An 8 Hour New Hire Orientation? When Does HR Go Too Far?

boring-company-picture

My former intern called me yesterday.

Meredith, you will not believe this! I know how you feel about new hire orientations, so I couldn”t wait to tell you that they last EIGHT HOURS at my new job! Everyone is so bored. Can you tell me how to jazz it up?

My questions back to her were obvious.

How long is your employee handbook? 

About the same as yours.

How sophisticated is your medical insurance?

It”s an HSA. Just like you have. No big deal.

Well, what the heck are you doing in there for 8 hours?

We watch videos. There is a cheesy one about sexual harassment. There”s one about forklifts. There”s one about lifting with your legs and not with your back.

Here”s my suggestion… stop doing that. Cover what needs to be covered, and let them go start their jobs. No one wants to spend all day with HR, and you have better things to be doing with your time. 

I want to tell you guys something super important. Are you ready?

HR policies are boring to people who don”t do HR.

Stop boring people to death in your new hire orientations. I can”t think of anything you are teaching people in new hire orientation that would require 8 hours, or that they wouldn”t learn better hands-on once they get to their department.

A good HR new hire orientation should take about 3 hours, and maybe even 2 hours once you get really good at it.

First, I suggest you hit your big policies hard. This should take about an hour.

  • Don”t smoke at your desk, drink from a flask in your company car, or get high in the bathrooms.
  • Try not to date anyone that works here. We don”t like that sort of thing, and you”ll have to sign a Love Contract.
  • You can”t wear flip-flops on the plant floor, and leggings are not pants.
  • You can”t touch people or leer at them for too long.
  • Your mom doesn”t work here, clean up after yourself.
  • Don”t start a Texas Hold “Em tournament in the break room.
  • If you have Blackjack Switch a bad attitude, we”ll fire you.
  • Don”t steal our stuff. We”ll happily allow you to use anything you need while you”re here.
  • Protect the customer”s privacy.
  • Hit your performance goals because we”re evaluating you all the time.

Second, have them sign off on all the stuff you just went over, and fill out tax forms and I-9″s. This should take about 45 minutes.

Third, go over your benefits package. This takes about 30 minutes. If it takes any longer than that – you have a package that is much too complicated to navigate.

  • Here”s our medical insurance, and this what applies to the deductible.
  • Vision insurance will help you get cooler glasses. You can get $130 frames every year.
  • I am thinking you haven”t been to a dentist in a while, here”s a list of Dentists in our network.

Lastly, make sure they”re safe when they hit the floor. We have a safety manual that we go over. It”s about 20 pages with pictures. It takes me 30 minutes to get through it all, and I remind them that safety is common sense. Any job specific safety policies are addressed and taught on the job (e.g. forklift certification).

That”s it. Let them start their new position with your company, and you get back to your office so you can start inputting all of their information. Their manager can show them how to use the phone and log into the company network. That”s why you have managers. They manage people.

How long is your new hire orientation?

FOT Background Check

Meredith Soleau
Meredith Soleau was supposed to be a famous country singer, but her parents made her go to college and major in something “real.” She graduated with a B.S. in Business from the University of Toledo, and landed a gig as a Human Resources Director at a large car dealership in Ohio. After eight years of HR at a car dealership, she burned out, decided to sell cars herself, and has since launched her agency, where she specializes in finding blue-collar workers. Clearly she has plenty of stories. But the best stories are probably about Meredith, herself. Read them on her personal blog, meredithsoleau.com, where she holds nothing back. Follow Meredith on Twitter. Become her friend on Facebook. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

25 Comments

  1. Steve Gifford says:

    Two thoughts (since I can’t clear my throat without a bullet list):

    – Even HR people find HR policies boring. I’m all in favor you making your rules a handbook by themselves.

    – What does the new employee learn in that session? The most important lesson is not the information conveyed, but that this place is boring, traditional, has a lot of rules, and is run by people who don’t care much about what I can contribute. Wonder how long it takes to un-learn that?

    Steve

    Reply
    • Ron Katz says:

      Steve you’re right. Even HR people are bored by HR policies. Your other comment is equally valid. Ron

      Reply
    • Jodine says:

      I think companies do this so they don’t get screwed in the end. I saw the urgency in the HR’s voice, that it had to been done that way or get fired for not doing it.

      Reply
  2. I had an orientation which lasted 8 hours everyday for 5 days straight.

    It also had a written test at the end.

