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Orientation and onboarding together is what truly makes for a successful acclimation process. Orientation is more administrative in nature and typically involves: the completion of new hire paperwork, enrolling new hires in benefit plans, and setting the new employee up on the company’s payroll. Onboarding however, has more of a long-term focus and is aimed at identifying training needs, setting performance goals, providing on-going feedback, and ensuring the new employee is a positive contributor to your company’s success.

Onboarding differs from orientation in that onboarding:

  • Is ongoing: the process doesn’t end once the employee’s first day is over. The onboarding process is continuous, beginning the second an employee accepts a job offer and continuing throughout the duration of their employment.
  • Allows for feedback: constant discussion regarding progress and plans for improvement are discussed to ensure enhanced productivity.
  • Is customized: each new hire possesses a unique set of skills and talents. Employers need to be able to identify new hire strengths and weaknesses and tap into them appropriately. By doing so, managers can set personalized performance goals, provide training in areas that are in need of improvement, and create individualized development plans.
  • Has a bottom-line impact: the results of an onboarding program can be measured in a variety of ways: Have the costs of turnover decreased since implementing the program? Have the company’s profits increased? Has customer satisfaction improved? Has commitment and morale been bolstered? Increased productivity, satisfaction, and morale are common byproducts of a well-executed onboarding program.

It’s important to remember that the process of bringing a new employee onboard does not end after their first day. It is continuously aimed at developing the talents of your new investment: the employee.

Necessities

Depending on the business size and culture, an employee orientation can vary in length and level of formality. The idea is to create program that appropriately reflects your company’s culture, while getting necessary information across. If your company environment is more relaxed, you may want to incorporate games such as scavenger hunts or crossword puzzles into the process. If your company’s culture is more of autonomy and independence, than your program can be designed with an independent learning focus, in which employees read the employee handbook on their own or go on the company’s website to learn about your history, mission, and values. The way in which you structure your orientation and onboarding program is up to you; however, there are some key components all employers should include in the process.

Consistency

One necessary component of any orientation program is that of consistency; meaning all employees, regardless of their position or level of responsibility, participate in the same initial orientation. Of course the particulars of their job responsibilities and performance expectations may be different. Consistency will ensure that every new employee is treated equally, receives the same important information, and that nothing vital (such as the completion of new hire paperwork) is left out of the process.

In order to promote a consistent orientation process, there should be certain individuals that are trained in the delivery of the program. In larger organizations, these are most likely individuals in the human resources department, while in smaller companies, it may be one of the senior staff or principals. Trained facilitators will ensure a systematic approach. A checklist should also be created so that orientation and onboarding facilitators are sure to cover all pertinent information. The checklist should be signed and given to the employee at the end of the session, affirming that all listed information was covered.

Timing

The timing of your orientation program should also be considered. An orientation needs to be completed as close as possible to the employee’s arrival. Companies that hire a small number of employees tend to postpone providing orientation until a large group of new hires can participate. Any delay in the process can affect a new employee’s productivity and provide them with an opportunity to make mistakes or learn poor work habits. In addition, delaying the process may increase a new employee’s apprehensions and lower morale. To a new employee, failing to show them the ropes from the beginning may demonstrate that the company doesn’t value them.

Introductions

New employees should be meeting key members of the company within their first few days on the job. Failure to introduce the employee to the CEO, president, or upper-level management may come across as cold, uninviting, or impersonal.

Managerial Involvement

Although the program itself may be facilitated by someone in the human resources department, new hires’ direct supervisors need to be involved in the process. The direct manager should be present on the first day, setting expectations for the new hire. Part of hitting the ground running requires an action plan and a review of job responsibilities from the get-go.

Development focus

Personal growth and development is important to many, especially talented employees. Managers should sit down almost immediately with new employees and provide them with a personalized development plan. The plan should cover what immediate training they may need, what they hope to gain from their new position, and where they would like to be in 12, 24, or 36 months.

Ongoing

The importance of an ongoing onboarding process cannot be overstated. An effective program extends well beyond the employee’s first day. Regular meetings are integrated within the process to ensure the employee is on track, to answer any outstanding questions they may have, and to seek their feedback. By stretching out the process, you help to ensure new employees are not overwhelmed and that obstacles or questions can be addressed as soon as they arise.

Preparation