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Terms and Definitions

What is employee orientation?

Updated: February 5, 2024

Employee orientation definition and meaning

Employee orientation is a part of the onboarding process that introduces a new hire to the company and familiarizes them with their role, the organization’s mission, policies, procedures, and culture.

Learning more about employee orientation

Employee orientation usually occurs on the new hire’s first day of work, and the goal is to help transition the employee into their role and prepare them for necessary training.


As indicated, it adopts a big-picture approach to acclimating new employees to the company. The intent is to make them feel welcomed by introducing them to the team and providing general information about the company and their role. This contrasts with onboarding, which takes a more detailed approach to ensure employee success.


Orientation vs. onboarding

These two are often confused as being one and the same, but they have significant differences.

  • Orientation is a one-time event that helps to familiarize the employee with the company from a general standpoint. During this time, the employee fills out relevant new-hire paperwork as well. It’s important to note that orientation falls under onboarding – meaning it is part of the larger onboarding process.
  • Onboarding is a series of events that starts during the hiring process and can last up to 12 months. It is a comprehensive initiative focusing not only on settling the new employee into their role but also on helping them become a valuable contributor to the organization. For these reasons, individualized, job-specific training plays a pivotal role in onboarding.


A strong onboarding process is key to retaining qualified new employees. And with orientation being an integral component of onboarding, your orientation process needs to be robust as well.

Why employee orientation matters

First impressions matter. And employee orientation is an ideal opportunity to create a great first impression on the new hire.


In addition, employee orientation:

  • Improves new hire retention by creating a welcoming atmosphere from the start
  • Enables you to share vital information with the new hire
  • Enlightens the new hire about their role, making it easier for them to adapt
  • Promotes employee engagement
  • Shows the employee how they contribute to the company’s objectives
  • Allows the manager and the employee to build rapport from the outset
  • Strengthens the main objective of onboarding, which is to prime the new employee for success
  • Instills confidence, motivation, and enthusiasm in the new employee


Furthermore, employee orientation promotes compliance with employment laws and company policies. When employees know the rules upfront, you minimize the chances of misunderstandings and violations.


Employee orientation: Best practices

It’s important to cover all the bases during the orientation process. Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Create a checklist that describes your standardized procedures for orientation.
  • Select an appropriate day for the orientation – one that allows you to handle the process without disruptions.
  • Automate the paperwork process to save time (and reduce stress) for the new hire and your HR team.
  • Get to know the new hire by meeting with them in a one-on-one setting as well, instead of relying solely on group orientations.
  • Make the information easy to digest, such as by avoiding jargon, dividing long topics into small chunks, and encouraging the employee to take short breaks during the sessions.
  • Digitize your employee handbook, even if you already have a physical one. Make it easy to create, distribute, and update. This way, new hires can access it as needed.


Does orientation count as paid time?

In most cases, yes. Orientation time is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act if these four criteria are met:

  • The attendance is mandatory.
  • The attendance is within normal work hours.
  • The event is job-related.
  • It requires some work to be performed (e.g., completing new-hire paperwork).

Using employee orientation in a sentence

“To avoid overwhelming our new hires, we typically limit employee orientation to three hours. The event may run longer, however, depending on the position.”

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