    Reply
    • Meredith says:

      And how did that make you feel as a new hire, Under-Grad? Did you LIKE sitting in a 5 day orientation? Please respond, because this is sort of my point.

      Reply
  3. By the way…love your “About” section!

    Reply
  4. Ron Katz says:

    Meredith, Onboarding (or orientation, employee integration, whatever) should last 90 minutes to 2 hours tops. You can always follow up, and you should. Don’t waste time on benefits on day one, they won’t remember. And lots of times Benefits don’t start on day one. You have time to catch them later. Handle the tax forms/I-9, cover safety & security, and then get them to the worksite! Just make sure you have trained the manager how to continue the process once there. New hires will listen to and remember a lot more of what their manager says than what anyone in HR has to say. Make sure that the things HR does cover is not simply “Here’s all the things you shouldn’t so or you’ll get fired.” That simply reinforces our rep as the “Personnel Police”.

    Love this piece and love your “About” section too.
    Only the best,
    Ron

    Reply
    • Meredith says:

      They DO always forget about the benefits! I think I’ll take your advice on this one! Thanks, Ron!

      Reply
    • Natasha says:

      We try to keep ours pretty short just for that reason – there’s so much they don’t remember about their first day! When I first greet them, I let them know that the only thing we expect them to remember on the first day is where there desk is, where the bathroom is, where the lunchroom is, and how to get out at the end of the day. The joke eases the pressure of info-overload. Other than that, we just give them an office tour, review the policies referenced in their job offer, tell them what they need to know to get paid, and introduce them to the IT guys so they can get any potential tech issued addressed in a timely manner. More complete training comes later when they’re more settled and not so over-whelmed.

      Reply
  5. Rey Carr says:

    Orientation really ought to be focused more on what the new employees want to know, not need to know as assessed by management. It ought to be mentor focused as well by pairing an experienced employee with the new hire and use the VIKES system developed by Peer Resources.

    Reply
  6. Dianne says:

    I think there is a real misperception between orientation and the role in on boarding new employees.

    From learning and training design, 90 minutes is just about the maximum time that knowledge sinks in.

    It is my belief that orientation needs to proceed in chunks of information so as not to confuse and “bore” people and that there should be a plan to the learning and paper signing process that links the new employee to understanding the culture, systems and strategies of the organization.

    So many employees have no clue how what they do makes a difference to company iniatives.

    Orientation is much more than HR policies and paper signing if an organization is looking to attracting and hiring the best employees with a hope for long term retention.

    If you look at the list of the 50 companies that out performed the S&P by 400% or more over the last 5 years, and if you look at the business strategies of those companies making the Fortune list of 100 best companies in the US – you would find a much different approach than what you offer in this post.

    And, it is much longer – for some 90 days.

    Reply
    • Meredith says:

      Ahhh… but this post is about the initial policy push (what we call new hire orientation). I would agree, there IS confusion between the two.

      This post is not about on-boarding, and I wouldn’t begin to write about that since we are still mastering that as a company. It does take a lot of time and follow up to get someone to feel like a fit in your culture. But that isn’t something that is solely HR’s duty either. That involves the new hire, the manager, and HR.

      Reply
  7. d says:

    As someone who has worked in a number of companies with strong internal brands (and currently somewhere where we’re designing one), I have almost the exact opposite view from you. Well, I guess that’s not quite true. I agree that bnefits, compliance, and policy should be covered in a minimum amount of time (ours currently runs at 2.5 hours).

    Here’s the difference. We spend a lot of time talking about company history, values, and culture. We talk about the technology that makes what we do possible. We do this with as much interaction and activity as we can manage. We have follow up sessions for the next month that reinforce interdepartmental connections and key metrics. We have numerous social activities, and honestly try to build a cohort with newly hired groups. We’re even working on a capstone day for the one month mark where we reinforce what they’ve learned, provide an experiential simulation, and give them access to senior leadership.

    Why spend all this time? (Surprisingly, it isn’t that expensive, outside of time away from desk). Our ramp up time has decreased by 30% since July. Our 180 day and 90 day voluntary turnover has dropped by more. Efficiency gain + less money in recruiting costs = profit. Not the type of program for every company, but certainly a valuable one for mine.

    Reply
    • Meredith says:

      Oh, I TOTALLY agree with you! It’s ongoing. But that is really on-boarding as a whole, and that takes time. This is about the 2.5 hour policy push that occurs before they see their manager on the first day. We can both agree that it should not take 8 hours to do that.

