Onboarding vs. Orientation: Complete Guide for HR Professionals

New recruit onboarding and orientation are terms that are often used interchangeably to refer to the same procedure. They are, […]

Mark Jackson

President at SwagDrop


New recruit onboarding and orientation are terms that are often used interchangeably to refer to the same procedure.

They are, however, distinct sets of duties with roughly similar goals. 

The purpose of both tasks is to finish everything needed to train and onboard a new employee. 

To help you understand their differences and similarities, we have created this detailed post.

Below, we’ve illustrated everything you need to know about the differences between each in order to establish an effective recruitment process.  

Let’s jump in.

Table of Contents

What is Employee Onboarding?

What is Employee Orientation?

Onboarding vs. Orientation: 3 Key Differences

What is Employee Onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into a company. 

It involves activities that enable new workers to go through the initial new-hire orientation process and understand the organization’s culture, environment, vision, purpose, and values.

According to Aberdeen Group research, workers who undergo a structured onboarding program are 60% more likely to stay with the company after three years. 

According to the organization, 70% of employees decide whether to remain or quit their position at a firm during the first six months.

The following elements must be illustrated in the best way for recent hires to experience a successful onboarding process.

Element #1: Role clarity

First and foremost, a new employee should have a job description that details the position’s purpose, primary duties, and performance objectives

Job descriptions should be developed with input from numerous stakeholders who fully grasp the role’s needs. 

Furthermore, it’s not enough to just hand over a written job description and hope for the best; it is essential to meet with your new recruit and explain all of the work-related items to ensure there is no ambiguity, and to give them a chance to ask questions. 

Always encourage new workers to ask questions to determine how well they understand what you are saying

Second, establishing precise and quantifiable objectives is critical to creating job clarity. 

As a result, employees are given a clear focus and direction

In addition, when discussing objectives, it is vital to clarify what abilities, behaviors, and attitudes help achieve those goals.

Third, supervisors must have frequent one-on-one interactions with their recruits. 

These interactions enable workers to get feedback on their performance, coaching assistance, and a clear understanding of their expectations.

Moreover, managers can also utilize these discussions to underline why this particular position is essential to the organization and how it influences business performance and team-building experiences.

Element #2: Socialization

Companies must adopt a more systematic approach to assisting new staff in developing connections. They must include activities to assist recruits in developing a network of contacts in the workplace.

Having good connections at work is a significant determinant of employee engagement.

Furthermore, connections with colleagues can play a significant role in a new employee’s choice to remain with a firm.

In terms of professional networks, you must first identify the primary colleagues with whom your new team member will begin working; your new employee will be curious about who they are and what they do.

Your responsibility as a supervisor or HR professional is to assist in the organization of the first meetings and provide guidance on successfully interacting with those critical stakeholders. 

Also, every recruit should be assigned a mentor to provide assistance, as mentors play an essential role in assisting new workers in understanding company rules, practices, and dynamics.

The more socially engaged your new employees are, the better they will understand your company’s operations.

Element #3: Company policies

We recommend providing new workers with an employee handbook – either digital  or physical – where they can obtain information on all regulations in one spot

You can send this guidebook to new staff ahead of time so that they can check the requirements at their own pace.

Furthermore, to ensure that recruits understand and follow all of the rules, always be accessible to answer any questions they may have during their first couple of weeks.

Also, it’s preferable that someone in your HR department organizes a policy presentation during the new employee’s first day or week on the job.

Here’s a corporate policy checklist to help you cover all of the fundamentals that new employees should know:

  • Timetable for payroll (e.g., at the end of each month or biweekly)
  • Methods of receiving a paycheck, if appropriate (e.g., via direct deposit, mail, or in-person)
  • Legal terms regarding overtime payment
  • Bonuses for job performance and metrics
  • Policy on employee leave

Moreover, you can mention the kinds and quantity of leaves available to workers.

You should also explain how to properly book time off (e.g., send an email to managers or submit a form through an internal system).

