HR tips

Common mistakes to avoid for successful employee onboarding

In this post, learn about the common mistakes employers should avoid in order to have successful employee onboarding.

Put simply, employee onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into a company. While a solid onboarding process can set your new recruit up for success, a flimsy, inadequate one will almost certainly set them up for failure, not to mention squander your valuable resources.

Unlike an “orientation,” which typically lasts a single day or a week at most, a quality onboarding process begins as soon as a job offer is accepted and typically lasts through the first year of employment—if not longer.

That’s right: it’s considered best practice to begin the onboarding process before day one, to allow new hires to get acquainted with the company and its culture before getting to work. And if all this seems arduous, many employers agree that remote onboarding is even more challenging than the traditional in-office version.

Fortunately, there are more remote onboarding tips all the time. Factors like advance-prepping, sticking to a schedule, and staying organized are all extremely helpful ways to meaningfully engage new hires, even from afar.

The importance of onboarding

Research shows that 44% of employees leave within 6 months of being hired due to insufficient training or a lack of job guidelines, while 26% leave due to unhelpful coworkers or managers. On the flip side however, 78% of companies that choose to invest in onboarding witness an ROI increase, while 64% of HR staff witness a decrease in company turnover after more emphasis has been placed on onboarding.

Indeed, while a negative onboarding experience doubles the chances of an employee seeking a different opportunity, a positive onboarding experience ensures that 69% of employees stay with a company for three years.

Despite these findings, many businesses drastically underestimate the importance of employee onboarding, with 32% of global executives reporting a poor onboarding program, and just 37% of companies ensuring that their onboarding process runs longer than a month.

Slowly but surely though, more employers are realizing that the onboarding process is critical to improving employee retention, not to mention helping get new hires up to speed more quickly. When undertaken thoughtfully and effectively, onboarding can help new employees feel more valued, better understand their role, and increase their productivity and performance, resulting in increased engagement and higher morale. 

All of the above, of course, are among the basic goals of any onboarding program worth its salt!

Common employee onboarding mistakes to avoid

Since onboarding is what shapes your employees’ first impression of their role within your company, we’ve highlighted some common mistakes to be sure to avoid:

Starting onboarding on the employee’s first day

If your plan is to start onboarding on your new hire’s first day of work, reconsider. The aforementioned pre day-one onboarding is known as pre-boarding, and is the perfect opportunity to teach new hires some of the basics before they get started.

This way, when they actually show up for their first day of work, they can feel excited rather than confused and out of place. You might send them a welcome package that includes all relevant new hire paperwork, a clear breakdown of your products and services, a guide on company policies, etc.

The overall guiding principle here should be empathy: do your best to provide new hires with all the tools they need to mitigate the stress of a new beginning. In short, give them all the tools they need for success.

Lack of guidance and structure

Don’t leave new hires hanging. A basic onboarding checklist should include task lists for new hires covering all phases—from new recruitment, to pre-boarding, early onboarding, first week meet-and-greets, and ongoing engagement.

Additionally, let them know who they can go to for answers and for overall support. Provide an organizational flowchart showing colleagues’ and managers’ titles and responsibilities, as well as how they can be contacted—and make yourself approachable too.

And it should go without saying that when planning for your new hire’s arrival, ensuring they have all the equipment they require from the get-go is crucial (i.e., ID, a workstation, IT equipment, business cards, etc).

Having an organized and well-structured onboarding process doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice flexibility. On the contrary, being highly organized provides the perfect foundation for more flexible communication with your new employee, offering them a strong base from which to engage, question, or add their own input—you want employees who do all of the above.

Rushed or inadequate training

Effective training takes time! If you rush through the process of getting to know your new hire, your company will feel the cost further down the line. The reality is that employees who receive less-than-adequate training are less likely to produce the standard of work required to meet expectations.

As a result, they may become frustrated with their experience and begin looking around for a better job—one that feels more rewarding. So, however tempting it may be to give a one-day crash course, or put your new hire through a trial by fire type of intro, resist that inclination.

As well, resist the urge to rely on job shadowing, because chances are, your established employees are too busy to properly train a new hire. Instead, take the time to provide your new employee with low-stakes opportunities for practice that prepare them for more advanced/involved work later on. After all, a knowledgeable employee is confident, less stressed, and far more productive. 

Unclear goals and expectations

Starting a new job is anything but easy, and unclear/absent communication only makes things more challenging.

If your employees don’t know what’s expected of them or have a muddy understanding of the scope of their responsibilities, they’re going to start questioning their self-worth and performance. Unclear expectations are very often at the root of workplace anxiety, which is what makes a positive onboarding experience so invaluable.

Since onboarding can go on for months, or even an entire year, setting goals to monitor progress can be very helpful and orienting for a new employee. You might consider employing the popular SMART goal framework, to set clear goals during the onboarding process.

Not prioritizing feedback

While there are team managers who treat training as they would a lecture, it’s important not to underestimate how crucial employee interest and engagement are. Establishing an effective feedback loop—one in which employees have a chance to both receive feedback as well as offer it—is everything.

Employees need meaningful feedback, and regularly, to stay engaged. The key word here is “meaningful,” which means not rushing through the day’s tasks without giving new hires a chance to have their performance assessed, so they can improve upon it.

On the flip side, as your new hires move through the onboarding process, there is an opportunity to take their feedback into account and use it to increase the job satisfaction rate. You might use anonymous polls, surveys, or one-on-one meetings to collect employee feedback on management’s performance and/or your own performance.

Whatever method(s) you choose, be sure to analyze and act on feedback—following up shows your employees that you hear them and take them seriously.

Successful onboarding takes some doing, but when done properly, the work is oh-so-worth the reward to your company and to your people. The good news is, employee onboarding can be made a lot easier with the help of HR software. With PurelyHR, you can seamlessly create and assign onboarding tasks, upload any and all documentation for new hires to read or sign, send training materials without delay, and create crucial timelines and checklists—for starters.

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