Home > Articles > Business & Management > Personal Development

Rethinking New Employee Orientation

All organizations have some kind of employee orientation program, but few put much thought into it, and the processes are typically dominated by filling out forms and reviewing boring employee manuals. Smart organizations are taking this process much more seriously to ensure that employees have a much deeper understanding of how the organization works and their role in it. The result is a workforce that can (finally) take real ownership over their jobs.
Like this article? We recommend

When that new employee shows up for her first day of work at your company, what kind of orientation can she expect? Every company is unique, of course, but there are certainly some common elements I have noticed in orientation processes:


You will likely bring your new hire around the office where she has the opportunity to interrupt important people who are doing important work so she can say hello, state her name, shake their hands, and say something bland like how happy she is to be here. Both the new employee and the person she is meeting will each forget the other’s name instantly.

The Welcome Video

If your company has some budget, you may even be able to forego some of the introductions by having the new employee watch the company welcome video, in which some of those important people present warm and fuzzy descriptions of the organization and its culture on camera. There will typically be a palpable difference, however, between the impression conveyed in the video about the organization and the feeling she gets walking the halls.

Binders and Forms

Last but not least, you will bury her under a set of manuals, project binders, and HR forms that will keep her busy for the rest of the week as you (gratefully) get back to your real job. She will read them, retaining about 10%, and will likely never open them again.

Okay, perhaps this is a "glass-half-empty" version of the new employee orientation process, but there is likely enough of this description that is consistent with practices at your organization to make you at least a little bit nervous.

New employee orientation simply does not get the attention it deserves. We generally try to cram as much information transfer in as possible in a short amount of time in ways that don’t interfere with what everyone else is doing and allow the new employee to start doing actual work as quickly as possible. After all, it has been hard with that position vacant, so we really need her to just start doing her job!

But if the purpose of orientation is to enable that new employee to effectively do her job, our attempts to do it quickly and without interruption are self-defeating. We need to rethink the orientation processes with the end in mind. We want to take people who are completely new to our system and somehow enable them to be fully functioning, powerful employees—people who really own their job and can be proactive. We want people who solve problems before they get too big and take action when action is needed.

If that’s the behavior you’re looking for from your new employee, what does she need to get there? Certainly more than a 30-minute video and a 300-page manual. She needs a much deeper understanding of the organization—how it works; what drives success; how all the parts are connected (or not connected). She needs to understand the official authority relationships (indicated on the organizational chart) as well as the unofficial relationships (typically only known and expressed by insiders who know who the real go-to person is for any given issue). She needs to know what’s valued in the culture. She needs to know what is important strategically, and why. I know it’s a lot, but if you want the powerful ownership behavior described above, this is what she needs.

So you need to give her some time. Orientation simply cannot be limited to a small number of days and accomplish the goals above. At a presentation I was giving to Public Affairs officers in the U.S. Air Force, they explained to me that their "new employee orientation" process is a bit more extensive. They call it "boot camp," and it is eight weeks, residential. That’s a lot of time to invest in new recruits, but it’s done with a clear purpose. When those recruits finish boot camp, they deeply understand the Air Force, their role in it, how it works, and what they need to do to be successful. This is particularly critical in military organizations because if these new "employees" end up in battle, they won’t usually have time to check the manual, or even ask a superior officer or a peer what to do. When the bullets are flying, they simply need to take the right action.

Zappos, the wildly successful online retailer, doesn’t run its employees through an eight-week residential program, but its on-boarding process does take four weeks, and it makes everyone in the company go through the same training that the customer service reps go through—specifically because they are committed to a culture of customer service. Lawyers, accountants—whatever the position—they will go through training and spend time answering phones. It takes more time, but it yields employees who deeply understand the company.

You may not have the resources of the Air Force or Zappos, but you can still create that powerful ownership behavior in your new employees by expanding your orientation efforts in different ways:

  • Connect new employees with specific mentors or focused peer groups that they can use as ongoing resources for learning the deeper aspects of your culture and process.
  • If you’re large enough, connect new employees into groups that cut across departments. They can learn from each other and this can help combat that silo problem you’ve got, too.
  • Make learning about the organization a specific part of new employees' jobs and their deliverables over the first six to twelve months. Orientation can’t only be something the organization "does to" the new employee. Give them some responsibility.
  • Include skill training in areas connected to your culture. If you value direct communication and open and honest exchanges, for instance, you may need to train new employees in conflict-resolution skills. Not everyone comes to your company with the same skill level in areas like that.

These are just some ideas to get you thinking. You will have to develop methods that are unique to your situation and work within the resources you have, but you should start rethinking your new employee orientation today.

Our current approach, with its focus on data dumps and compliance, is not providing us with employees who can take ownership, be true leaders (even at the bottom of the hierarchy), and proactively solve problems. Organizations that figure out how to shift their processes to help develop employees with those qualities will have a competitive advantage.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020