Time off can be used to refer to:

  • Paid vacation (or vacation days)
  • Unpaid time off 
  • Days when the firm is closed (e.g., bank holidays)
  • Sick leave
  • Paid parental leave

Furthermore, a policy on remote work should be included if  you have remote employees and hybrid working staff. You can cover the following:

  • How to request work-from-home days (e.g., via email or internal HR software)
  • Employee responsibilities when working remotely (e.g., employees need a strong Internet connection)
  • Best practices for working outside the office (for example, staff should work in a quiet place and be reachable through the company’s messaging app)
  • Any restrictions (for example, workers can’t work remotely during the introduction of a new product or service)

Element #4: Training

Any company can give concentrated training on various subjects by using pre-recorded video lectures that are 5-10 minutes long. This is a great length of time to aim for as it will help maintain the viewers’ attention.

After COVID-19 changed how organizations acquire and educate new workers, online training has become the norm in many sectors.

It enables new employees to work at their speed, stop, ask questions, and return to classes as required for review.

In addition, virtual recruitment, online onboarding, and training require the presence of a dynamic HR or management staff capable of introducing a new recruit to the idea and guiding them through the process.

Since the system is virtual and mostly self-guided, you should assist your new recruit right from the start and not let them feel lost through any means necessary.

Support from the recruiting team or their direct boss is essential for workers to finally learn what they need to know and begin their new responsibilities effectively.

There is still space for further training after a new hire’s first week of onboarding and training. Continuing training is essential for each position in an organization; it’s how organizations mature and improve.

Moreover, offering one-on-one meetings with management and ongoing mentoring demonstrates that you are eager to encourage new recruits and see them flourish, which can bode well for your company (through their desire to stay) in the coming months and years.

Don’t underestimate the value of a human aspect in effective onboarding and training methods, as each new employee you bring on will be unique.

Allowing individuals to play to their strengths and forge their path, especially in the early stages, will increase employee happiness and productivity in the long term.

This begins with personalizing parts of the onboarding procedures, enabling new employees to tell the team something about themselves rather than what they do professionally or where they went to college.

Therefore, the social side of joining a new work team should not be overlooked or ignored throughout the onboarding process.

Element #5: Organizational culture

New workers want to know what they should do and how to act to fit in with the pre-existing team.

Since every organization has its unique set of conventions, traditions, and values, it is critical to assist new employees in navigating the culture; cultural fit is a newer type of assessment that managers and HR personnel should pay attention to when it comes to new hires.

In addition, it is necessary to address both formal and informal cultural norms.

Values are essential in a corporate culture because they serve as criteria for choosing and determining priorities, whether a large corporation or a small business.

Moreover, since there are no clear instructions for every case, values help workers determine how to react to difficulties and solve issues

Values must be communicated in behavioral terms so that new employees can immediately comprehend their true spirit and meaning.

For example, various new workers can see collaboration as a value differently, so defining collaboration via particular actions, on the other hand, makes it far more straightforward and relatable.

You should provide real-world examples to your newest recruits of how value-based behaviors have helped workers achieve great results — sharing memorable tales aids in reinforcing essentials.

Also, you can explain to your new hires how they should treat colleagues and customers based on their beliefs.

Let’s go over employee orientation, next.

What is Employee Orientation?

Employee orientation is the process of acquainting newly hired staff with their new work environment.

It gives individuals the essential organizational knowledge to manage their new team, department, and function within the firm.

There are four critical elements of an excellent employee orientation. Here’s what they are.

Element #1: HR policies

Several regulations govern the workplace, and observant businesses want to leave a paper trail demonstrating that their workers were educated about the employer’s policies and commitment to complying with such laws.

Among the policies to be addressed at orientation are:

  • Equal opportunity for employment
  • No harassment policy
  • Family and medical leave policy
  • Communication using electronic means
  • Social media/blogging privacy
  • Testing for drugs
  • Workplace violence including regulations about guns or weapons in the workplace

Employees must also be educated on reporting policy breaches, such as how to report suspected violations of the no harassment policy and safety standards.

