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Onboarding vs. Orientation: What's the Difference?

July 14, 2022

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Did you know that companies that offer comprehensive training programs earn 218% more income per employee?

With that much potential revenue at stake, it’s super important that all of your team members are up to speed and properly trained. And, if 218% also seems like a reflection of your team's rate of growth, you might be asking yourself how you can get started.

When talking about training, there are two similar words that pop up frequently: onboarding vs. orientation.

Is there a difference between these two terms? If so, how do you know which is best for your company’s long term success?

We’ll walk you through it all so that you’re as up to speed as future members of your team.

What is orientation?

A woman urgently asking, "What is it?"

Orientation is a one-time event that welcomes new employees to your company. It’s typically general in focus and brings together employees across many different departments. Think of it as a big ol’ meet and greet.

When and where does orientation occur?

Orientations usually happen before an employee officially begins working with you or on their first day.

For example, you might ask a new employee to come in for a Friday orientation so that they’re ready to hit the ground running on Monday.

Depending on where you’re setup, most companies keep orientations in a conference room and typically include a workplace tour. But not all companies are the same, and there’s always room to get creative. Zoom orientations are also an option if you can nix the office tour.

Who is orientation for?

Orientation is for all of your new, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed employees. It’s a high-level overview of what your company is all about. The information that's included in orientation is usually valuable for everyone to know.

What should orientation look like and what should it include?

There’s a lot of creative liberty when it comes to orientations. Generally speaking, they typically involve leaders from departments sharing general information about the company.

Your orientation might include discussions about:

  • Your company’s mission statement and values.
  • New hire paperwork and deadlines for turning it in.
  • Important policies about workplace interactions.
  • Distribution of materials like parking passes and ID badges.
  • Legally mandated training.
  • Any other high-level topics that all of your employees should know.

Virtual orientations may require a little more work up front to be successful, especially when it comes to distributing material. Which means some early planning might be required, like deciding to mail over a packet with all of the paperwork you would’ve handed out in person before orientation.

You may also need to set expectations for the orientation, such as asking employees to keep their cameras on during the session to ensure engagement.

What is onboarding?

A woman raising her hands and asking, "What's onboarding?"

Employee onboarding is a more involved process than orientation. It’s longer-term and goes into a more specific training process than orientation. It doesn’t start and conclude on a single day and can take anywhere from days to weeks.

The goal of onboarding is to get a worker comfortable with their day-to-day role, the rhythm of their department, and any technology they’ll need to use to be a high-functioning member of your team.

Orientation introduces a new hire to your business, but onboarding is what turns them into a valuable asset.

When does onboarding occur?

Onboarding should start as soon as possible, though you might consolidate your training in one go by waiting for a handful of new hires to join a department.

The sooner onboarding begins, the sooner your team members can get started.

Who is onboarding for?

Everyone on your team will go through an onboarding process, too.

The key difference between onboarding and orientation is how general and specific they are. Onboardings are very specific to different roles and departments.

For example, a new addition to your sales team will need to learn about sales enablement software, your target customers, and best practices. This could take weeks to learn.

Onboarding someone in your warehouse may take far less time. They may just need to become familiar with equipment and safety procedures.

What should onboarding look like and include?

Ideally, you want to build your onboarding process around the unique needs of every department.

Your goals should always target some key fundamentals, including:

  • Department integration. 
  • Learning software, tools, or tech used in-house or on the department level.
  • Understanding their role organizationally and departmentally.
  • Becoming familiar with coworkers and leaders.

Some research suggests that onboarding improves employee engagement, helps workers become proficient faster, and even reduces employee turnover.

It’s worth doing it right the first time.

Virtual vs. Onsite: Which is best?

A man looking between his two hands.

The workforce changed significantly after COVID.

According to McKinsey, employees are three to four times more likely to work from home. It might be extremely worthwhile for you to consider a remote option for onboarding.

Your business may have fully transitioned back to being onsite, but asking yourself the following questions will help you determine whether or not remote onboarding is a safeguard worth investing in.

Will any of your employees be remote?

If employees will be working remotely, then it might make the most sense to transition them into their roles remotely as well.

In fact, it might even be counterproductive to host an onsite onboarding when you’ll be sending your remote employees off to work in a new environment with new devices.

That being said, there’s some merit to hosting an in-person orientation day at your office for remote workers. It could help establish workplace culture even though your employees are miles apart.

Will an online event really be easier?

