Orientation is a one time event. It usually lasts a day (or less if you do it well) and is an opportunity to share a ton of information that people must know.
Where the bathrooms are.
What time everyone takes lunch.
Where to park so you do not get towed.
Orientation is meant to share the essentials. It is intended to ensure that new hires get the very basics of what they have and usually includes a lot of paperwork filling out time. It is not very interactive and certainly does not help the new hire after it is over.
On-boarding is much longer. It takes place both before and after the hire. It could last weeks or months – the longer the better. It is meant to introduce and ingrain the company culture and way of working. It should reinforce everything the new hire was told in the recruiting phase. It should incentivize new hires to do their best work until they can do better. Then it should incentivize them to do better. It should make them happy with their decision. It should develop, coach and mentor. It should turn a great hire into a great employee.
See the difference?
Is your company putting new hires through an orientation or an on-boarding?
To find out more about creating effective onboarding programs and not just orientation, check out my Onboarding Primer.
This post reviewed and edited on September 20, 2017