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Insider Perspective 19

Orientation is NOT Onboarding – Here’s the Difference

Jan 20, 2023

In the world of HR and new hires, orientation and onboarding are two words that are often used synonymously. I mean, both are focused on welcoming new employees and setting them up for success, right? So it’s not surprising that the two get mixed up. But here’s the thing: While both onboarding and orientation have a similar overall goal, they are absolutely not the same. They are, however, both absolutely essential when getting brand-new hires ready for their brand-new roles.

So, what is the difference between the two? I’m about to tell you alllll the ins and outs of both, so hold tight and be ready to have your mind blown.

Employee Orientation Vs. Employee Onboarding: The Definitions

  • Orientation: Think of this as your introductory crash-course. It’s a brief event aimed at introducing new hires to the company, their position, and their coworkers. At this time, employees usually receive must-know highlights – key information that’s easily digestible and mostly general (i.e. – usually everyone, no matter the position, goes through the same orientation). Overall, orientation is a small piece of the larger onboarding puzzle.
  • Onboarding: Think of this as your weeks-long nurturing and welcoming process. It’s a program focused on integrating new hires into their new workplace! It starts right when the employee accepts their position (before their first day even starts!) and usually goes on for at least the first 90 days of employment. The whole process is made up of a bunch of smaller events, like orientation, that all work together to welcome and educate the new hire. Importantly, each onboarding is different per position and per employee, specifically focused on their needs and progress.

So, what’s the key difference here? Orientation is a smaller part of the overall onboarding process.

Related Article: The What, The Why, and The How of Employee Onboarding

Employee Orientation Vs. Employee Onboarding: The Components

Orientation: As we discussed above, orientation is all about the who, the what, and the how of the overall business. Here’s a list of topics that may be included:

  • Facility/Office Tour
  • Mission, Value, and Vision statements
  • Benefits
  • Company policies
  • Safety policies
  • Software and log-in setups
  • New hire paperwork
  • Company history and FAQs

Onboarding: Once again, onboarding is a loooonnnnggggg process with MANY facets. Throughout the weeks, some of these things may be involved:

  • Orientation (duh!)
  • Weekly or daily meetings with a supervisor
  • Goal setting
  • Team lunches or outings
  • A whole bunch of training!
  • Coworker shadowing
  • Gifts (our favorite!)


Employee Orientation Vs. Employee Onboarding: The Benefits

­­­Orientation: Usually orientation happens on the first day of the job. Here’s some of the benefits:

  • Distributes key information and company highlights quickly and efficiently
  • Eases first-day jitters and gets the ball rolling
  • Helps employees learn the lay of the land

Onboarding: Not only is this process long, it also has long term benefits! Here’s a few:

  • Increases retention, engagement, and productivity (check out these stats from Zippia!)
  • Encourages new hires to have open communication with coworkers and supervisors
  • Provides support to new hires and reduces discomfort and anxiety
  • Speeds up the acclimation process
  • Builds early relationships

There you have it! These are all the key differences between employee orientation and employee onboarding. The key takeaway? The two are not synonymous, but they are both essential when welcoming a new hire to your team.

For more onboarding tips and tricks, check out these blogs:


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