ONBOARDING AND ORIENTATION
SERVE DIFFERENT MASTERS
By Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
Many employers lack a formal process to help new employees become a part of the team. The hope seems to be that—over time—employees will simply acclimate. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work. New employees decide very quickly whether to stay with or leave a company.
This early decision-making is one reason why a formal onboarding process to engage employees with culture over time can reduce turnover and help increase engagement. HR’s New hire orientation is simply not going to “cut the mustard” anymore.
1. ONBOARDING IS THOROUGH
Over time, onboarding communicates your company’s purpose, culture, and organizational goals, all the while helping to establish relationships with supervisors, mentors and others that will be key to success. Says Hope Engelmann, a project manager who recently joined matter management software maker Legal Files, “My new firm focuses on education during onboarding. On day one they welcomed me with an orientation. But it didn’t end there. The company enrolled me in a comprehensive training program where I regularly meet with other team members for training. They even have me shadow daily customer meetings so I can learn how our team manages those relationships.”
Onboarding lasts for as long as the employee needs support. Orientation, on the other hand, rarely lasts longer than a week. It’s less about establishing connections and relationships within the new culture than it is about conveying rules, roles, and responsibilities. Orientation can actually be a part of the onboarding process, but onboarding goes far beyond the simple parameters of an orientation session.
New hires notice the difference between orientation and onboarding in terms of the investment the company makes in its new hires. Says Engelmann, “Everyone seems invested in my success, which is reassuring when you’re the new person with everything to learn.”
Unfortunately, not every onboarding program deserves the name; most are little more than in-depth orientations. Only about 10% of onboarding programs last for three months or longer. But a good onboarding program (that includes the elements above) can go a long way towards helping employees internalize the culture you’ve worked so hard to build.
2. ONBOARDING SERVES PEOPLE FIRST
Onboarding, on the other hand, exists to serve the employee by helping them engage with the organization’s culture, connect with others who can help them succeed, and ease their adjustment into their new role. Onboarding supports the employee’s journey to become a successful contributor within the organization.
3. ONBOARDING LASTS MONTHS, NOT HOURS OR DAYS
By contrast, onboarding encompasses orientation and then takes it to another level. And this is a crucial difference, given that employee turnover is highest within the first few months of taking a new job. First impressions of your company are critical to retention; an employee-centered onboarding approach helps to ensure that those early experiences are positive.
4. ONBOARDING INCLUDES MENTORING
Mentoring relationships work because they support employees’ fundamental need to feel cared about at work. This need is so important that it is related to no less than one third of the questions on Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement survey.
An onboarding program that fail long-term mentoring for new hires can help to ensure that the answer to these questions is yes, strengthening engagement with your company culture.
5. ONBOARDING IS MILLENNIAL-FRIENDLY
A thorough onboarding program can address these needs in the early months of their tenure so that millennials can become better acclimated with the workplace culture.
Your employees will begin evaluating whether your culture lives up to your organization’s claims during the interview process, and they will look for evidence to confirm or refute that impression from the moment they step through your door as a new employee. With a thorough and structured onboarding process, you can ensure that those first impressions—as well as those that come after — will be positive.