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Onboarding Employee Experience

Employee Onboarding vs. Orientation: What's the Difference?

September 1, 2022
5 min read

Employee Onboarding Process Checklist


Onboarding and orientation are crucial parts of the employee experience that you may have heard used interchangeably. While they are related, the terms refer to two different processes that aren’t one-size-fits-all — they’re tailored to each role, and in most cases, new hires should go through both.

Are onboarding and orientation two clearly defined processes at your organization? If the lines are getting a little blurred, keep reading for a reminder of the differences between them, the goals of each process, and why they’re so beneficial for your employees’ long-term success.

Do you know the difference between #onboarding and #orientation? @ClearCompany is covering how they’re different and how they intersect:

What is Orientation?

“Hire for passion and intensity; there is training for everything."

- Nolan Bushnell, founder, entrepreneur, and creator of Atari

We’re starting with orientation because it’s the first step in the longer strategic process of onboarding new employees. Orientation programs typically take place on employees’ first day or over their first few days. It’s a series of events and tasks to complete that focuses on getting employees the equipment and access they need — whether that’s a laptop, logins for software programs, personal protective equipment (PPE), or a PIN number to use when clocking in and out.

Employee orientation will look different depending on roles and responsibilities, and it varies between hourly and salaried employees. It sometimes takes place in groups, where employees hired at the same time or into the same role receive training together or attend a presentation about their benefits options.

This part of onboarding requires more involvement from your human resources team since many of the tasks are related to compliance. It’s when HR gathers the information they need to add new hires to payroll and help them enroll in benefits. The goals of the orientation process include:

  • Complete W2s, I-9s, payroll and benefits enrollment, and any other required paperwork
  • Settling into a desk or workspace and giving a tour if employees are not remote
  • Making introductions to team members and colleagues in other departments
  • Discussing company mission, vision, and values and how they are demonstrated
  • Completing mandatory training courses
  • Ensuring new hires have access to any software they’ll be using
  • Going over job duties and daily responsibilities

Defining orientation is a useful step to take toward improving your employee onboarding experience overall. It helps ensure that no important compliance steps are overlooked and employees have the equipment and resources they need to start their new job.

What is Employee Onboarding?

The employee onboarding process, which includes orientation, begins when a candidate is hired and becomes an employee. During onboarding, new hires become involved in company culture, grow their relationships with their coworkers, learn policies and procedures, and start taking on the responsibilities of their role. Employee onboarding looks different for every role, but best practices recommend that the process lasts for several weeks or months — around 90 days is standard.

But the longer, the better: Gallup suggests onboarding should last up to one year after finding that it can take employees that long to become proficient. If orientation is a sprint, onboarding employees is a marathon. When onboarding is complete, your new hires should feel prepared, confident, and comfortable in their roles.

No matter the length of onboarding plans, they should be just that — a plan. Hiring managers typically take charge of onboarding for their direct reports and should plan to check in often to ensure new hires are progressing as expected.

Here are some of the objectives of onboarding programs:

  • Increase new hire retention and reduce costs of turnover
  • Give employees feedback from managers that can be applied right away
  • Ensure employees become proficient in their roles
  • Make new hires feel welcome and included
  • Develop stronger relationships with coworkers
  • Learn policies, procedures, and processes and how to apply them
  • Set goals and measure goal progress
  • Give new hires the tools and knowledge they need to perform their job accurately and assuredly
  • Engage new employees to increase loyalty, motivation, and productivity

Looking for a deeper dive into onboarding? Download our Employee Onboarding Guide.

Why Employees Need Onboarding and Orientation

Orientation is the first step in an effective onboarding process, ensuring that HR has what they need to stay compliant and employees have what they need to start working. Onboarding is strategic, helping new hires become loyal, engaged, and productive and helping companies retain and motivate them.

Both are essential for a successful HR team and thriving new hires and have a positive impact on:

  • HR compliance
  • Employee engagement and retention
  • Productivity and performance
  • Company culture
  • Long-term business success

You could think of onboarding as the last phase of the hiring process — your new employees may have signed an offer letter, but they’re still deciding if they’re going to work at your company. New employee turnover can be as high as 20% in the first 45 days, and one-quarter of companies say they’ve had new hires simply not show up on their first day of work. Not to mention, only about half of U.S. employees say they know what is expected of them at work.

Did you know new hire turnover can be as high as 20% in the first 45 days? Prevent high turnover with #onboarding and #orientation plans:

Without an introduction to the tools, programs, and work environment during orientation, employees can have a hard time adjusting to how things are done at your organization. HR can waste valuable time on menial but essential tasks like tracking down documents and issuing logins individually. Without an onboarding plan, employees may be confused about what’s expected of them and your company will likely face higher turnover.

Well-managed orientation and onboarding can remedy these issues, boosting engagement by as much as 54 percent. Employees are 2.6x more likely to be satisfied with their jobs if they say they had an “exceptional” onboarding experience. When employees start their new positions with clear expectations and a solid set of resources and tools, they’re more loyal and unlikely to quit.

Invest in Onboarding with Software

The way employees start off at your company sets the tone for their entire employee experience. You can create an awesome onboarding experience and manage orientation seamlessly with the help of software. With tools like new hire portals, E-Verify and background checks, and automatic task notifications, your HR team can complete orientation tasks with ease and help you launch a smooth onboarding process.

A full-platform solution like ClearCompany has all the tools you need for a retention-boosting, engagement-driving onboarding plan. Our platform can handle not only onboarding, but also recruiting, performance, and employee engagement. Get started with a demo of our award-winning Onboarding software from the ClearCompany experts today.

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