Onboarding vs Orientation What’s the BIG difference?


Do you provide an employee orientation? That is great news, now what about onboarding?  If you are leaving this one out you are missing part of a winning team performance structure.  What is the difference and why utilize both?  One is informative and one is integrative, both are intended to get your new employees off to a great start.  What you really want is a simple way to engage and retain your employees so you can continue to grow without performance set-backs, so here is what you need to know.

Let’s get a few current catch phrases out of the way.  Quiet Quitting is a symptom of the Great Resignation.  It simply means that employees are doing their expected work but they are not investing time in achieving broader company goals.  There are many reasons for this sentiment and it is not a new condition of the American workforce, except that post Covid, the personal need to engage in something more than a set of responsibilities has become top of the mind and it is driving employment decisions.  If your employees feel they are doing a job, they are functioning as a job holder, this weakens your business model.  A transition to business contributor roles across your company will strengthen your biggest asset and your best competitive advantage in meeting and surpassing growth goals.  No more quiet quitting.

People are a moving target and talent must be nurtured in order to avoid performance set-backs.  Getting the right people in the right position and keeping them, requires a simple and effective process for retaining the interest of new members beyond an offer letter or employment agreement.  If you want them to stay, you need to bond new hires to your company starting day one.  Building long-term associations begins with orientation and onboarding.

One of these is about the company and one is about the person and the role.  Employers often use orientation and onboarding interchangeably, and that is risky business.  The processes are related, but different.  Understanding the elements of a structured onboarding process vs orientation can help you to prepare new employees for success and encourage them to stay with you long term.  The onboarding process will enable new employees to achieve success in their new role and boost bonding as they accomplish each new level outlined in their personalized plan. Making your best day-one impression and turning that impression into a true and lasting bond with your organization, requires visualization of the new role, an agenda for learning, knowing with whom you will collaborate, and time required for each learning and doing segment over a 90-Day period.

Employee orientation provides new hires with company information.  There might be some interactive elements, such as tours and question-and-answer sessions, but it’s primarily designed to give employees the information they need to get started quickly.

Onboarding engages new hires in their role, including what is learned, how work is executed, and what they will lead, all of which are planned with written and verbal learning, and hands-on experience. The onboarding process will include one-on-one training, meetings with supervisors, group training and other customized processes based on what each employee needs.

Benefits of employee orientation

  • Aimed at introducing new employees to the company policies such as breaks and lunch times, required meetings and general code of conduct, usually found within an employee handbook.
  • Your new hires will set up benefits, systems log-ins, and payroll.
  • All new hires typically go through the same orientation.

Benefits of employee onboarding

  • Onboarding engages talent as soon as a new employee starts working at your company.
  • It helps a team member learn the role in an organized fashion and increases productivity.
  • Boosts new hire confidence in their role with regular feedback and ongoing support.
  • Encourages early relationships between new hires and current employees.
  • Reduces the chances of miscommunication and confusion about individual and collaborative work.
  • Onboarding is personalized for each new member and the plan is edited, based on their progress over the first 90 days of employment.
  • The process can be extended to six months or a year based on an employee’s progression.

Observing less than desirable performance, such as misaligned efforts, from a new employee? It may be due to the lack of a structured onboarding process.  Skipping the onboarding process will have costly consequences.  Leaders experience lack of productivity, increased inefficiencies, higher rates of employee turnover, reduced employee morale and engagement, and difficulty meeting strategic goals.

Remember, the employee experience on day-one either seals the deal or erodes a new employee’s confidence in their decision to join your company.  Orientation and onboarding are complementary processes to help your new employees succeed.

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

About the author
Maria Forbes of FIREPOWER Business Catalyst, LLC. is a member of XPX Atlanta

You need to assist owners and key decision makers in defining roles and engaging talent as part of business growth and transition planning. Convert people strengths into business performance.