Having been in the business for over 40 years, we have been asked a multitude of questions. One that has come up frequently in conversations with clients is “What is the difference between orientation and on boarding?” There is a definitive difference, and if you are only providing orientation you may be missing out on the opportunity to get new employees up to speed effectively and efficiently. Here’s the breakdown:

Orientations are meant to orient newly hired employees. Orienting is good. It provides the new hire with insights into the company’s mission, vision, and values. It gives new hires an introduction to the organization’s history and gives them more detail about their department, benefits plans, and set up for payroll. (Steve Cohen, On Boarding Can Mean More To Company Than New Hire. January 27, 2012). Orientation is the introductory stage in the process of new employee assimilation, and a part of his or her continuous socialization process in the organization. Many organizations focus here, and conclude any formal program within the first few weeks of employment. (Knowledge Advisors. August 5, 2009.)

Onboarding, however, takes it to the next level. It is the structured way a company brings newly hired employees into their “fold.” It is more about getting insights and information from the new hire. (Steve Cohen, On Boarding Can Mean More To Company Than New Hire. January 27, 2012).

  • This takes several meetings within the first 90 days. It starts with the candidate being “sold” on coming to work with the particular organization, an interview to ensure both the individual and the hiring company are a good match, one-on-one meetings with the supervisor, manager, and manager’s manager. And a meeting to determine if there is variance between what the new hire thought it’s like to work at the company and what the actual employees think it’s really like to work there. Then there are meetings to evaluate the new hire’s performance.
  • Onboarding is about communicating up and down. It is about finding out what is good, as well as what needs improvement, and then dialoging about it all.
  • Onboarding is a process of aligning, assimilating, integrating, and transitioning a new employee. (Knowledge Advisors. August 5, 2009.)


Author: Jenny Dickey