Your new employees are ready to start work, and your organization is probably ready for them to start, as well. Are you ready to prepare them for long-term success?

Onboarding can significantly improve employee engagement and reduce turnover within your organization. Considering that approximately 50% of new hires leave companies within the first 18 months, implementing an effective onboarding program shouldn’t be optional. And taking employees through the standard orientation process doesn’t cut it.

What’s the good of completing a job analysis, drafting and finalizing the job description, and working through the cumbersome hiring process — only to drop the ball by failing to onboard the new hires once they’ve arrived? Unfortunately, in Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workplace” survey, a mere 12% of respondents said they “strongly agree their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees.” Regardless of whether their organization neglects to implement an onboarding program or has a program that’s grossly lacking, leaders are clearly failing in this category.

Onboarding programs are ineffective if they don’t align new hires’ needs and expectations with the organization’s. This statement is true for all position levels, and it’s especially true when it comes to senior roles. Employees deserve better. Organizations deserve better. Customers deserve better.

Employee onboarding and employee orientation are two different animals, but too many managers make no distinction between the two. This lack of clarity negatively impacts the organization, the culture, the supervisor and the new hire’s success. Onboarding is as distinct from employee orientation as training is from management consulting, and it’s as beneficial to long-term success as organizational culture, performance management and effective leadership combined. To put it plainly, if onboarding represents an entire pie, orientation is but one slice of that pie, and competent human capital leaders and organizational executives know it.

The Purpose of Onboarding

First, let’s hone in on onboarding. Employee onboarding is aimed at the successful acclimation and integration of new hires (or current employees after being promoted or transferred into a new role). It’s involves assessing, defining and aligning the needs of the new hires with the culture and reinforcing the organization’s vision and strategic priorities. Onboarding is a proactive process intended to substantially improve a new hire’s ability to understand the culture, contribute to the team, develop meaningful relationships, understand the leadership team and, ultimately, perform at his or her best.

When onboarding is done right, employees have the opportunity to assess the strategy and culture of the organization and evaluate whether there are gaps or conflicts with their position and strategic, operational and performance priorities. They have the time and information they need to deepen their understanding of the culture, learn how to communicate with their team members and supervisors, learn business systems, and gain clarity for performance expectations and deliverables.

An Onboarding Methodology

A comprehensive onboarding methodology provides a plan and outline for a thoughtful process that spans between three and six months. Depending on an individual new hire’s progress and needs, however, it could extend longer. During the onboarding process, the new hire and his or her supervisor meet one on one in scheduled meetings (about every two to four weeks) to thoroughly discuss and address the five core pillars of onboarding.

  • Organizational culture.
  • Vision and direction of leadership.
  • Team dynamics, communication and conflict.
  • Business systems, processes and performance deliverables.
  • Specified, defined goals and ongoing expectations.

Onboarding should not be a single meeting to give information to employees but, by nature, a collaborative and mutually engaging process. By engaging in onboarding, organizational leaders and new hires demonstrate a commitment to maximizing human capital and advancing organizational success. These efforts acclimate new hires to an organization’s strategic and operational goals, the interdependencies across divisions and units, and pressing challenges for internal and external stakeholders. They also help to enhance communications and capitalize on organizational talent and competence.

The Purpose of Orientation

Though onboarding is more comprehensive than an employee orientation, orientations are valuable as well. They serve to help new hires become familiar with their colleagues; navigate the office space; and understand organizational policies, procedures, technologies and benefits. During orientation, employees receive their identification cards or badges and keys and security codes, learn where to go for office supplies, meet team members, and read and sign off on policies.

As valuable as these activities are to the entire onboarding process, orientation alone does not come close to covering the depth of topics or engagement that an onboarding program does — and it was never meant to.

The Bottom Line

It is incumbent upon leaders and managers to develop an effective and comprehensive onboarding program for their organization and outline a coherent process by which supervisors can engage their new team members. An effective onboarding program includes a detailed orientation process but goes much further. While the onboarding process typically takes months to complete and requires analysis, discussions and meetings, the orientation process typically takes only a day or two or, at most, a week.

Both employee onboarding and employee orientation are necessary components of helping employees succeed. Just remember that they are designed to focus on different aspects of that success.