While it might seem that online orientation and onboarding are easier to conduct, that might not actually be the case.

You’ll miss that special face-to-face connection and an opportunity to firmly establish a workplace culture. Your orientation should help employees get to know one another and feel comfortable with your company and its management.

It might require some extra creativity and effort in the form of games and visual content to keep your new hires engaged. In-person events may be as simple as engaging with the new hires face-to-face.

What works best for your employees?

As you decide between virtual and onsite onboarding and orientation, be sure to put your new employees front and center. Ask yourself which event is going to make them feel like a part of your team faster and more effectively?

5 stages of new employee onboarding

A woman outrageously asking, "Five?!"

Having a replicable process for training new hires can be a massive time and money saver. The more efficient your onboarding is, the faster you'll see value in your employees.

Onboarding and orientation are different from company to company. At a high level, your new employee onboarding experience should be split into each of the following five phases.

1. Pre-orientation.

Pre-orientation begins the moment that a new hire accepts your offer of employment. The goal of this phase is to get your new hire ready for their first day with your company.

The process may include:

  • Signing documents.
  • Answering common questions.
  • Sending instructions.
  • Setting the new hire up with company accounts on various platforms and software.
  • Responding to your hire’s questions.

2. Orientation.

The orientation phase begins on your new employee’s first day of work. There are typically several different types of orientation and onboarding sessions going on at once, which can make it a bit complicated to keep it all running smoothly.

During orientation, you may ask a new hire to:

  • Submit payroll information.
  • Enroll in benefit packages.
  • Set up new equipment.
  • Create software accounts.
  • Complete training on company-wide policies and practices.

The key goal of the formal orientation phase is to let your new hires dip their toes into the company waters, giving them a basic rundown of where they are, what their role is, and who they’ll be working with.

3. Department-specific onboarding.

Department-specific onboarding is when employees start getting more into the specifics of their roles.

During this phase, the new hire will begin:

  • Learning more about their role.
  • Socializing with team members and direct managers.
  • Familiarizing themselves with the tools they’ll be using.
  • Learning team-wide goals and practices.
  • Making their first contributions to the team.

It can be helpful to set up specific goals for new hires to work towards during this phase (which often lasts around 30 days).

Setting goals offers new hires benchmarks that they can work toward. It creates opportunities for them to feel accomplished early in their role while offering constructive structure and guidance.

4. Mentoring and monitoring.

Once your new hire is no longer a “new,” you can move them on to bigger and better things. At this point, you may be more hands-off. Guidance should still be accessible, though. But at this point, it’ll look more like mentorship and monitoring than training. 

This is a great time for your employee to advance and gain new skills and responsibility.

Performance reviews are the perfect opportunity to check in on benchmarks you set earlier. Constructive feedback is a crucial part of growth, so remember to address changes you’ve seen.

An experienced and highly-skilled mentor can make a world of difference.

Having a mentor can help new hires feel supported, especially after you start to pull off their training wheels. It's an opportunity to have a buddy who can gently push them in the right direction when they start to stray.

This phase can last for one to two months, but it’s a smart idea to have more formal check-ins every 30 days or so.

5. Ongoing development.

By the time a new hire has been with your company for 90 days, they should be ready to transition out of an active training and into an ongoing development phase.

Your company may want to set specific goals that are a little more sophisticated and high-level than their earlier benchmarks.

It’s important to make sure that your employee understands their key performance indicators (KPIs), or in layman's terms, their expectations for success. Warm them up to your review process and let them know what’s expected of them moving forward.

Trainual makes onboarding and orientation fast and effective

One of the difficulties of onboarding and orientation is getting your new hires introduced to all of the hidden knowledge that exists within your team without overwhelming them.

You might need an HR leader to explain certain policies and practices. Or you might need to tap your sales team to break down your target market.

These are all bottlenecks that can limit the speed and efficacy of your onboarding and orientation processes.

Trainual can help you streamline that information.

Our leading LMS-alternative can help you automate and streamline your onboarding and orientation by documenting organization-wide policies, processes, and procedures.

Instead of wading through complex organizational hierarchies for information on the company and its processes, training makes it possible for everyone to access the information they need without the hassle of several meetings and lines of communication.

You’ll have a business playbook that enables repeatable and scalable training success.

Sign up for a free trial of Trainual today to experience the value we can bring to your orientation and onboarding programs.

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Article

Onboarding vs. Orientation: What's the Difference?

