Dear Matt: I’ve had a few jobs where I felt the employee orientation and initial training was lackluster and that ultimately, it affected my growth and success. Do you have any tips on how to get the most out of employee orientation and how to get off to a good start at a new job?

Matt says: Some companies put in a lot of effort to help new employees get comfortable with the company and in their new role. Others don’t, and in the long run, employees do suffer during the onboarding process. “Onboarding” is a common buzzword in corporate and HR circles — a business management term used for the process of helping new employees become productive.

“Those who have studied why certain companies fail to retain great new hires or find themselves with people who are a poor fit for their culture have discovered that the root of the problem can often be traced back to the onboarding process,” says Kara Babbitt, HR Manager with SmartTeam (, a company that provides online business training and education solutions for small and medium-sized companies. “Successfully plugging a new hire into your organization so that he or she can blend well with the team and contribute in a meaningful way takes much more than an a basic orientation. Yet many companies still expect their new hires, with a minimum of training, to hit the ground running and be productive from the start. With expectations like that, it’s no wonder that many organizations have high turnover rates that cost them time, productivity and competitiveness.”

During initial orientation, take care of the basics, says Babbitt. Ask HR about dress code, pay days, when benefits kick in, where you can access company forms, policies and the employee handbook. Take care of the paperwork required with any new job. Ask what is unique at this company.

Most new employees sit back and act as more of an observer than an initiator in their new roles. But if you want to make a good impression, ask your supervisor or team members about any pain points the department is struggling with and what you can do in the short and long term to help, says Babbitt.

Another option is proposing a shadowing program, where a new hire shadows an employee from each department for a day to get a better understanding of the day-to-day workings of other departments and how they all work together to keep the business running.

Many companies don’t have the staff or programs in place to properly orientate new employees. By taking charge, you can overcome these shortcomings. “Get outside your comfort zone, get involved in culture-building activities outside your job function,” says Babbitt. “Find out how you can get involved and make your company a great place to work.”