The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Is Your Faculty and Staff Orientation Mind-Numbing or Memorable?

bored peopleRemember how you felt on your first day at a new job? I do. On my first day at CUPA-HR – 10 short years ago – I was excited, nervous and eager to learn my way around and get to work. Not unusual for a new employee. But there’s no faster way to tamp down fresh enthusiasm than a stale orientation or onboarding program. You know the kind – one or two talking heads and countless PowerPoint slides.

There has to be a better way to leverage the excitement new faculty and staff feel to engage them in the campus community, and that’s just the approach the University of Virginia took when it revamped its new-employee orientation.

Bryan Garey, UVa’s assistant vice president for human resources, encouraged attendees at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference in San Antonio last month to take a learner-centered approach to orientation, and to look for ways to engage new employees by immersing them in the culture of the institution.

Deliver What They Need Right Now
First and foremost, newcomers need to understand the history, culture, mission and strategic goals of the institution – all critical to giving them a context for their work. What other information do they need within the first 30 days? UVa sticks to the basics during the in-person session, including parking, computing and IDs.

Help Them Make Connections
Garey made a strong case for combining faculty and staff orientation, creating the sense of campus community that the institution strives to achieve. UVa uses a video featuring employees and students to welcome new employees, and invites a variety of presenters who represent different voices on campus.

Mix It Up
Offer different channels for providing new employees with the information they want. UVa provides a checklist of takeaway activities and a self-paced online learning tool to share benefits and policy information. Incorporate discussion and movement into the program.

The key takeaway: Make orientation less about what information we want to give new employees and more about what information they need to get started right now.

What does your institution do to make orientation engaging for new employees? For other examples and models, check out the Orientation/Onboarding Toolkit in the Knowledge Center.