Making the Case for a Second New Employee Orientation


It may be hard for many of us to remember what it is like to be a new hire. Those small things that make the first days, weeks, and months a bit awkward…

  • Where should I go to lunch? Do people even go to lunch in my office?
  • What was the name of that person who just stopped by?
  • How am I supposed to remember all these offices people keep talking about?

In every government agency a new hire will go through a New Employee Orientation (NEO). During that orientation there’s a relatively standard agenda. Topics such as an overview of the agency and mandatory topics like safety are typical. There’s also time to fill out a ton of paperwork for health insurance, transit subsidy, etc.

What new hires won’t learn about during that NEO is how they personally fit into the organization.

Nor will they learn about the unique policies and procedures of their part of the agency. Further, they are unlikely to meet the leaders that play the largest role in the areas they will be working in.

This is not a failure of NEO. The agency’s NEO has a broad audience and a lot of requirements to meet before an employee is released into the agency. However, this doesn’t mean that the receiving office doesn’t have some responsibility for helping that new hire ‘hit the road running’ and helping that employee feel welcome.

One solution is to implement an office-specific NEO. Since the audience is more selective, the agenda can be more targeted. For instance, the office-specific NEO can focus on how they fit in, specific cultural aspects of the office, and meet the senior most leaders in the office. Further, office-specific aspects of standard policies in the office such as teleworking, time keeping, and talent development can be addressed.  My own office has now completed three iterations of our office-specific NEO and we’ve learned quite a lot that we can share.

Lessons learned for an office-specific new employee orientation

  1. Get involvement and buy-in from the senior most leaders of the office. We ask for less than 10 minutes of their time on a quarterly basis.
  2. Keep it fun! A few opportunities for give-always that help connect the new employee such as a book commonly read in the office. We hand out a couple copies of The Phoenix Project as a reinforcement of our drive towards a DevOps culture.
  3. Keep it as short as possible but as long as necessary. We limit our speakers to no more than 10 minutes to talk about their topic.
  4. Listen to feedback and adapt future agendas to respond to the questions asked. We removed a few speakers from the agenda based on initial feedback to give time for other areas that received more questions.
  5. Decide whether it is mandatory to attend or not. We chose not to make it mandatory so that it didn’t become a check-box event. Plus, we like to believe the information we provide is useful but if a new employee isn’t interested, we don’t want them to feel like a ‘hostage’ in their new organization.

A word of caution:

New Employee Orientations can multiply. After initial success we began hearing about sub offices planning their own NEO. This means that a new hire may be facing a third NEO. This is where having upper leadership involvement and buy-in becomes critical. It’s also an opportunity to build a relationship with the sub-office to see if there’s some other way to help meet their needs.

Dana Sims is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Jennifer Bugajsky

Yes! I’ve often considered implementing a follow-up, department-specific orientation. Here, we have two days of orientation. TWO DAYS! One’s head begins to spin…and the information flies right out (ha). Thank you for posting this!

Mary K

Holding the second NEO 60-90 days after the initial NEO might be an interesting experiment. Because new employees frequently feel overwhelmed and a multitude of information is presented that the employee has no idea how to prioritize, catalogue and attend to, a second orientation with details or additional information beyond the survival knowledge presented initially could be an excellent Quality of Life initiative!

This second orientation (and possibly even the initial orientation) could be developed using video, powerpoints, and other visual aids and placed online (like agency intranet or SharePoint) so new employees could refer to it as needed for refresher. The benefit is people who might normally be pulled out of valuable work to brief for 10 minutes would have an “evergreen” presentation that would only require regular (maybe annual) updating.