As mentioned in the most recent issue of The Snelling Blog, onboarding and orientation are not the same.  They are different, but (in many cases) they are used in conjunction with one another to ensure a smooth transition for the newly hired employee.

Most of us are familiar with the definition of an orientation. Every time we start a new phase in our life, we go through an orientation process – think college or even kindergarten, for example.  An orientation is simply a meeting where “new hire paperwork” is filled out and the employee is introduced to all the basic information that the she needs to integrate into the new company – 401(k) and health insurance pamphlets and sign- up links, etc.

What about onboarding?  That term is unfamiliar to many people, and sounds like it could be a medieval torture method or the process of boarding a ship.  Neither of these are the case.  Onboarding is simply a process – anywhere from 3 months to a year – that assimilates a new employee into a certain department and the company as a whole.  Every company’s onboarding process is different.

So what should you expect – and what should you do – during the onboarding process?  Remember, onboarding can be a long-term process; it is easy to behave well for a short period of time.  Everyone with children who has ever had to take them to visit a sick relative or into an expensive retail store knows this.  However, the onboarding process is an ongoing process, and you need to be aware of how your actions can be interpreted in order to further the positive impression you would like to make.

1)       Be on time.  Over the course of the next couple of months, you will be expected to sit and work (or maybe just simply interact) with many different people in many different departments.  Your arrival to each of these meetings will be your first chance to make a positive impression.  Be on time.

2)      Listen and learn and absorb.  Onboarding is your time to learn about the company, the people, and the culture that you will be expected to integrate with.  This is not the time for you to regal others on your amazing accomplishments at your former employee.  Do not assume you already know the answers.  Every company does things differently.  Take notes if you need to.

3)      Ask questions.  When needed, ask questions to make sure you fully understand expectations and that you are applying your new knowledge correctly.  Again, take notes if you need to.

4)      Understand expectations.  Make sure that you have educated yourself on the job duties you will be expected to perform.  That way when it comes time to speak to your manager, work cohorts or others, you can head off any misapprehensions (and therefore bad impressions) of you and your performance.

5)      Enjoy yourself.  Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed.  A new job is a new chapter in your life, and it will be what you make of it.  A positive attitude will make the entire process more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Remember, onboarding is viewed by your new employer as a way to get you successfully integrated into the company, make you productive (as quickly as possible) in your new job, and make you want to stay for a long, long time.

When you think about it, your goals are the same.  The employer wants you stay; you want to stay.  Your employer wants you to be productive; you want to be productive and contribute.  No one should take a job, thinking that they will only stay for a month.  So assimilate tip #5 into your daily work life.  A new job is exciting, meeting new people is exciting, and learning new skills and ways of doing things is exciting.

Enjoy yourself.

NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.