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What is it?

Orientation is a one-time event welcoming, introducing, and providing initial training to new participant workers joining a social enterprise.  

Onboarding is a series of events (including orientation) that helps new participant workers understand how to be successful in the social enterprise and employee success program.

Why is it important?

Having orientation and onboarding enables employment social enterprises to:

  • Establish common ground and provide transparency around culture, policies, and expectations (both program- and business-related).
  • Ensure that all new participants complete required activities, such as filling out a W-2 form.
  • Kick off selected priority processes (e.g., goal setting or barrier identification) that will be leveraged throughout the employee success program.
  • Provide an equitable and similar experience to all participant workers, across sites and over time.

Best practices   

When designing an onboarding program, you should answer some key questions to ensure alignment across your organization:

  • What impression do you want participant workers to walk away with at the end of the first day?
  • What do new participant workers need to know about your culture, program, and work environment?
  • What role will HR play in the process? Direct managers? Case managers? Other participant workers? 
  • What kind of goals do you want to set with new participant workers? 
  • What common questions do new participant workers regularly ask?
  • How will you gather feedback on the onboarding program and measure its success?

Determine your objectives for the onboarding process

  • Some common objectives include:
    • Communicating program and job expectations, policies, and rules to participant workers.
    • Helping participant workers understand their value to the social enterprise and the critical role they play.
    • Getting participant workers comfortable with their day-to-day responsibilities and activities.
    • Providing participant workers with essential materials they may need to perform their jobs, including badges, uniforms, tools, etc. 

Map out important activities that you want to include during onboarding, such as:

  • Introducing and walking through your employee handbook, culture and values, and employee success program model.
    • A comprehensive handbook outlines all employment and programmatic policies, which should not only be communicated upfront, but also continually reinforced.
    • It is particularly important to review participant worker communication expectations and procedures so that individuals know what needs to be communicated to whom as well as when and how to do so (e.g., if a participant worker is going to be late to work, what communication procedure should be followed). 
    • Completing required paperwork, such as payroll / tax forms and participant worker “agreements.”
    • Sharing additional details to increase participant worker comfort and visibility:
      • Providing a tour of your facilities (e.g., showing where participant workers can park, where they should check in).
      • Giving participant workers a preview of their work schedules and program schedules.
      • Introducing participant workers to key contacts, such as their job coach, case manager, and work supervisor.
    • Kicking off key processes that will be built upon throughout the employee success program (e.g., goal setting, identifying key strengths and barriers, career planning exercises).
    • At the conclusion of your onboarding, participant workers should leave with a clear understanding of exactly when, where, and how they are expected to show up to work.  

Design how you plan to welcome and introduce all participant workers to your organization through orientation

  • The orientation style and offering should match the needs of your focus population and your employee success program philosophy.
    • For example, if your focus population has high execution barriers, you may intentionally choose to not ask participants to show up at a set time, since it could be a barrier to getting people into your program.
    • Determine the orientation cadence and format that works best for both your full-time staff and future participant workers.
      • If you have sufficient scale, consider a “batched” approach of providing orientation to multiple new participant workers at once. This could help save staff time and build community.
    • Intentionally design content based on orientation objectives, and ensure that those delivering content are trained to do so consistently and equitably. Make sure that information is presented in a way that is accessible and inclusive for participant workers  – by trying out different modalities, formats, speakers, and/or locations.
    • Follow up on information that is discussed during orientation throughout the rest of the employee success program.

Regularly review your onboarding process (at least annually) to look for ways to improve it

  • Ask for feedback once participant workers have completed the onboarding process. For example, an anonymous survey would allow new participant workers to be open about their experiences and impressions. Discuss and act on feedback to continuously improve.
  • Track and analyze attendance and attrition data to determine if the onboarding and orientation process is playing the role it was designed to play (e.g., filtering participant workers out vs. getting as many people as possible in the door).

Additional Resources