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Employee Onboarding vs. Orientation

Employee Onboarding vs. Orientation

Are we just splitting hairs? Is there a real difference? No, we’re not. And yes, there is. Too often companies fail to understand the difference between onboarding and orientation. After reading this article, these two processes should become integral to your recruitment process. If implemented correctly, you’ll retain employees for longer, and see improved performance.

Are we just splitting hairs? Is there a real difference? 

No, we’re not. And yes, there is.

Too often companies fail to understand the difference between onboarding and orientation. After reading this article, these two processes should become integral to your recruitment process. If implemented correctly, you’ll retain employees for longer, and see improved performance.


‘88% of organizations don't onboard well’ - Gallup


Does your company have an effective onboarding process? Do you want to engage new employees with your company ethos? Are you ready to understand the fundamental differences between onboarding and orientation? 

Read on. 

What’s the Difference?

Understanding the subtle differences is key. Without this knowledge, you will fail to implement both processes effectively. This will have negative effects on your company in the future. This confusion has led many companies to stop their onboarding process within the first week, leaving new hires without direction, motivation, and appropriate resources. 

Employee Orientation

You can think of orientation as reading the synopsis of a movie or reading the blurb of a book. It’s an overview, an introduction if you like. 

Employee orientation has a few primary purposes. Generally speaking, it serves to introduce new recruits to your company as a whole. New employees and team leaders will congregate together in groups. Here, the company ethos is introduced and the employees are given an opportunity to engage with one another.

Other tasks such as signing documents often take place here. It’s a common mistake for companies to smother new hires with paperwork in their first few days. Your new employees and managers are excited to get started, and doing this will only dampen their spirits. Make sure to make orientation fun and engaging. 

Usually, this process only takes 1-2 days. A week at most. These first few days can be tiresome for both employees and the HR team, filled with paperwork and slideshows. However, orientation does not need to start on the first day(s) of employment. 

Introducing a new hire to your company can begin weeks or months in advance. Try preparing videos using Loom, or printing manuals for new hires to review before their first day. Reaching out to new employees via phone and email before they start will help them to feel part of the team. 


Employee Onboarding

Orientation is but a drop in the onboarding ocean. Onboarding is a strategic process. It’s a series of events that offers guidance and support in the early stages of their role. HR managers and team leaders should prepare their onboarding plan long before scheduled arrival. Onboarding is an investment - in your employees and your business. Remember, onboarding not only applies to new employees but also to existing employees entering new roles. 


Onboarding is a longer process than orientation. It can take months or even a year. After orientation, employees should understand the company vision. A great way to do this is by introducing a buddy system. Buddy systems are great for improving the onboarding experience. New hires are assigned to a seasoned colleague with whom they can check-in regularly. This technique saves the HR team valuable time and resources. It can also boost morale in the workplace.


Now, it is time to explain how their role contributes to the company vision. Here are some general targets for your onboarding process.

  • Employee understands more specific details about his/her position 
  • They learn who they should contact if they have questions
  • Understand with whom they can submit/review their work. 
  • They will understand the department’s targets and objectives 
  • They will get to grips with standard protocols
  • They feel comfortable in their new role


During the first 90 days, team leaders should arrange regular check-ins with new employees. These check-ins will provide both parties with useful feedback. Onboarding should be a dynamic and constantly evolving process. Employees with good onboarding experience are more likely to stick with you. Save time and resources by avoiding employee separation.


‘Great employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82%’ - Glassdoor

After the first ninety days, the HR manager and employee should come together and set SMART goals. The HR team should develop a detailed appraisal strategy to manage performance. Learn more about appraisal strategies by clicking here.

Key Take-aways

  • Orientation and onboarding are NOT interchangeable
  • Orientation represents the ‘bigger picture’
  • Onboarding represents ongoing, individualised support 
  • A well put-together onboarding program is essential for retaining employees and driving performance
  • The first 90 days are essential for employee retention
  • Good orientation helps new employees to feel welcome and engaged
  • Don’t scare new recruits with piles of paperwork on their first day. Print handbooks and walk-through tutorials
  • Create clear onboarding workflows for your HR and management team

Onboarding and AhoyTeam

For the majority of this article, we’ve spoken about how the onboarding process functions in the physical workplace. So how can you transfer these processes to companies working remotely? What if you could automate the process, resulting in increased reliability? 

With the AhoyTeam workflow product, you can develop detailed onboarding strategies. These workflows can be assigned to multiple departments. This enables HR, management teams, and new employees to work together harmoniously, with predefined goals and milestones.

Don’t fail at the first hurdle. Get your new recruits onboarded properly today, and watch them flourish in the future. Contact AhoyTeam now and start building dynamic workflows for your company.




 


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