What’s the Difference Between Orientation and Onboarding?

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What’s the difference between orientation and onboarding

When you hire a new employee, it’s important that you get off on the right foot and nurture their experience with your organization to ensure a long-lasting relationship. Two integral parts of that are the onboarding and orientation processes. Now, you may be thinking, “Wait, aren’t those the same thing?” The answer is, “No!” While orientation and onboarding have a similar goal in mind, their processes are starkly different.

What Are the Goals of Orientation?

Orientation goals

Orientation is all about first impressions. It’s your opportunity to show your new employee what you’re all about. To do this, before their first day:

  1. Make sure you’re prepared. Is your new hire’s equipment, such as a computer or work phone, set up and ready to use? By ensuring that the necessary tools to get started are accessible and functional, you can prevent any discord or delay in the orientation process.
  2. Make sure you have a plan for your new employee. You can stay systematized and focused by having an orientation checklist to guide you on your employee’s first day. And you make a great first impression, showing your company is organized and professional. 

Provide Employees With an Introduction and Education to Your Organization

New employee introduction

The next goal of orientation is to introduce your new employee to the vision and values of your organization and take care of the “official business” required to get them up and running. This provides you with an opportunity to start your employee off with a personal touch. A designated member of your team should provide them with the key information they need before and on their first day. Provide them a tour of your office space if you haven’t done so already, and introduce them to their fellow coworkers and teammates. This is an opportune time to review safety procedures, help them fill out their new hire paperwork, and provide an overview of the employee handbook and company benefits.

Reduce Information Overload in Your New Hire Orientation

One major mistake many organizations make in orientation is subject their new employees to information overload; don’t hand your employee a manual and a stack of papers and wish them “Good luck.” A proper orientation takes place over the course of a week and lays the foundation for longstanding success, helping to prevent uncertainty and early burnout.

What Are the Goals of Onboarding?

Onboarding goals

Onboarding is a much more comprehensive function of the new employee process. Believe it or not, onboarding can actually last up to a year or more! This process is more of an “integration” into your company that incorporates the expectations set forth for the employees and how they achieve success.

The goal here is to safeguard your relationship with your new employee through assimilation, socialization, and proper training. The outcome is not only an employee who fully understands their role in your organization but one who becomes an enduring, productive, and valued member of your team.

Your employee should have goals set that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based, and their manager should be regularly communicating with them. One great tool to consider is a mentorship program in which a seasoned employee serves as a role model for desirable behavior in the organization. An employee who knows the ropes will be well-equipped to help guide and support your new employee as they become comfortable in their role. 

Performance Management Is Also a Part of the Onboarding Process

Employee performance management

Let’s get real- you invested a lot of time and resources into hiring your new employee, so you should regularly evaluate them to ensure they are creating value and receiving the feedback they need to succeed. Our first tip? Throw the common “probationary period” out the window.

Supervisors are encouraged to regularly interact with their employees and provide coaching and training, both informally and frequently, throughout an employee’s tenure. Establishing a good supervisory relationship early on sets the tone for future success. Create opportunities to have two-way conversations with new hires about what they think they’re excelling at and what they’re having trouble with. Conversations like these can help supervisors identify any missing tools and resources that might help their new employees perform to expectations.

Moreover, don’t be afraid to talk to your employee about their career ambitions and professional goals. This will not only enable you to stay abreast of your internal talent pool for workforce planning purposes but identify the best way to give your employee a path forward in your organization. 

What Happens Next?

Better performing employees

Effective orientation and onboarding practices are a systematic and useful way to set your employee up for success. It can help reduce turnover, create a good first impression of your organization, make the manager’s job easier, and save you money in the long run. And it’ll net you better performing employees.

You can continue to provide support for your employees after these processes are done by inviting employee feedback, instituting continuous informal coaching and training, regularly analyzing gaps and opportunities, and reviewing metrics such as turnover rates to assist in developing an effective Human Resources Strategy. EnformHR specializes in Human Resources consulting. If you need advice on Human Resources best practices, contact us to discuss how EnformHR can help your organization.

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Cristina Amyot

Cristina Amyot, SPHR, the firm’s President, leads the HR Services Group. Ms. Amyot graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from Rutgers University. She holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and a Life, Accident, and Health Insurance License from the State of New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance.

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