what? I still remember that, so it must have gotten through my noggin somehow!) but that was because they gave the technical people the same training as everyone else.

    I’d love to give our new hires an abridged or more targeted version of this sort of training. Heck, even running them through the org chart and explaining what people do would be pretty awesome. We are pretty much a “fill out this form” sort of organization right now, but I’m optimistic that there might be an opportunity for change in the future.

  • Hi Trish – Our orientation does include the paperwork. Would like to get rid of that. But I also make sure that our new hires spend time with our CEO and COO. Recently, I’ve been having the CEO chat with the new hire over a game of ping pong. It’s been fun and really lightens up the conversation. We also bring in Krispy Kremes and put them in the new hires office and send out an email blast. Everyone pops in the office for a treat and to meet the new kid on the block.

  • @Bruce- I agree with abolishing the paperwork from orientation. At my organization I liked that they brought me in the week before to fill out the paperwork and had someone available to help me if I needed it. The skits are fun. No one really wants to do it at first, but once a group of three strangers takes on the dress code or confidentiality policy and acts it out, it’s hysterical. We get crazy and people pretend to be Tom Cruise or reporters from the National Enquirer. It makes the more boring, dry policy part pretty memorable. Thanks for commenting.

    @Karin- Thanks for taking time to comment. I love the org chart idea. I’m definitely going to take that one back to work and share with our planning team.

    @Elizabeth- You got me thinking…do you think the word “orientation” turns people off? Wonder what we could call it to make it more engaging. Thanks for adding your voice to the mix.

    @Chris- Thanks for your input. You know, ours is a little over a day and a half. There are a few areas we can improve. One other part I really like is that new hires get a tour. I’m with you- the suggestions everyone shares make this a fun way to learn.

    @Charlie- A couple things came to mind. Since you’re in this unique position, maybe you could write up what the ideal shadowing based orientation would include. That would definitely make for an interesting post. So glad you commented. Thanks

    @Teresa- It sounds like that company has the right idea. Instead of orientation being held in a room away from everyone and reading policies, you were actually being integrated into the culture. Maybe we can ditch the “orientation” label and call it “Culture Integration” or something like that. Thanks for pitching in your ideas.

    @Crystal- So glad you stopped by to comment. It sounds like while you still have some of the necessities in there, you are truly incorporating fun into the mix. I would love to be able to start a job and talk with my CEO over a good game of foosball (ping pong isn’t my best sport).

    • @Alison- Early in the day they have you fill out a card that has your favorite drink, snack, candy, month/ day of birthday, how you like to be recognized, favorite store, etc. The card is about 4 x 6″. You turn it in and forget about it. Then, when you’re off having a nice lunch and tour with your new supervisor, the orientation facilitator runs out to get either your fave candy or snack and it’s waiting for you at your seat after lunch. It was the perfect touch that let me know that I matter. I highly recommend trying this because it doesn’t cost much and the feelings it generates are worth a million.

  • One thing that is very powerful for employee engagement is understanding why their job is important and what they can contribute to the overall success of the company. For new hires – nothing could be more important than to understand their reason for being at that company and in that position – and how their performance could and will impact the end user and the company.

    Especially at a hospital – I would bring in patients who have experienced the culture to tell their stories and have representatives from the various departments talk about how the individual’s jobs impacted that experience. Too often we assume that the employee knows their job is important – but it really gets cemented in their psyche when they hear it from the real “end user.”

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.




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