What are the Two Types of Onboarding?

Laura Parker
May 2024

Understanding the two types of employee onboarding—formal and informal—is essential for any organization aiming to enhance its integration process. Often confused with orientation, onboarding is a comprehensive process that extends beyond mere introductions, playing a pivotal role in shaping an employee’s journey within a company. In this exploration, we will clarify the difference between onboarding vs orientation and delve into the distinct approaches of formal and informal onboarding. This insight will equip business leaders, particularly in SMEs, to choose the optimal onboarding method with the help of intuitive platforms like beSlick, which streamline and enforce the effectiveness of these essential business processes.

What are the Two Types of Onboarding?

What are the two types of onboarding

What are the types of onboarding process? When it comes to employee onboarding, there are fundamentally two types to consider: formal and informal, each with its own merits and challenges. But what does each entail? 

  • Formal Onboarding: Structured and typically includes scheduled training sessions, systematic introductions to company policies, and predefined performance benchmarks. This method is often detailed with a clear checklist and timeline, ensuring that all new hires experience a consistent and comprehensive orientation.
  • Informal Onboarding: Tends to be more flexible and less structured. It often relies on new employees picking up their roles through observation and impromptu interactions with their peers and supervisors. While this method can be less intimidating and more natural, it might lack the thoroughness and consistency of formal procedures.

Understanding what are the two types of onboarding for employees is crucial for business leaders. It allows them to tailor the onboarding experience to fit their company culture and the specific needs of their workforce, thereby enhancing employee satisfaction and productivity from day one.

What is the difference between formal and informal onboarding

The distinction between formal and informal onboarding processes can significantly impact the success of new employees within a company. 

  • Formal Onboarding: Highly structured. It includes a rigorous agenda of training sessions, compliance requirements, and clear benchmarks for performance evaluation. This type often features a detailed orientation program that introduces new hires to the company culture, expectations, and necessary tools for their roles. Formal onboarding ensures consistency and compliance, making it ideal for regulated industries or roles with specific training requirements.
  • Informal Onboarding: Characterized by a lack of structured programming. New employees are often encouraged to learn by observing and interacting with colleagues, gaining knowledge organically through day-to-day activities. This approach can foster a more relaxed and welcoming environment, but risks leaving new hires without essential information and feeling unguided.

Both methods have their place depending on the organization’s size, culture, and goals. Understanding these differences enables companies to implement the most effective onboarding strategy to support their business objectives and enhance overall employee experience.

What are the basics of onboarding

Regardless of the chosen method, the basics of onboarding in the workplace share common essential elements that are critical for successfully integrating new hires into any organization. What are the types of onboarding in the workplace? While the execution may vary between formal and informal, the core components remain similar.

Firstly, onboarding should always begin with a comprehensive introduction to the company culture and values. This foundation helps new employees understand their new environment and align their personal goals with the company’s objectives. Secondly, role-specific training is crucial. It provides the practical skills and knowledge necessary to perform their tasks effectively. Additionally, setting up clear communication channels is essential to foster open dialogues between new hires and their colleagues and managers.

Moreover, relationship building is another fundamental aspect of onboarding. Integrating new employees into the team through social interactions and team-building activities can significantly enhance their sense of belonging and commitment. Finally, continuous feedback and support through the initial months are imperative to adjust and refine the onboarding process, ensuring it meets the needs of both the employee and the organization.

By adhering to these basics, companies can ensure that their onboarding process is effective, irrespective of the type, contributing to higher employee retention and satisfaction rates.

What are the 2 components of employee onboarding

In understanding what are the types of onboarding for employees, it’s crucial to recognize the two core components that make up the foundation of any onboarding program: orientation and integration.

  • Orientation: The initial part of the onboarding process, where new hires are formally introduced to the company. This stage covers everything from HR policies and procedures to safety protocols. It often involves a lot of information delivered in a short period, designed to equip the new employee with all the necessary administrative and compliance knowledge required to start work safely and effectively.
  • Integration:  The second component extends beyond the first few days or weeks. It involves the gradual process of assimilating the new employee into the team and wider company culture. Integration is where informal onboarding techniques shine, as they allow new hires to form organic relationships with their peers and managers. This component is essential for building a strong sense of belonging and loyalty, which significantly impacts an employee’s long-term engagement and productivity.

Both orientation and integration are pivotal in ensuring that an employee not only starts off on the right foot but also continues to grow and contribute to the company effectively over time.

What are the Two Types of Onboarding?
In this guide, we’ve explored the two primary types of employee onboarding—formal and informal—and detailed the key components of orientation and integration essential to each approach. Whether your organization leans towards a structured format or a more relaxed, experiential learning curve, the goal remains the same: to facilitate a seamless transition that fosters both immediate and long-term engagement and productivity among new hires.

For businesses looking to refine their onboarding processes, adopting a platform like beSlick can make a significant difference. beSlick not only supports the fundamental aspects of both formal and informal onboarding but also provides the tools necessary to track, adjust, and optimize these processes in real-time. Enhance your onboarding strategy today and see the difference in how quickly and effectively your new employees become a part of your team.

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, Author of The Dirty Word and CEO at beSlick

Alister Esam is a successful entrepreneur and investor, having bootstrapped his fintech software business eShare to international status operating in over 40 countries and servicing 20,000 board directors, before successfully exiting to a multibillion-dollar organisation in 2018. He now invests in a variety of startups and on a global mission to make work, work.