July 14, 2022

Jump to a section
Share it!
Sign up for our newsletter
You're all signed up! Look out for the next edition of The Manual Weekly coming Wednesday am!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Did you know that companies that offer comprehensive training programs earn 218% more income per employee?

With that much potential revenue at stake, it’s super important that all of your team members are up to speed and properly trained. And, if 218% also seems like a reflection of your team's rate of growth, you might be asking yourself how you can get started.

When talking about training, there are two similar words that pop up frequently: onboarding vs. orientation.

Is there a difference between these two terms? If so, how do you know which is best for your company’s long term success?

We’ll walk you through it all so that you’re as up to speed as future members of your team.

What is orientation?

A woman urgently asking, "What is it?"

Orientation is a one-time event that welcomes new employees to your company. It’s typically general in focus and brings together employees across many different departments. Think of it as a big ol’ meet and greet.

When and where does orientation occur?

Orientations usually happen before an employee officially begins working with you or on their first day.

For example, you might ask a new employee to come in for a Friday orientation so that they’re ready to hit the ground running on Monday.

Depending on where you’re setup, most companies keep orientations in a conference room and typically include a workplace tour. But not all companies are the same, and there’s always room to get creative. Zoom orientations are also an option if you can nix the office tour.

Who is orientation for?

Orientation is for all of your new, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed employees. It’s a high-level overview of what your company is all about. The information that's included in orientation is usually valuable for everyone to know.

What should orientation look like and what should it include?

There’s a lot of creative liberty when it comes to orientations. Generally speaking, they typically involve leaders from departments sharing general information about the company.

Your orientation might include discussions about:

  • Your company’s mission statement and values.
  • New hire paperwork and deadlines for turning it in.
  • Important policies about workplace interactions.
  • Distribution of materials like parking passes and ID badges.
  • Legally mandated training.
  • Any other high-level topics that all of your employees should know.

Virtual orientations may require a little more work up front to be successful, especially when it comes to distributing material. Which means some early planning might be required, like deciding to mail over a packet with all of the paperwork you would’ve handed out in person before orientation.

You may also need to set expectations for the orientation, such as asking employees to keep their cameras on during the session to ensure engagement.

What is onboarding?

A woman raising her hands and asking, "What's onboarding?"

Employee onboarding is a more involved process than orientation. It’s longer-term and goes into a more specific training process than orientation. It doesn’t start and conclude on a single day and can take anywhere from days to weeks.

The goal of onboarding is to get a worker comfortable with their day-to-day role, the rhythm of their department, and any technology they’ll need to use to be a high-functioning member of your team.

Orientation introduces a new hire to your business, but onboarding is what turns them into a valuable asset.

When does onboarding occur?

Onboarding should start as soon as possible, though you might consolidate your training in one go by waiting for a handful of new hires to join a department.

The sooner onboarding begins, the sooner your team members can get started.

Who is onboarding for?

Everyone on your team will go through an onboarding process, too.

The key difference between onboarding and orientation is how general and specific they are. Onboardings are very specific to different roles and departments.

For example, a new addition to your sales team will need to learn about sales enablement software, your target customers, and best practices. This could take weeks to learn.

Onboarding someone in your warehouse may take far less time. They may just need to become familiar with equipment and safety procedures.

What should onboarding look like and include?

Ideally, you want to build your onboarding process around the unique needs of every department.

Your goals should always target some key fundamentals, including:

  • Department integration. 
  • Learning software, tools, or tech used in-house or on the department level.
  • Understanding their role organizationally and departmentally.
  • Becoming familiar with coworkers and leaders.

Some research suggests that onboarding improves employee engagement, helps workers become proficient faster, and even reduces employee turnover.

It’s worth doing it right the first time.

Virtual vs. Onsite: Which is best?

A man looking between his two hands.

The workforce changed significantly after COVID.

According to McKinsey, employees are three to four times more likely to work from home. It might be extremely worthwhile for you to consider a remote option for onboarding.

Your business may have fully transitioned back to being onsite, but asking yourself the following questions will help you determine whether or not remote onboarding is a safeguard worth investing in.

Will any of your employees be remote?

If employees will be working remotely, then it might make the most sense to transition them into their roles remotely as well.

In fact, it might even be counterproductive to host an onsite onboarding when you’ll be sending your remote employees off to work in a new environment with new devices.

That being said, there’s some merit to hosting an in-person orientation day at your office for remote workers. It could help establish workplace culture even though your employees are miles apart.

Will an online event really be easier?

