The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Commencement is to New Employee Orientation as …

With the end of the of the spring semester only weeks away, I can’t help but reflect back on my college graduation. If memory serves me, a State Senator was the keynote and it was a pleasant, albeit drawn out, exercise of rituals and generic pep talks. Nothing in particular spoke to me, and I don’t feel I was any better prepared for “the real world” because of my attendance.

I then reflected back on the new hire orientation for my first job just a few weeks later. To start, I was greeted by my name on a marquee in the small company’s lobby. I remember thinking “wow, that’s kind of special.” Later that morning I was walked through the necessary payroll and benefits paperwork, but I also learned why the organization exists, why it was named what it was named, and the significance of the artwork on the walls (which actually tied into the company’s history and the founder’s Native American heritage). Interesting. The HR person even worked into the schedule a meet and greet with the company’s President, which turned into an engaging 20-minute conversation. I was impressed, and already wanted to slay dragons for that place.

Now don’t get me wrong, I realize the limitations of commencement (thousands of individuals, one single event, a population all headed in different directions). But you’re in luck — you don’t have those same limitations with your new employees.

So make your new employee orientation as different as commencement as possible. Make it personal, make it a process (and not an event), make it relevant and above all, make it memorable.


The CUPA-HR national office will be closed November 22-23 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.