HRTech Interview with Lauren Winans, Chief Executive Officer and Principal HR Consultant at Next Level Benefits

Get expert recommendations for enhancing your organization's integration strategies.


Lauren, please let us know how you would define the primary goals of an employee orientation process.
Most people see the orientation process as procedural and a formality as part of joining a new organization, and they are not wrong. The employee orientation process is meant to be a time for the completion of necessary paperwork and getting familiar with company policies and procedures. Orientations are designed to cover broad topics and provide general information during a short, introductory welcome process. The main goal of an effective employee orientation process is and always should be to introduce a new hire to the company, making them feel welcome on day 1. But, while orientations are a necessary part of the hiring process, they should always be followed by a more detailed, several months long onboarding process that includes understanding job responsibilities and performance expectations, obtaining required and job-specific training, goal-setting, and fully integrating into the workplace environment.

In your opinion, what key elements contribute to making a new employee feel welcome during orientation?
Ensuring the new hire is greeted upon their arrival, provided with an overview or tour of the workplace (whether virtual or otherwise), walked through the company mission, vision, values, and policies, and introduced to their supervisor and colleagues.

What role does company culture play in the success of an orientation process?
Company culture is incredibly important, in all company processes as well as the orientation process. Orientation may be for some new hires the first interaction with the company’s culture, and it will be seen and felt through the process. Many new hires know from day one whether or not they resonate with the company’s culture, so it really is important to showcase culture during orientation.

Can you highlight the main differences between an orientation and an onboarding process?
Orientation is a brief introduction to the company, while onboarding is a more extensive process that involves in-depth training and integration into the organization. Both are important for a successful employee transition, preparing employees for their roles long term. The onboarding process picks up where orientation leaves off, focusing on job-specific training and support, outlining job responsibilities and performance expectations, goal-setting, facilitating team building, and ensuring the new employee is set up for optimum productivity.

How does an effective onboarding process contribute to the long-term success of new hires?
An effective onboarding process is specific and intentional, customized to the role the new employee will play within the organization. Effective onboarding processes include an onboarding plan that highlights the milestones that should be achieved throughout the onboarding process. When done right, a new employee is educated and supported, ready to work autonomously in their new role and begin adding value to their team, supervisor, and the company as a whole. When employees are productive, feeling a part of the team, accomplishing goals and completing tasks, and being recognized for their contributions, they are more likely to become a long term asset to the organization.

What activities or strategies are essential for workplace familiarization during employee integration?
It’s really important to ensure new employees know their way around, not just know where the restroom is but also who to go to with problems, questions, or concerns. When defining workplace familiarization and adding these activities to your orientation or onboarding process, think about what does this employee need to know physically and logistically, what do they need to know personally and socially, and who or what do they need to know to do their job at an optimal level of performance. Incorporate the answers to these questions into the appropriate part of the orientation and onboarding processes, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly a new employee integrates into the team.

Why is it crucial for employers and managers to understand the distinctions between orientation and onboarding?
Employers and managers need to understand the distinctions so that they can ensure they are addressing all the aspects of effectively bringing on a new employee, setting them up for success, and having a chance at keeping them as a long term member of the organization.

In your view, what challenges might organizations face in implementing successful employee orientation and onboarding processes?
The biggest challenge is not being able to look at the process from all angles and with a critical eye. I always recommend creating these processes with a cross-functional team that can work together to check all the boxes by bringing their own unique perspectives and experiences. Having one person putting together these processes in a bubble usually ends in a failed and flawed process. Another challenge is not revisiting the processes with frequency. Gathering feedback from new hires throughout the process can help inform the changes that need to be made. Allowing the processes to be iterative and flexible will allow enhancements to be made quickly and easily.

How do both orientation and onboarding contribute to preparing employees for their roles in the long term?
Both orientation and onboarding give the new employee all the information, tools, and resources they need to be successful, productive, and effective within the first several months of working for the company, which in turn results in the employee feeling valued, supported, and capable. When employees feel good about their work and their workplace, they tend to become long term assets to the organization.

What recommendations do you have for organizations looking to improve their employee integration strategies?
I recommend creating a cross-functional team of 4 to 6 individuals with knowledge and responsibility for onboarding new employees. This may be a few employees from HR, some from Payroll, Legal, and maybe a few recent new hires. Task the team with analyzing the orientation and onboarding processes, whether or not the processes are as thorough as they could be, how seamless the experience is for the new employee, and what roadblocks consistently present themselves in these processes. It is also really helpful to deploy employee surveys to gather feedback that the team can leverage to recommend improvements and changes to the processes. External help in the form of HR and talent acquisition consultants are incredibly helpful if your lean, internal team is not equipped or available to take on the challenge themselves.

Explore HRtech News for the latest Tech Trends in Human Resources Technology.

Lauren Winans Chief Executive Officer and Principal HR Consultant at Next Level Benefits

Lauren Winans is the Chief Executive Officer and Principal HR Consultant for Next Level Benefits, an HR consulting practice offering clients access to HR professionals for both short-term and long-term projects. With 20 years of human resources and employee benefits experience, Winans possesses a deep expertise of HR best practices and what resonates with employees. She founded Next Level Benefits in 2019, offering HR teams access to former corporate HR professionals on-demand when they need them most.