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  • Writer's pictureLayne Daniels

Top 5 Onboarding Mistakes to Avoid

onboarding mistakes to avoid

It's been a long stretch but you’ve managed to find the right person for that important role in your organization. The offer has been signed and now you need to get them set up in their new position. Overwhelmed with new hire checklists, it's often inevitable that some simple tasks slip through the cracks during the onboarding process.

That welcome email, those industry background slides, setting up login credentials...over time, these potential cracks in the new employee onboarding process start to grow and limit the ramp-up time for those new employees.

No one wants to feel hung out to dry from day one. As the leader of your organization, you play a critical role in ensuring your new employees are set up for success. Failing to onboard them properly can cost your organization time and money--not to mention the emotional cost to you and your team when there’s a quick turnover.

With that in mind, here are 5 common mistakes business leaders often make while onboarding and how to avoid these common pitfalls:

1) Over-Reliance on Employee Shadowing

With limited time and resources, a lot of companies often default to an over-reliance on employee shadowing.

After a short new hire orientation of letting new staff members know where the copy machine and the coffee maker is, the rest of the employee onboarding process is simply “shadowing” another team member for a set number of days or weeks. Unfortunately, this approach is not a particularly effective strategy if used in isolation. Job shadowing certainly has its place, but this lacks a sustainable structure that can be scaled over the long term.

Instead of employee shadowing, what's needed is a more in-depth, integrated system spearheaded by the managers and VPs that work in tandem with the right resources, oversight, and peers across various departments. This includes sharing curated information and instituting effective checks on how their onboarding experience is going.

By incorporating the different elements of the organization into employee onboarding, business leaders can take a proactive role in ensuring that new hires successfully transition into great, long-term team members.

2) Not Preparing Your Current Team

No one likes to be surprised, and no one likes to be “forced” on other people. The team members you have working for you need to be treated equally as important as the new members you acquire, and tending to both makes all the difference between a strong team and high turnover. It’s important to ensure both sides feel well-informed before the new hire’s first day.

A good way to avoid this sudden change in the office is to, simply, keep your team involved during the hiring process. If possible, invite them to meet the final two candidates one-on-one, and be part of decision-making. This way, they’ll feel more ownership over the outcome and can weigh in on aspects of the hiring process that may result in candidates that are a better fit for your company’s culture.

3) Relying on Previous Experience

You hired the new person to do a specific job based on their experience, so you assume they’ll automatically nail it from day one.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s critical that you clearly articulate what you expect from them and how their success will be measured. If you make it a guessing game, everyone fails.

Orientation should only be the first step of new employee onboarding, and assuming your new hire can figure it all out on their own can lead to anxiety and a lack of confidence in their new role. Employee onboarding shouldn't be a hands-off, do-it-yourself affair from public resources.

For your new hires to succeed, you will need to focus on providing them with the underlying “how” and “why” the organization does things the way it does. Don't surprise them later down the road with something that they “should’ve learned”. A better practice is to go for education and transparency from the beginning, providing them with access to the right employee resources.

Let your new hire know what the trajectory of their role is. By doing so, you can build a relationship of trust. Establishing trust is the most critical element towards promoting sustainable, long-term employee success.

4) Your onboarding process is more administrative than strategic

Many employee onboarding programs are administrative and tedious, both for the employee and employer. Often times general onboarding is treated more like an afterthought. The new hire shows up for their first day of work, fills out paperwork and perhaps joins the team for lunch before being left to their own devices. They might feel isolated, unsure of what’s expected of them and hesitant when solving issues that arise while wondering if they made the right decision about where to work.

Additionally, if new hires are presented with a thick package of long-form documents or Powerpoint materials, adjacent to a laundry list of job responsibilities and objectives - you’re doing employee onboarding wrong. With today’s largely millennial workforce, company and onboarding information presented in this format doesn't lead to the level of employee engagement that it used to.

When onboarding, it’s important to go beyond the administrative powerpoints and paperwork in ways such as identifying key objectives that will help make employees happy and productive at work. It may also be beneficial to create an onboarding roadmap with goals, check-ins, training and development, coaching and a career path. Potentially assign an onboarding buddy, and let them know about your company's knowledge base. Share information about your company’s history, mission, values and culture. All of these tactics will help your new hires feel more connected to your organization and empower them to be successful in their roles.

5) Treating the Onboarding Process as Short-Term

In most organizations, the majority of onboarding occurs in the days before new hires begin work, and it extends into the morning of their start date. However, your new hire may not reach full productivity that quickly. Without a long-term plan, your new hire can feel abandoned, rather than supported, as they navigate their new role. Realistically, a more appropriate timeline for onboarding should be the first 90 days.

The first 90 days are critical to a new hire’s success, engagement and productivity. The best employee onboarding programs make it clear what’s expected of the new hire within the first 90 days and provide resources to help the new hire achieve those goals. Team and business leaders should keep active track of the hire to ensure they’re progressing as expected and must be ready to make adjustments to the training program if problems arise.

Managers and business leaders should schedule check-ins around days 1, 7, 30, 60, and 90 to recognize successes and identify areas where the new hire may need some additional help. Ultimately, everything your company can do to ensure that the new employee continues interacting and applying the content they learned will contribute to the greatest employee onboarding results.

All in all, the cost of employee turnover is high, and it is more challenging than ever to find and hire great talent for your organization. Make sure you are keeping the talent you have by setting them up for success from the moment they sign your company’s offer letter by continuing to support them throughout their employment. A strong onboarding program can help you retain the talent you’ve spent time, money and effort to recruit. With so much riding on the success of your new hires, it’s imperative that you don’t let mistakes in your onboarding process take away from the greatness you saw when you recruited your newest hire.

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