The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Faculty and Staff Orientation: A New Approach

creativity-innovation-success-300pxThis blog post was contributed by Bryan Garey, Diane Ober and Lindsey Reese of University of Virginia human resources.

Is your new employee orientation program a data dump, filled with policies and statistics and not much more? Do you inundate your new hires with PowerPoint slides and stacks of forms to fill out? Do you get the feeling your orientation and onboarding program leaves new hires feeling overwhelmed and drained? Not a great way to welcome new talent to your institution!

At the University of Virginia, we’ve turned the traditional new employee orientation model on its head, providing an interactive, integrated, learner-centered experience. The three-part program includes:

  • A half-day in-person experience that includes a welcome video, short lectures, activities and an experiential outing; just-in-time information on things like parking, computing, ID card, etc.; and a focus on the past (history of the university), present (facts/statistics) and future (university strategic plan). The session, which staff and faculty attend together, is facilitated by a two-person team to allow for a variety of voices and perspectives.
  • Online (e-learning) modules for topics including benefits and leave; policies and practices; safety and security; and payroll information.
  • A checklist of tasks to be completed during the employee’s first six months on the job and additional university resources, policies and information.

If you’re looking to switch gears on your new hire orientation, here are some things to consider:

  • Ensure that the experience is welcoming for new employees and that you have skilled and trained facilitators who are promoting a positive HR brand.
  • Include both faculty and staff in the program to allow for networking opportunities.
  • Provide perspective of the institution – culture, history, mission, strategic goals and direction – so new hires can see how they fit in and feel connected to the institution from the get-go.
  • Deliver the information the new faculty/staff need right now.
  • Use different modalities to communicate information and keep their attention (short lectures, interactive activities, videos, e-learning modules, experiential outings/tours, etc.).

Other suggestions to ensure success:

  • Gain buy-in and support from university leadership.
  • Ensure that you have a change management plan in place prior to rolling out a new program.
  • Be prepared for some resistance and negativity.
  • Ensure that you solicit feedback from facilitators about the program.
  • Collect feedback from orientation participants through program evaluations/surveys.
  • Review participant feedback on a regular basis to identify trends and determine areas to improve.

To learn more about University of Virginia’s orientation and onboarding program and how you can adapt something similar at your institution, see the free, on-demand webinar “Faculty and Staff Orientation: A New Approach.” You can also find helpful resources in the Orientation/Onboarding Toolkit in the CUPA-HR Knowledge Center.