While it might seem that online orientation and onboarding are easier to conduct, that might not actually be the case.

You’ll miss that special face-to-face connection and an opportunity to firmly establish a workplace culture. Your orientation should help employees get to know one another and feel comfortable with your company and its management.

It might require some extra creativity and effort in the form of games and visual content to keep your new hires engaged. In-person events may be as simple as engaging with the new hires face-to-face.

What works best for your employees?

As you decide between virtual and onsite onboarding and orientation, be sure to put your new employees front and center. Ask yourself which event is going to make them feel like a part of your team faster and more effectively?

5 stages of new employee onboarding

A woman outrageously asking, "Five?!"

Having a replicable process for training new hires can be a massive time and money saver. The more efficient your onboarding is, the faster you'll see value in your employees.

Onboarding and orientation are different from company to company. At a high level, your new employee onboarding experience should be split into each of the following five phases.

1. Pre-orientation.

Pre-orientation begins the moment that a new hire accepts your offer of employment. The goal of this phase is to get your new hire ready for their first day with your company.

The process may include:

  • Signing documents.
  • Answering common questions.
  • Sending instructions.
  • Setting the new hire up with company accounts on various platforms and software.
  • Responding to your hire’s questions.

2. Orientation.

The orientation phase begins on your new employee’s first day of work. There are typically several different types of orientation and onboarding sessions going on at once, which can make it a bit complicated to keep it all running smoothly.

During orientation, you may ask a new hire to:

  • Submit payroll information.
  • Enroll in benefit packages.
  • Set up new equipment.
  • Create software accounts.
  • Complete training on company-wide policies and practices.

The key goal of the formal orientation phase is to let your new hires dip their toes into the company waters, giving them a basic rundown of where they are, what their role is, and who they’ll be working with.

3. Department-specific onboarding.

Department-specific onboarding is when employees start getting more into the specifics of their roles.

During this phase, the new hire will begin:

  • Learning more about their role.
  • Socializing with team members and direct managers.
  • Familiarizing themselves with the tools they’ll be using.
  • Learning team-wide goals and practices.
  • Making their first contributions to the team.

It can be helpful to set up specific goals for new hires to work towards during this phase (which often lasts around 30 days).

Setting goals offers new hires benchmarks that they can work toward. It creates opportunities for them to feel accomplished early in their role while offering constructive structure and guidance.

4. Mentoring and monitoring.

Once your new hire is no longer a “new,” you can move them on to bigger and better things. At this point, you may be more hands-off. Guidance should still be accessible, though. But at this point, it’ll look more like mentorship and monitoring than training. 

This is a great time for your employee to advance and gain new skills and responsibility.

Performance reviews are the perfect opportunity to check in on benchmarks you set earlier. Constructive feedback is a crucial part of growth, so remember to address changes you’ve seen.

An experienced and highly-skilled mentor can make a world of difference.

Having a mentor can help new hires feel supported, especially after you start to pull off their training wheels. It's an opportunity to have a buddy who can gently push them in the right direction when they start to stray.

This phase can last for one to two months, but it’s a smart idea to have more formal check-ins every 30 days or so.

5. Ongoing development.

By the time a new hire has been with your company for 90 days, they should be ready to transition out of an active training and into an ongoing development phase.

Your company may want to set specific goals that are a little more sophisticated and high-level than their earlier benchmarks.

It’s important to make sure that your employee understands their key performance indicators (KPIs), or in layman's terms, their expectations for success. Warm them up to your review process and let them know what’s expected of them moving forward.

Trainual makes onboarding and orientation fast and effective

One of the difficulties of onboarding and orientation is getting your new hires introduced to all of the hidden knowledge that exists within your team without overwhelming them.

You might need an HR leader to explain certain policies and practices. Or you might need to tap your sales team to break down your target market.

These are all bottlenecks that can limit the speed and efficacy of your onboarding and orientation processes.

Trainual can help you streamline that information.

Our leading LMS-alternative can help you automate and streamline your onboarding and orientation by documenting organization-wide policies, processes, and procedures.

Instead of wading through complex organizational hierarchies for information on the company and its processes, training makes it possible for everyone to access the information they need without the hassle of several meetings and lines of communication.

You’ll have a business playbook that enables repeatable and scalable training success.

Sign up for a free trial of Trainual today to experience the value we can bring to your orientation and onboarding programs.

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Onboarding vs. Orientation: What's the Difference?

July 14, 2022

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