      Reply
  8. Frank says:

    One has to remember Personnel/HR/Talent Acquisition or whatever they call themselves this week is a non-revenue producing department. And they will do almost anything from boring new hire orientation to employee handbook (some of them it requires a lawyer to understand the hand book) in justifying their existing/salaries and too many superior’s let them do it

    Reply
    • Meredith says:

      That’s why we do not need an 8 hour orientation to push our policies down the throats of new hires. The point of this post is exactly that – HR has much better things to do. Things that justify our existence.

      However, I get the feeling that you may not know what else HR does besides a new hire orientation. I don’t need to justify my salary to my company. They already “get” what I do for them. If you’d like me to justify it to you, just send me an email and I will gladly pass along my job description so you “get” it as well.

      Reply
  9. You make some excellent points.

    One is the implication that bad efforts at risk reduction are unlikely to achieve your goals. Consider that the goal of all those videos is to reduce risks from WC and EEOC claims. They may protect the company from damages if there is a claim…but unlikely to reduce the risk of the actual claim.

    Good training can takes seemingly boring subjects and turns them into engaging lessons. Doing this will build results that reduce risks of actual claims.

    The point d makes is an important reflection of group dynamics. However, branding of culture, values, etc. should be initiated during the interview stage. Recruiting materials, realistic job previews, and interviews that build your brand reduce the time post-hire. Basically, the orientation/on-boarding process reinforces what you have done already.

    HRwhale
    By the way – what’s with the chili and spaghetti? Everyone knows chili belongs on Fritos.

    Reply
  10. Scottish Sue says:

    A great discussion and posting, thanks Jeff.

    Once again, we need to start with purpose…is it to welcome someone to the new company, is it to provide key information eg about products or benefits or is it to check the box on safety? Maybe it is all three or more.

    d, your comments about culture, social interaction and the capstone day are all excellent and good practice. Giving people exposure to senior leaders is a smart move and best done after someone has oriented effectively eg at the 30 day mark.

    If we really want new hires to learn…then using our current knowledge of brain science and learning, then it does need to be chunked down and learnt over time. Recent research on spacing of learning, indicates that every couple of weeks is the minimum effective time for reflection, application and practice before the next building block is added. Using peer/buddy work between sessions with more experienced hires and each other can embed learning and speed up integration. Neuroscience is teaching us a lot about how to learn, remember, innovate and socially integrate…let’s use this new knowledge in our HR realms.

    Reply
  11. primalHR says:

    Two weeks ago I sat through an 8 hour orientation for my new job and all I could think of was this article. One of my first projects for my new company will be to streamline the material covered. No reason to watch a watch a 30 minute long 20 year old video on sexual harassment. While the intent is good, it’s only value was to show how people’s clothing and use of technology has changed in 20 years(it was on VHS). Also, covering basic shop level safety and production logging lessons durring orientation only puts people to sleep. Get people into their departments so they can learn what really goes on in the shop, not some stuffy classroom run by HR. At my previous company I ran 1.5 -2 hour long orientations that ran through benefits, basic level policies that were unique to us and important to the new hire, and standard new hire paperwork. Everything else was handled by the manager… who I trained on what to do with a new hire for those first few weeks/months. If/when people had a specific questions they could find me and I was more than happy to help them.

    Steve Gifford- your last comment about the lessons learned is true. I felt comming into the orientation that I was walking into a company that was looking forward and that they wanted me to contribute and provide a voice for change, but after the orientation and my first few weeks on the job I see that they have a death-grip on the past.

    Reply
  12. Lee says:

    Hello- I have a question I am hoping someone can answer. I recently started a per diem position in a particular industry. As a per diem worker, I only get paid (of course) if I work . Orientation was five days, eight hrs. It was a mix of per diem employees like myself and full time workers. The full time workers, of course, received full pay for orientation. The per diems like myself will only get paid for the orientation ( a specified amount) we completed AFTER we have been assigned a certain number of per diem work. My offer letter specifically stated that the first day of orientation was my “first day of work”. In addition to the 40 hour orientation class, I am also expected to “shadow” other employees which is also considered part of orientation. At this rate, it could weeks or even months before I finish this painful process and then get assigned any per diem work and thus get paid for the valuable hrs/ milage/toll I have already put in. While this amount of orientation is way overkill (especially for someone like me who is very seasoned in this industry), the fact that I am at the company’s whim as to WHEN they pay, is especially a turn off. Can you advise?

    Reply
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