Onboarding and orientation are often thought of as synonymous. They both occur at the beginning of an employee’s time at a company. They both involve learning new people and processes. So, is there really a difference? The truth is, orientation is a component of onboarding. They should go together to create a complete and successful new employee onboarding experience.
The Onboarding Process
Onboarding is a series of events that guide your new employee through their first few weeks (or possibly longer) with your company. Often, onboarding begins before the employee’s first day of work.
Activities such as completing required paperwork (e.g., Federal and State withholding forms, payroll, I-9, benefits, policy acknowledgements) can be handled prior to the first day when leveraging an automated onboarding system. Manual processes add a hitch into this process and are typically a significant time and resource commitment. An automated system frees up time on the first day for other activities, and helps to reduce stress and anxiety among your new employees so they can better focus on day one.
Preparing for your new employee’s arrival prior to the first day also will reap benefits and should be considered part of your onboarding process. This may include setting up his or her workstation, email and network access, badges, payroll pin number, etc. By taking care of this early, you give your new employee a positive (and lasting) impression on their first day. They will feel valued and welcomed into the company.
A thoughtful onboarding experience generates many benefits for you and your company. For example, it:
- Increases employee retention
- Improves employee efficiency
- Enhances employee engagement and communication
- Creates a stronger brand for the company and establishes brand advocates
- Reduces turnover and related costs
Onboarding may continue for weeks or even months, depending on the complexity of your program and/or your company policies. Beyond the initial activities to get your new employee ramped up for work, ongoing activities help establish a rapport and ensure ongoing productivity. Ongoing activities may include regular one-on-one meetings between the employee and manager to review performance, address any questions or concerns, and establish or check in on goals. These meetings enable you to stay connected with your employees and ensure productivity remains high.
What’s involved with Orientation?
Orientation is often a single event and may be held as a group with multiple new hires from varying departments or roles. The purpose of orientation is to review:
- Company history, mission, and vision
- Company culture
- Company policies and procedures
- Expectations for
- Email and voicemail
- Dress code
- Logging hours worked & time-off requests
Orientation is also a time to provide a tour of the facility and introduce new employees to supervisors and team members. If appropriate for your business, this is also the time to distribute or identify the location of your company’s organization chart.
Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list, but it does give you an idea of some of the items that would apply to a wide audience and should be included in orientation. The important thing to remember is to plan, plan, plan. Decide early on what you want to accomplish through onboarding and orientation. Set up an agenda and share it with your new employees so they know what to expect.
No one wants to sit in a room and be talked at for hours on end. So make sure you include interactive sessions, encourage feedback and participation, and include times for your new employees to get up and walk around (e.g., facility tour, meet and greet).
You’ll find a little planning will go a long way in creating a positive impression on your new (and existing) employees.