Joelle McGehee, Alliance Safety Council, SRMC director, The VOICE Newsletter December 2023

Let’s be honest: the first few days on the job are challenging for everyone. So how can you help your new employees to start on a high note? Can you do this without spending every Monday of the year in a conference room, staring at safety orientation checklists?

Like many learning processes, you can accomplish safety orientation in many ways. Which option is best for you? It depends. At Alliance Safety Council, we think about safety orientations as a journey. Let’s walk through each of the four phases along the Safety Orientation Journey. As you learn about each, consider where you are, and where you would like to be, on your journey.

I: Reacting

Reacting looks like this: Andrew is a safety manager at a small but growing business, and Joe is one of his team leads.

Monday morning, 7:20 a.m.

Joe: Hey, good morning! What do you want me to do with the three guys starting today?

Andrew: What three guys?

Joe: You know, the three guys we met at the job fair three weeks ago? They cleared their background checks and are starting today. Should be here at 8:00 a.m. What do you want me to do with them?

Andrew: I have no idea, Joe. I didn’t even know we hired new guys. Uh, I guess I could hand some of this paperwork over and show them around.

Does this sound familiar? Are new hires often a surprise? If you are reacting, someone in your organization feels like there is a “fire drill” when a new employee starts – without advance notice or any standard materials, they will have to set aside other tasks to show someone the ropes.

We have all been there. This is stop one on your orientation journey – reacting. If you work at a small business, if you are just starting out, or even if you don’t frequently hire new employees, you may start out reacting to the need for an orientation. Someone asks, and someone delivers. At the end of the day, the new employees get the information they need to move on in their employment – but no orientation looks quite the same. There is no standard script, and you may not have an official orientation leader. This works – for a while. Once hiring picks up, or a company grows past a certain point (typically when hiring people every month), this starts to get painful. Time to move on to the next stop in the journey.

II: Standardizing

Let’s fast-forward: after 6 months of reacting to new employee “surprises” on Monday mornings, Andrew decides he’s tired of repeating himself. He hunkers down and writes an orientation outline. He spends the time creating a PowerPoint presentation that covers everything in his outline – that way, at least he can take a Monday off occasionally, and not worry about getting called in to orient a new employee.

This is standardizing. Most companies take what they have learned while reacting to new hires early in their orientation journey and begin to standardize their process. This often looks like a daily agenda, a presentation someone can go through each time new employees start, and perhaps some materials for new employees to take with them. Ever gotten a list of website links to cruise through the first afternoon on a job? Or a checklist of your new employee to-dos? These are standard employee orientation materials.

This is a great next step in maturing your approach to orientations. New employees get the same information every time – no matter who’s walking them through the orientation process. And hopefully, they walk away with a similar list of to-dos.

Many companies can maintain their orientations in the standardizing phase for quite a while. But what happens when you need a record of when someone completed orientation? What if you need to know if someone specifically understood a policy or procedure? How can you keep those records and demonstrate that a specific person received specific information at a specific time?

And what happens when Andrew announces his retirement in three months, and no one is available to run new employees through the orientation PowerPoint every Monday morning?

III: Scaling

Welcome to scaling your employee orientations. In this stage of the orientation journey, businesses realize they just cannot keep up with:

  • The volume of employees they must train regularly (perhaps you’ve won new business and are on a hiring spree, turnover is high, or you’ve grown to a size that you need help with this function), and/or
  • You need to keep records of training completion for compliance or training program purposes.

What can Andrew’s company do to scale their employee orientation before he retires?

  1. Turn repetitive presentations into eLearning. Anything you say repeatedly to each new group of employees is a great candidate for eLearning. Why keep repeating yourself? Machines do not get tired, and eLearning is available in a Learning Management System (or LMS) around the clock, wherever new employees have a device and an internet connection.
  2. Find a learning partner. Companies who haven’t made an investment in a Learning Management System can still scale using eLearning by finding a learning partner. The Alliance Safety Council helps hundreds of thousands of new employees complete orientations every year, using our decades of experience and technology investments to help our membership scale smart.
  3. Invest in recordkeeping and testing. As your company grows, chances are greater that someone will want a record of who’s completed your orientation, when it was completed, and if they were presented with specific safety, regulation, or other compliance information. eLearning is often built with assessments, and when housed in a Learning Management System, all new employees get the same information and same assessment. You get all the information, stored in one easy place with reporting at your fingertips.

Problem solved, right? With the right learning partner, orientations are online and available when needed, and the team’s time is freed up to do add value elsewhere in the company. What’s next?

IV: Enhancing

While scaling may seem like the end of the orientation journey, nothing stays the same for long in business. Eventually, eLearning is going to look a little dated, a new regulation needs to be shared, company policies change, you name it. So even once you’ve scaled your orientation, someone must be responsible for regular maintenance and updates. Welcome to the last stop, enhancing your orientation.

In addition to annual updates and changes to information, you’ll have to keep your orientation relevant and meaningful to your audience. Think of enhancing your orientation like your vehicle: the model you got three years ago doesn’t quite have the latest and greatest features. Every so often, you need to look at an upgrade. The same is true for eLearning. Over the years, eLearning standards have evolved drastically – from a simple “online presentation” to full-fledged games, virtual reality, and customized content. A few short years ago, Alliance Safety Council saw most orientation students in one of our computer lab environments. Today, over 70% of students take advantage of technology and best-in-class tools like online participation monitoring to take Online Verified Training from any convenient place they wish – whether that’s in the passenger seat of the company van or the comfort of their couch. And things change quickly, so there’s always something to consider when enhancing your new employee’s experience. A trusted learning partner like Alliance Safety Council can help keep you updated on new and emerging best practices, and help you update your orientation, so you can stay focused on your business and know that your safety orientation is optimized for today’s skilled workforce.

Want to learn more about safety orientations or Alliance Safety Council? Visit or call (877) 345-1253.

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