Induction, Orientation, and Onboarding: What’s the Difference?

Mar 18, 2020

The period that starts when a new hire signs a contract and ends after the first few months on the job can set the tone for his or her success (or failure) within an organization. But though many companies have great new-recruit processes, too often they conflate induction and orientation with onboarding. By engaging mostly in activities that fall into the first two categories while assuming (incorrectly) that they’ve therefore covered the third, those organizations are missing opportunities to engage and delight their ambassadors of tomorrow.

Induction is the process of welcoming a new team member into the organization and its culture. It might involve a slideshow presentation on team culture, for example, a meet-and-greet or tour with relevant coworkers, gifts such as a welcome book or company swag bag, or a matchup with a veteran “buddy” to ease the new hire’s first-day jitters. Induction is a short-term event, usually completed on a new employee’s first day.

Orientation is the process to familiarize new hires with company policy and guidelines. It’s all about compliance and getting new hires up to speed on processes, paperwork, and the company’s general administrative structure. It might include an introduction to payroll and expense processes (including setup of a travel card), an overview of the organization’s branding and style guides, completion and processing of company policy documentation (e.g., health and safety forms, privacy policy, emergency contacts), and setup of a computer and phone and review of company guidelines for their use. Orientation is a short-term activity, often completed by the end of a new recruits first week.

Induction and orientation are necessary stages of any new hire’s journey. But they’re both short-term experience and represent only the first few steps of that journey. And that’s why onboarding is necessary.

Onboarding is an umbrella term for the process that spans the full new-hire journey. It starts when the contract is signed, includes the very beginning of day 1 (preboarding), continues through a new hire’s first days and weeks on the job (induction and orientation), and lasts until the new employee is fully settled in the new role (integration), regardless of whether that takes three weeks, three months, or even a complete year.

This long-term strategy recognizes that a staggering 20% of new hires leave for a new opportunity within the first 45 days on the job. Activities in this period typically fall into the following categories:

  • Organizational (administration, policy, documentation)
  • Functional (training, goal setting, performance reviews)
  • Social (connection building, welcome drinks, “buddy” mentoring)
  • Cultural (expectation setting, company purpose and vision, stakeholder engagement)


Make your onboarding process efficient and cost-effective


In short, onboarding is a comprehensive, two-way process for sharing knowledge, communicating values, building connections, and managing compliance. Its ultimate goal is to transform new hires into confident, empowered, team members and insiders.

Induction and orientation are important elements of the new-job experience. But because many companies don’t go any farther, they are missing out on great results: “organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent.” By building an all-encompassing onboarding process, organizations can create a culture in which their new hires will thrive.

A passionate HR professional, entrepreneur, and cyclist, Stijn de Groef is the CEO of Talmundo, an HR technology company. Before founding Talmundo in 2012, he worked in senior talent management roles at EMEA and at the global level at Swarovski and Goodyear. De Groef now travels the world to spread the word about Talmundo’s employee onboarding software and the strategic importance for businesses to get onboarding right.

Written by: Stijn de Groef

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