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Employee Orientation Vs. Onboarding: What's The Difference & Why You Need Both

Employee Orientation Vs. Onboarding: What's The Difference & Why You Need Both

It's common to hear people use the words "orientation" and "onboarding" interchangeably when referring to new employee training. While these two processes complement each other, they have essential but distinct purposes for establishing a solid workplace culture and cohesive workforce.

After hiring a new team member, you must establish separate, structured programs to cover employee orientation and onboarding operations to accomplish a successful outcome. When you take the time to immerse new employees via orientation and onboarding, they are more likely to adapt to their position quicker - leading to an engaged, effective, and productive workforce.

What Is Employee Orientation?

Employee orientation is a formal introduction to your company's HR personnel and leadership to welcome new employees from all departments into the company, focusing on big-picture items. It’s also a chance to introduce your company’s policies, procedures, and culture. This one-time event is often considered the “kick-off” to the onboarding process since it occurs on the employee’s first day or prior.

Orientation can occur either on-site and in person or virtually, depending on the structure of your business, as it often takes place as a conference-style event. You can use presentations, videos, or schedule an open conversation among employees to help present information to new team members. While all orientations should relay the same information, you can alter your approach for different employees based on their learning styles.

Employee orientation is not just an opportunity for new hires to get up to speed on your business; it provides an overview of the mission, vision, and values – the "why" behind all those things you ask of them at work. It helps orient employees into your organization's culture so they can feel more engaged and contribute toward company-wide goals.

When you are organizing and defining the items to cover during employee orientation, be sure to include the following:

  • Overview of your company's mission, vision, and values
  • Tour of the workplace/facility 
  • Overview of company-wide policies and procedures regarding issues such as safety, health, and security 
  • Distribution of necessary resources, including relevant technology, software, and general office supplies 
  • Introductions to company leaders, managers, and coworkers
  • Discussion of benefit plans and enrollment instructions
  • Overview of business conduct and ethical business practices 
  • Workstation setup, including logins and security clearances 

Benefits Of Employee Orientation 

Having a dedicated new employee orientation is valuable to your team and the company as a whole. There are many benefits, including: 

  • Easing new employees into their position, immersing them without overwhelming
  • Increasing employee loyalty and commitment to your organization
  • Saving time spent answering questions in the future by preemptively conveying important company information to all new hires
  • Strengthening your company culture by starting your efforts on day one

What Is Employee Onboarding? 

Employee onboarding is a strategic process designed to introduce new hires to their day-to-day responsibilities and fully integrate them into the workplace. Typically, the process happens over 30-90 days and includes a series of meetings, starter projects, and job-specific training sessions. This helps to fully immerse new hires in the company culture and implement the values taught during orientation.

Onboarding focuses on acclimating employees to their department or smaller team and is an ongoing process for the first few months of their position. It helps them get familiarized with how things work within that particular group so they can hit the ground running when it comes time for them to start contributing productively towards achieving goals set by management.

Including ongoing check-ins with managers in the onboarding process allows employees to ask questions or express concerns as they learn how your company works. Regular meetings with coworkers also help them become part of an effective team right away, which is critical to any successful business.

Separate from orientation, onboarding includes tasks such as: 

  • Regular meetings with a manager or supervisor
  • Training on specific job tasks
  • Goal setting for what they hope to accomplish in this new position
  • Test or starter projects
  • Filling out new hire paperwork such as I-9, W-4, and potentially direct deposit forms
  • Mentorships between long-term employees and new hires 

Benefits Of Employee Onboarding

Combined with employee orientation, onboarding can lead to many long-term benefits, including: 

  • Increased productivity by helping employees learn the job faster
  • Increased long-term employee retention by reinforcing a robust and collaborative company culture and improving the candidate experience 
  • Increased employee engagement by helping employees understand how they play an essential role in contributing to the overall mission of the company 
  • Decreased the possibility of miscommunication and confusion that could lead to lost time 

Tips For Organizing A Successful Orientation And Onboarding Process 

It can become confusing with all the vital information passed onto new hires and the steps to the orientation and onboarding processes. But following these helpful tips will help simplify and optimize your time. 

Allocate enough time: Starting a new position can be overwhelming, and cramming a ton of new information into just one or two days can stress out your new team member. Instead, spread the training over multiple days. This way, they're more likely to retain the information in a more relaxed environment. 

Gift company swag: If possible, gifting a small welcome present, such as office essentials and company-branded items, including coffee mugs, backpacks, or sweatshirts, is a great way to welcome new employees. The new hire will feel a part of the team by owning items with the company logo. 

Listen to feedback: Orientation and onboarding aren't just for you to share information about your company but also to listen to new employees about their working style and collect feedback on the process to improve your program for future employees. 

Announce new employees: Before a new employee starts, send out a memo to the current team, including information about the new hire, their position, and when they start. Knowing about someone joining the team prepares your entire company to welcome them. 

Send first-day information early: Before a new employee heads to the office for their first day, you should email them all the information they'll need to prepare. This should include directions for parking or how to access orientation if virtual, the agenda for the first few days, any items they need to bring, and contact information for the leaders for orientation/onboarding. 

Why You Need Both Employee Orientation And Onboarding

Employee orientation and onboarding both play an integral role in helping new employees feel accepted into an organization. Orientation provides a broad overview of expectations at work, including your company's mission, vision, and values; policies such as dress code or vacation time; and where to find resources, including HR or IT support. Onboarding then goes into more detail about specific roles within departments or teams--it immerses employees into their new workplace by providing them with the necessary skills they need to succeed.

The combined power of these two processes helps ensure that every employee has a complete picture of what it means to be part of your team: from understanding how each person contributes their unique talents toward achieving shared goals through teamwork, all the way down to knowing exactly where files stored on your cloud storage system.

Building Solid Orientation And Onboarding Process

In short, orientation and onboarding are critical for connecting your new employees with their company. While they're similar in many ways, the key differences make both necessary to see a successful outcome that prepares new hires for their future at the company.

However, each process has many tasks and goals, and structuring a new orientation and onboarding program can be overwhelming. That is where our dedicated employees at GMS come in. We're here to help with recruiting your new employees through onboarding and training.

Our online employee training programs for small and mid-sized businesses target your employees' specific job functions to streamline the process, improve employee performance, and reduce training costs. Your workers can easily access training courses online with our learning management system (LMS), so they gain the necessary skills to support your business. Do you need help preparing new employees to join your company? Give us a call; we’d love to help!

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