• Sandra Wiley, Shareholder, President

Orientation & Onboarding: You Need Both

With unemployment at a 10-year low, nearly every industry is facing challenges in attracting and retaining new talent. Too often, the focus is on attraction, but companies also need to be aware of the importance of helping new talent become fully engaged team members. Often, new employees confide that they feel like outsiders, have trouble getting information, and feel like they must spend months proving themselves before being trusted with meaningful assignments.

Many companies have addressed this issue by developing new employee orientation programs but are not satisfied with the results. Part of that dissatisfaction stems from the fact that they believe orientation and onboarding are the same things. They’re not.

Orientation is a one-time event, whereas onboarding is a series of events (including orientation) that helps new employees understand how to be successful in their position and how their work contributes to company’s strategic plan.

It’s time to advance to the next level in bringing staff into the firm’s culture quickly and efficiently with onboarding that is more strategic and comprehensive.

An onboarding program includes:

  • Designing an onboarding process that is efficient, effective, representative of company culture, and – this is important – fun!

  • Developing and applying a comprehensive induction process for new hires

  • Emphasizing personal accountability through job performance that supports the strategic plan

The program should include the essential action items after an offer has been accepted to convey excitement to the new employee and help them transition into the firm. The onboarding program details the ways by which a new employee gains an understanding of his or her functional areas by providing the resources, contacts, and tools necessary to assist in their understanding of the business.

The goal of onboarding is to help new staff adapt to their new work environment and bring them to full productivity quickly and efficiently. The program is broken into four major components.

  1. Vision and Values – activities and programs designed to acclimate new staff to the company’s current culture, while helping them understand their role in the company’s strategic plan

  2. Team Building – activities and programs designed to help new staff become full members of their work teams as quickly and productively as possible, alleviating ambiguity and setting the tone for strong working relationships.

  3. Mentor Program – designed to help new staff build work relationships and navigate unwritten rules by pairing them with experienced peers.

  4. Human Resources Orientation – provides logistical information necessary for new employees to do their jobs. This includes benefits enrollment, tours of facilities, software training, etc.

Another major focus for many organizations is supporting managers to develop the skills necessary to create an inclusive environment for new employees. The responsibility for new staff members’ productivity, effectiveness, and morale falls largely to their managers. To support them in this effort, develop a clear set of behaviors and responsibilities, with plenty of learning opportunities to ensure that managers have the skills to meet expectations.

Some of the specific manager behaviors that should be addressed in the management training are:

  1. Building an inclusive and effective team

  2. Coaching and counseling

  3. Setting performance objectives

  4. Identifying and addressing interpersonal dynamics

  5. Effective communication skills

When managers receive support and training before the onboarding process, they can feel confident that they are providing appropriate information and helping staff feel like valued members of the team. An effective onboarding program will help new hires become productive, contributing members of your organization faster than ever before.


Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., has been lauded for her industry expertise in human resources and training. She is often called the “go-to person” for solutions to the profession’s staffing crisis, citing her wise advice on hiring – and keeping – employees for the rest of their careers.

Sandra developed the P3 Leadership Academy and hosts regional training sessions throughout the country. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant’s Alliance and a certified KolbeTM trainer, advising firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.