A new employee orientation overhaul

“This is going to be very cool. I know I’m not a new employee, but I want to attend!”

I’ve heard a sentence very similar to this, many times, over the past month or so as my team and I have spoken with key leaders across our organization to gather information and completely overhaul our existing new employee orientation.

Following is a brief case study on what we did, why we went in this direction and how we put it all together.  

The Problem: Until about three years ago, my organization didn’t have any sort of comprehensive new employee orientation program that would introduce new staff to our various departments. It was up to each hiring manager to orient his or her new staff members to the rest of the organization.

In January 2014, I began to work with our HR and administrative staff in order to line up a series of presentations from each department across the organization on an every-other-month basis. For three years, that has been our new employee orientation program: a series of 30- to 90-minute presentations from representatives of each department, spraying a fire hose of information at people who have been on the job anywhere from 1 day to 2 months.

Last fall, I pulled together some HR staff and leaders from across the organization to listen to their feedback about our current program. Some felt that there were some good presentations, and some not-so-good presentations. Others felt that the entire program felt disjointed, with some staff repeating information from earlier presentations, and often there wasn’t a clear connection to how various departments interacted or impacted one another. Some came right out and said that this 3-day program just didn’t provide much value for their staff.

The Solution: Taking this feedback into account, I spent some time thinking through a better way to introduce new staff to our organization, our mission and our culture. I decided that we should have a series of panel discussions in order to eliminate the un-even and disconnected nature of the presentations that teams were delivering. I also felt we could have a series of activities to simulate what various operations teams did around the office, and an immersive game that would connect new staff to our mission.

Unbeknownst to me, two other colleagues were also in the process of trying to re-design this new employee orientation program. By chance, I mentioned what I was planning to one of them, and I stumbled upon their plan. We came together to see what we could all come up with.

“Drop the panel discussions,” one colleague suggested. “I think the whole thing should be an immersive game.”

We decided we’d come together and create a 2-day game which would include simulations of what each team does on a daily basis and how it’s all connected to our mission. When one person heard the phrase “immersive game,” she suggested it could be like the movie Jumanji.

This was our solution:

immersion-board-final

The Details: Before we began the actual design and build out of the program, we took a day off-site and watched several videos for inspiration:

  1. Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk: Gaming can make a better world
  2. Kahn Academy: Pixar in a Box
  3. Jumanji

Then we began to brainstorm how to make our Immersive Game idea work. Here are several initial sketches:

game-board-1

game-board-2

game-board-3

We designed a game that had two distinct parts. As you navigate around the perimeter of the game board on Day 1, you need to complete a series of challenges simulating every day tasks that each team does to move our work forward.

We are an eye bank (as in cornea transplants). Every time a team successfully completes a challenge, they are awarded corneas. Our mission is to eliminate corneal blindness around the world, so when each team has completed their journey through each of our domestic departments, they can use the corneas they’ve accrued to try to overcome barriers to entry in eye banking across various regions in the developing world.

Following each activity, there is a short period of Q&A with a representative from each team as well as a short debrief to ensure participants can connect their game experience with what actually happens across the organization.

The Results: Unfortunately, we don’t have any results to report quite yet. In fact, as you read this, we’re setting up the conference room and making last minute preparations. While we piloted the program with a handful of experienced staff members last week, today is the world premiere as we roll it out in front of new employees. Wish us luck!


On Monday, I wrote about the crucial need for feedback in order to make this the best program possible. Give it a read and let me know what you think!

8 thoughts on “A new employee orientation overhaul

  1. Congratulations for your process and design! Just to clarify, is this a board game or computer based? New orientees work alone or in groups (F2F or online?) and simulations are in person or embedded video?
    As a hospital educator, hospital orientation is difficult with so many levels and job types (clinical and non-clinical). I love this idea and the cornea “awards!”

    • Thanks Taffy! This, in its first iteration, is a board game facilitated by an in-person game master, with many computer-based parts. The challenges are team-based (so groups of 2-4 per team will work through the challenges). The goal over the next several months will be to adjust this so that it can be delivered in both the headquarters as well as satellite offices.

      I could see the possibility of converting this to be completely asynchronous, self-guided. We’ll probably try to not go that route because a major goal for this is to be able to establish rapport among new staff and people of different departments, but for situations like new hospital staff on all sorts of different schedules, I could see the possibility of self-paced, asynchronous.

    • Thanks Michelle! This has been such a fun project to work on. We’ve had a small, core group of 4 people focused on it and at one point, one of them left a planning/design meeting saying: “I didn’t even feel like I was at work I was having so much fun with it!”

  2. This sounds like an amazing program good luck with it, I’d love to read the feedback after delivery. I’m currently working with a few clients to gamify their onboarding and orientation programs using our location-based gaming app and it’s something we’re really focusing on building on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s