When first-year students arrive at college, they’re greeted by a highly formalized orientation program. Colleges have figured out that it’s important to put energy into this process, instead of leaving it to chance.

Unlike a college, your company isn’t in the position of hiring an entire year’s worth of employees all at the same time, but you can still learn a lot from the efficiency and focus of college orientation programs.

Here are five takeaways that you can directly translate into your company’s onboarding process:

1. Connect People Across Different Roles

Stanford University puts out a call to current students, faculty, staff, and alumni to come and talk to entering freshmen. The Stanford example also reminds us how important it is for new people to touch base with different parts of the organization.

In a small business setting, it’s important to introduce your new hires to everyone in the company, even if they won’t cross paths very often. This connectedness will help employees all feel that they belong to the same organization and give everybody a better idea of the flow of work and people through the business.

2. Offer a Welcome Before Issuing Instructions

Of course, there are dozens of details that new arrivals need to know, in addition to their job duties. In the business world, it’s everything from where their workspace will be, to parking and passwords and benefits paperwork.

New York University places a big emphasis on welcoming its new students in a positive, social way before they dig into the tasks awaiting them. Even if you can’t meet the NYU stagecraft standards, you can make part of a new hire’s first day be a “Welcome Day,” with a few inexpensive gifts and maybe a celebratory lunch with new team-mates.

3. Assign Peer Mentors

Reed College knows that new arrivals to an organization can feel isolated. Reed’s peer mentor program is intended to let each student know that they have an ally they can identify with, who will show them the ropes and help sort out the confusion.

Taking this concept into the business world, a peer mentor would be someone whose role is similar to that of the new employee, so they are able to provide empathetic guidance. The peer mentor can offer the benefit of experience but doesn’t have power over the employee.

4. Focus on Health

MIT knows that its students run the risk of having their brains be the only part of their body that gets any exercise. For that reason, they offer a “Discover Exercise and Wellness” program that helps new students understand how to maintain their health.

As a business owner, you know the devastating impact that physical and mental illness can have on a company. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that productivity lost due to health problems comes to $1,685 per employee per year or a total of $225 billion nationwide.

If your company is small, it’s not as if you can offer your employees an onsite corporate gym… but you can construct a schedule that allows for gym or yoga time, and you can let your new arrivals know that you’ll support their healthy habits.

5. Announce What You Want the Orientation to Accomplish

Many college orientation programs explain why they exist. At Purdue University, they describe some form of mission statement and vision for what students will take away from the experience. If you follow this example and tell your new employees what they’ll learn during the onboarding process, it benefits everyone. You are modeling transparency and accountability, while your new hires start off with a sense of trust in your company’s competence.

The process of entering a company or a college entails a cultural shift. People need clear information as well as a warm, welcoming atmosphere in order to perform at their peak. You can strengthen your company’s productivity by taking these simple steps to optimize your onboarding process.

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