Clear Communications Throughout Employment – Part 2: Orientation and Onboarding

Throughout the employment lifecycle, clear communications with employees is crucial for strong business operations and employer/employee relationships. This is the second of a series of articles that focus on four key periods of employment: Recruitment and Hiring, Orientation and Onboarding, Retention and Development, and Transition and Exit. I encourage employers to analyze their communication strategies for each key period and consider ways in which managers can improve their communication with their employees.

Part 2: Orientation and Onboarding

A well-planned onboarding process can help reduce the amount of time it takes for an employee to “hit the ground running” and helps cultivate a long-term relationship. Orientation is a subset of onboarding and focuses on helping a new employee become familiar with the organization’s structure, policies, and other administrative tasks. Together orientation and onboarding lay the foundation for the employee’s future with your organization.

Onboarding can start before the employee does. Before an employee’s first day, think about what information you can provide to help orient them to your organization and get them excited about starting their new job. This can include a copy of your employee handbook, benefits information, and information about where to park and who to report to on their first day. Think about other information you can provide that will introduce them to your organization and, if they are relocating, information about your community.

The employee’s first day (or in the first few days) is the time to complete an organizational overview and general orientation. This will likely include:

  • Administrative tasks: New hire paperwork (I-9, W-4, direct deposit, etc.), office key check-out, and computer set-up.
  • Compensation and benefits: A review of payroll procedures, insurance, and benefit programs.
  • Attendance policies: Paid time off benefits, holidays, reporting absences/tardiness, and FMLA/AFLA.
  • General policies: Key organizational policies, including ethics, discrimination/harassment, and complaint and grievance procedures.

Following the general orientation, the employee should be provided with a job-specific orientation. This is the ideal time for the manager to review the employee’s job description to discuss training and expectations for the essential job functions. The employee should also be provided with a review of department specific policies and safety and security procedures.

Once the employee has completed a general organizational and job specific orientation, it’s time to focus on ongoing training, guidance, and feedback. This process can last for 3-18 months depending on the complexity of the position. During this stage of onboarding the manager should schedule periodic check-ins with the employee to provide recognition, clarify expectations, address issues and concerns, and identify additional training needed. The goal of this stage of onboarding is to be providing direct, immediate, and specific feedback to the employee as they grow into their new position. Doing so reduces misunderstandings and frustrations for the employer and employee and promotes open communication.

Further information

If you would like assistance in developing an onboarding program, contact Carleen Mitchell at for further information and tools to help your organization.