New Employee Orientation Vs. On-Boarding Programs

by Diane Chinn - Updated September 26, 2017
Orientation and on-boarding programs welcome new employees and help them learn about the organization.

In a 2003 survey, 5,643 new employees in a variety of companies were asked about their experience in their new jobs. Four percent reported that their first day on the job was so bad they never returned to work, which cost employers an average of $13,000 per worker, according to the human resources consulting firm Drake International. New employee orientation and on-boarding programs are used to introduce employees to the organization, prepare them to do their jobs effectively and build working relationships with the goal of retaining them and facilitating their productivity.

Orientation

New employee orientation is the traditional way to introduce a worker to an organization. Typically, the orientation takes four to eight hours and introduces workers to the organization’s structure, mission and policies. It includes an introduction to the employee handbook and basic information on pay schedules and benefits. New employees complete required paperwork for payroll and benefits enrollment. Once the orientation is completed, additional training and orientation activities are conducted at the discretion of the managers.

On-boarding

On-boarding is a more comprehensive approach to introducing and integrating new employees into an organization. Orientation is an early step in the on-boarding process, which can take 90 days to complete. In some organizations, the on-boarding process takes up to one year, depending on the organization and the position.

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Employee Socialization

On-boarding programs help new workers acquire the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors they need to be successful in the organization. All new employees, regardless of their experience, need to learn about the social and technical aspects of the organization and their new jobs. Facilitated by the on-boarding process, employee socialization involves establishing effective relationships with coworkers, mastering job tasks, learning about formal and informal power structures, understanding the rules and culture of the organization, and learning the company jargon and acronyms.

Roles and Responsibilities

The Human Resources Department (HR) has overall responsibility for the on-boarding process. HR plans and develops the materials for the process and sets the schedule, in consultation with the employee’s immediate supervisor. Materials include basic organizational information supplemented by department- and team-specific information provided by the supervisor. In addition, the supervisor might assign a coworker to act as a mentor to the new employee. Throughout the first 30 days, the supervisor meets regularly with the new employee and mentor to review progress, share unwritten rules and traditions and establish goals and expectations. The manager or mentor also schedules interviews for the new employee with key team members, internal or external customers and others with whom the worker will interact on a regular basis. In the next 60 days, the manager and mentor continue to act as resources and guides for the new employee, answering questions, monitoring progress and providing coaching.

Desired Outcome

The goal of on-boarding, including orientation, is to help new employees quickly get up to speed and integrate them into the organization so they will be productive and stay with the organization. The success of an on-boarding program is shown by the new employee’s job satisfaction, understanding of job responsibilities, task mastery, social integration and organizational commitment.

About the Author

Diane Chinn is a freelance writer with more than 15 years experience in many areas, including business and technical communications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from California State University and a Master of Arts in human resources and industrial relations from the University of Minnesota. She is a Six Sigma Green Belt .

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