Furthermore, workers should be informed in writing that the employer’s rules require all employees to comply with the laws relevant to the employer’s company and their work-related behavior.

Element #2: Safety measures

New employee safety orientation programs include two basic categories of information:

  • Health and safety in the workplace (knowledge found in every company of employment, such as fire safety, slips and falls, workplace bullying, etc.)
  • Employer-specific health and safety information (information related to your firm, the employee’s role, and the working environment)

Every health and safety orientation strategy is unique since it must account for your industry, company, facility, and responsibilities.

However, every program must have fundamental components required by governmental and labor organizations.

Your measures can include:

  • Employees’ rights
  • Company safety policies and procedures
  • Essential health and safety precautions
  • Workplace dangers
  • Programs for reporting injuries and illnesses

Let’s continue.

Element #3: Compensation & benefits

Benefit packages consume a significant amount of time for many HR representatives. 

That’s for a good reason, as they’re one of the most fundamental employee engagement and retention measures and a source of talent acquisition.

Hence, compensations and benefits must be showcased clearly for new recruits to set expectations right from the start.

The statistics speak for themselves regarding the value of employee perks.

According to an extensive study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 92% of workers regard employment perks as crucial for overall job employee satisfaction (a significant element of employee retention and productivity).

In addition, almost one-third of workers indicated work perks as the primary reason for seeking a job outside their company, as well as for staying at their current employment.

Benefits are also among the top motivators applicants look for in job postings. In fact, 63% of job searchers said they pay attention to what benefits a firm offers.

This implies that including perks in your job advertising and jobs website is crucial for your employer branding efforts.

Element #4: Vision & objectives

In a hurry to finish the new hire paperwork and tend to all of the specifics of onboarding a new employee, many businesses ignore the need to stress their broader goal, company’s mission, fundamental values, and company culture in the orientation process.

However, it is critical to take the time to deliver these elements to align new workers with the employer’s business objectives.

If possible, direct interaction with the employer’s owners or founders can serve to reinforce the organization’s long-term success and job satisfaction.

Next, we’ll go over the key differences between the onboarding and orientation processes.

Onboarding vs. Orientation: 3 Key Differences

The main difference between new hire onboarding and new employee orientation is that new hire orientation is a set of straightforward actions that must be done before an employee can begin their day-to-day new job responsibilities.

Orientation is simple since the procedure is the same for every new recruit that enters the business.

On the other hand, new employee onboarding duties need extra thinking.

The ultimate objective is to make the new recruit feel welcome and to show them how their work will contribute to the organization’s development and goals.

Consequently, new recruits leave their first few days on the job feeling sure that they made the proper career choice and are eager to produce exceptional work.

Let’s review the main differences, below.

Difference #1: Immersion vs. introduction

Orientation is a well-planned introduction of new employees to their new positions, coworkers, and the business.

On the other hand, onboarding is the intentional process of immersing a new employee in the company and its culture.

Difference #2: Ongoing vs. one-time process

Orientation is a one-time event, while onboarding is a continuous activity.

Ideally, orientation lasts a few days, but onboarding can continue for up to a year.

In addition, orientation is a one-way process ruled over by company executives who provide the company’s fundamentals.

On the other hand, onboarding is a two-way conversation that involves many sessions led by different department heads.

Difference #3: Individual vs. team process

Onboarding is tailored to the requirements of each employee, including their position, training, mentorship, and employee engagement.

The employee learns what is expected of them throughout the process regarding skills, communication, talents, and attitude.

On the other hand, orientation is done in groups, which means that all newcomers are gathered together, and the program is held in a conference style.

Orientation gives workers all of the knowledge they need while also supervising them on practical necessities such as computers, systems, security access, etc.

In addition, during onboarding, the new employee is given personalized information.

Now Over to You

It is the responsibility of the leadership team and managers to create an effective onboarding program for their business and provide a logical method for managers to engage their new staff.

The bottom line is that a successful onboarding experience comprises a comprehensive orientation procedure and goes far beyond.

Head over to our blog for more orientation and onboarding resources.

Thank you for reading!

Featured image by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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